The NIHL South 2 season continues this weekend with six games on the schedule – four on Saturday and two on Sunday.
The current top two teams in the league – Chelmsford and Oxford – do not play this weekend, although in the case of Chelmsford they were supposed to play away at Lee Valley on Saturday before the game was postponed this week.
Surprise package Slough – who beat Solent twice last weekend and currently sit in third place – are in action in an intriguing clash against Cardiff, while fourth placed Bristol welcome a Bracknell side who are directly below them in the table. And Solent themselves will look to get back to winning ways as they visit Peterborough on Sunday.
Invicta Mustangs vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
Two of the smaller sides in the division face off in Kent on Saturday, with 12th place Invicta hosting winless Swindon who lie in 14th.
The Mustangs have had a tough start to the season, winning only one game against bottom side Lee Valley and losing the other five. As is often the case with the Mustangs, scoring enough goals is an issue – they have 21 goals in six games so far, but nine of those came in just one game against the Lions, meaning they have scored just 12 in the other five games. It’s tough to win games in this division when scoring at such a rate, even with goaltender Matthew Passmore playing an impressive season to date and keeping his side in games for as long as possible. They will hope to replicate their scoring explosion against Lee Valley when they face the Wildcats.
Swindon have played five, lost five so far; although all of their games so far have come against teams that currently sit in the top six positions in the league table, so it’s difficult to gauge exactly how good they are. Especially last weekend when they travelled to Chelmsford with just eight skaters and suffered an expected heavy defeat – although netminders Tyler Perre and Liam Maguire did an excellent job in that game in preventing the scoreline getting even higher than 11-0. Like the Mustangs, the Wildcats have also struggled to score goals, bagging just eight in five games, with the caveat again that they have come up against exclusively strong sides so far this season.
An interesting game this, with both sides looking to make a statement and start to move off the foot of the table. Invicta are probably slight favourites on paper, but it will be fascinating to see how the Wildcats do in their first game against a team that they have a realistic chance of defeating.
Raiders NIHL2 vs Guildford Phoenix
Two teams with 3-2 winning records meet in Romford, as the Raiders host the Phoenix.
The Raiders took a comfortable 6-2 win over Invicta last Saturday, racing out to a 4-1 lead before the halfway mark of the game and cruising home from there despite a late consolation goal from the Mustangs with less than two minutes left. Brandon Webster (three goals) and Alan Lack (three assists) starred in that game, while netminder Brad Windebank stopped 33 of 35 shots. The Raiders are now on a two game winning streak, having also beaten Haringey two weekends ago. And they will be looking to extend that this weekend and get on a real winning run.
Guildford pulled off one of the – if not THE – biggest shocks of the season last weekend, winning 3-2 away at reigning league champions, and previously undefeated on the season, Oxford. Josh Abbott bagged two goals and one assist, while former Guildford Flames EPL netminder James Hadfield stopped 51 of 53 shots in only his second game for the Phoenix. In the last period, Oxford outshot Guildford heavily 22-5, yet could not get a single shot past Hadfield in the period and the Phoenix came away with a famous win. That should give them confidence for their trip to Romford after a slightly rocky start – and it’s worth mentioning again that Guildford haven’t even played a single home game yet, with their first seven fixtures this season all being on the road.
This is a very tough game to call, with both sides coming off two wins and high in confidence. This is one not to be missed.
Slough Jets vs Cardiff Fire
High-flying Slough look to continue their quest to reach the playoffs this season, as they host an in-form Cardiff side at the Hangar.
Slough had a fantastic weekend last time out – not only beating reigning playoff champions Solent 3-1 at home, but also taking a massive 8-3 away win on the south coast in the return fixture just 24 hours later. These two victories extended the Berkshire side’s winning run to five on the bounce, also vaulting them up to third in the table. The Jets have now won five on the bounce, scoring 44(!) goals in those five games and conceding just 15 in the same timeframe. We highlight them every week, but player-coach Lukas Smital – who has 31 points from seven games – and his son, netminder Matt Smital – who boasts a save percentage of 90.05% on the season – are two of the key figures in the Jets revolution and will look to keep that momentum going against a Cardiff side that the Jets have already beaten 7-2 in South Wales earlier on this season.
Cardiff are also on good form right now – since the aforementioned 2-7 defeat to Slough, they have won three on the bounce including an insane 10-9 overtime victory against Bracknell and a 5-2 win against Bristol – both opponents currently sitting in the top five in the league standings. Key men for the Fire at the moment are Jackson Price, who has 7+5=12 from five games so far, and Hungarian-born Tamás Éliás who has 5+5=10 in the same timeframe. Young netminder Lewis Davies has also been fantastic so far, putting in a save percentage of 93.16% in the games he has played.
This is yet another fascinating tie on a Saturday that is full of them – both teams have a lot of momentum and confidence right now, so any result is possible here. However the fact that Slough already won 7-2 in Cardiff earlier in the season probably gives them the edge in this one.
Bracknell Hornets vs Bristol Pitbulls
Fifth plays fourth in another intriguing tie on Saturday, as Bracknell welcome Bristol to the Hive.
Bracknell had a nightmare weekend on the 13th and 14th of this month, first going down 9-6 to Oxford at home before then losing an overtime thriller in Cardiff by a score of 10-9. Conceding 19 goals in a weekend is definitely something the Hornets cannot repeat this season if they want to match their ambitions of challenging at the top of the table, and they will hope this clash against Bristol will enable them to get back to winning ways. Of course, they did score 15 goals on the aforementioned weekend, which would usually be enough to take two wins – so there are positives there. Steve Fisher is on red-hot form for example, already scoring 5+10=15 from their five games to date.
Bristol may have lost 5-2 to Cardiff last week, but they still hold a winning record on the season (four wins, two regulation losses and one overtime loss) and sit fourth in the table as things stand. Steve Osman leads the internal scoring charts with 5+6=11 from just five games, while Jamie Newton (5+5=10) and player-coach Richard Hargreaves (1+9=10) have also scored double-figure points already. One major strength for the Pitbulls is the depth in the side – 15 different players have already scored at least one goal this season, an impressive number.
It’s an overused phrase when describing this Saturday’s games, but this is yet another intriguing tie with no obvious winner. A win for both sides would be massive as they look to establish themselves in the upper echelons of the table, so expect an intense game.
Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Solent Devils
Two sides look to put disappointing defeats behind them on Sunday, as sixth placed Solent visit Peterborough, who currently lie in 10th.
Peterborough’s season has very much not gone to plan so far – last season they were the best of the “classic” NIHL2 sides, while this season they currently sit behind the likes of Slough, Bristol and Cardiff in an unusually low 10th place. They have only won one game in regulation, that coming against Lee Valley, while they also beat Bristol in overtime. Apart from that, it’s been four defeats for the Phantoms, including losing the last two on the bounce to Slough and Chelmsford. And the fixture list doesn’t get any easier, with the visit of a Solent side that will be desperate to atone for last weekend’s double defeat to Slough.
We said in last week’s preview that, even if Solent lost Saturday’s game in Slough, they would be the favourites at home on Sunday. As it transpired, Sunday’s home defeat on the south coast was much heavier than the one Solent suffered away from home on Saturday, with the Devils losing the two games by an aggregate score of 11-4. That was their first real test of the season after three less challenging games to start with – so the Devils will now be keen to bounce back from last weekend and send a message to the rest of the league with a big result in Peterborough.
And with the roster the Devils have on paper – bolstered by the return of Mitchell Murray who played his first games of the season against Slough – they should have enough to win against a struggling Peterborough side.
Cardiff Fire vs Lee Valley Lions
Cardiff will be the only team to play two games this weekend, as they follow up Saturday’s trip to Slough with a home game against bottom side Lee Valley on Sunday.
One interesting storyline in the game is the presence of forward Chris Fox in the Cardiff team – he spent five seasons with the Lions, scoring 67 points in total in 75 league games for the club, but is now a member of the Fire roster. He scored on his debut against Invicta, and has also added an assist to take his tally to 1+1=2 from three games to date. It will be interesting to see how he does against his former club in this one.
The Lions were also meant to play two games this weekend, but Saturday’s clash with Chelmsford has been postponed so this will be their only game of the weekend. Lee Valley are still winless, however showed an improved performance last Saturday in the London derby against Haringey, going down 8-1 to the Huskies – which was the least amount of goals they have conceded in a game so far this season. Joshua Irish grabbed the goal for the Lions in that game.
Teams traditionally find the trip to Cardiff tough, and especially with the game being on a Sunday night, we will have to see how large a roster the Lions can bring to Wales. The Fire have to be considered big favourites in this game.
We’ll have updates on all of the games this weekend. Going to a game? We’d love to know what’s happening – tweet us @482days with your updates!
Looking for info on the NIHL1 South games? You can find the NIHL1 South preview HERE.
17:15 Invicta Mustangs vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
17:15 Raiders NIHL2 vs Guildford Phoenix
17:45 Slough Jets vs Cardiff Fire
18:00 Bracknell Hornets vs Bristol Pitbulls
17:30 Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Solent Devils
18:00 Cardiff Fire vs Lee Valley Lions
NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Standings