There’s a nice even split of games in NIHL South 2 this weekend, as there are three games each on Saturday and Sunday.
Slough and Solent, now second and third in the league respectively after wins last weekend, both have home games on Saturday; while Oxford, who slipped to fourth following defeat to the Devils, look to get their title challenge back on track with a trip to Basingstoke on Sunday.
Solent Devils vs Haringey Huskies
The Devils made a massive statement last Saturday, knocking off Oxford by a score of 4-2 to leapfrog the Stars into third place in the league. Daniel Lackey was the star of the show for the Devils, scoring twice and assisting two others to be directly involved in all four Solent goals; while Richard Facey and Alex Murray bagged a goal each too. “Chico” Cole was busy in net, facing 42 shots, and he turned away 40 of them to backstop his side to a win. Solent have now won seven in a row since their double defeat to Slough in October, and sit just three points off leaders Chelmsford with a game in hand. Thus with victory over the Huskies, they could close the gap at the top to just a solitary point
The Huskies currently sit 11th, with three wins and eight defeats to their name. Their last game was a tight 5-4 loss to Peterborough in a shootout after 65 minutes could not separate the two sides. Ben Osborne was the star for the Huskies in that game, the captain netting three goals and assisting on the other goal scored by Stephen Woodford as well. Sebastian Downing also had a big part to play in the game, assisting on all four goals. Additionally, the Huskies handed a debut to former Lee Valley Lions captain James Hepburn in that game, with his brother Matt having already joined the team earlier in the season.
As impressive as the Peterborough game was for the Huskies, the Solent Devils are a totally different kettle of fish – especially in Gosport. Expect the Devils to skate away with a win in this one.
Invicta Mustangs vs Bracknell Hornets
The Mustangs currently lie 12th, having lost their last five games in a row and having won just twice all season. They went down 6-2 to Peterborough last weekend, as they couldn’t replicate their strong performance against the Phantoms last month in which they had taken the game to overtime. Both the Mustangs goals in the 6-2 defeat to the Phantoms last Saturday were scored by Jake Stedman, while Lucy Gruber was awarded player of the game for an impressive game in net in the absence of Matthew Passmore. Things don’t get any easier for the Mustangs this weekend with the visit of the Hornets.
Bracknell’s league position of seventh looks worrying on first glance, and it wasn’t helped at all by losing at home to Solent and Slough in their last two outings. However the Hornets do have games in hand on all the teams ahead of them, so the situation isn’t as bad as it might look. This game against the Mustangs is a must-win for the Hornets if they want to keep up the fight for a top four spot, and they are definite favourites for this game. The addition of defenceman Kyle Goddard, who moves over from league leaders Chelmsford, makes Bracknell look stronger at the back, and they will hope he can help them make an upturn in form – starting with a win in Kent on Saturday.
Slough Jets vs Guildford Phoenix
The Jets look to continue their Cinderella story of a season on Saturday as they welcome Guildford to the Hangar. It’s now been ten straight wins for the Jets, with their latest win coming last weekend in a 4-3 thriller against Bracknell. Sam Talbot scored twice, Harry Harcup and Danny Rose scored once each, and Brett Shepherd made 36 saves in net as the Jets won the Berkshire derby and moved up to second in the standings. They are full of confidence right now, and on current form look set to take a top four spot – and therefore a playoff berth – ahead of at least one of the “big four” teams that dropped down from NIHL South 1 just under eighteen months ago.
The Phoenix are having a decent season to date, sitting in eighth place with six wins, one overtime loss and four regulation losses. Guildford’s last game was a 4-1 defeat to Solent last Saturday, with Jacob Rondeau-Smith scoring the lone goal for the Phoenix against a strong Devils side. This game is another tough one then for the Phoenix as they face the second placed Jets, and a win may be difficult to come by for the Surrey side; but with a home game to come the following evening against Bristol, the Phoenix will hope to get at least one win out of this weekend.
Expect the Jets to win their 11th straight game here.
Basingstoke Buffalo vs Oxford City Stars
The Buffalo have only played six games this season so far, with every other team playing 10 or more to date. They played their first game in a month last Sunday, going down 10-3 in Romford to the NIHL2 Raiders. Oscar Evans scored two goals and Warren Jones bagged the other goal for the Buffalo, but they were soundly beaten as the Raiders outshot them 65-30 and took a comfortable win. This result gave the Buffalo a win-loss record of 2-4 and they currently lie 12th in the table.
Oxford suffered a painful defeat in Gosport last Saturday, losing 4-2 to the Solent Devils. This result meant the Stars dropped down to fourth in the table behind leaders Chelmsford, surprise package Slough, and the aforementioned Solent. The game against the Devils was a close one, with Oxford narrowly outshooting the Devils 42-40, but Oxford only managed to get two goals through Josh Florey and Lee Richardson, while Solent beat Stars netminder John Dibble four times.
The Stars can’t afford any more slip-ups if they want to keep their quest to retain their league title on track, and they are clear favourites in this game against a Buffalo side that are still finding chemistry as a team, despite it being December already.
Guildford Phoenix vs Bristol Pitbulls
Guildford’s second game in as many nights is a home clash with Bristol on Sunday. The Phoenix have a home win-loss record of 1-2 this season so far, but those two defeats did come against top three sides Chelmsford and Solent. The Phoenix have a run of three straight home games before the end of the calendar year, starting with this game against Bristol, and they will hope to take a win here against the inconsistent Pitbulls in order to start a charge up the table.
The Pitbulls currently lie sixth in the table, with a record of six wins, two overtime losses and five regulation losses. You never quite know what you are going to get with the Pitbulls: they won four of their first six games of the season, before losing five of their next seven. And they lost to 12th place Basingstoke while also defeating league leaders Chelmsford. Thus it is difficult to predict how the Pitbulls will play in any given game, but they are a team with a strong core that has been together for many years and with a lot of players who know how to put the puck in the net.
Either result is possible in this game between two sides that look fairly evenly-matched, so expect a good close game here.
Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
The NIHL2 Wildcats are still looking for their first points of the season as they welcome the Phantoms to the Link Centre on Sunday evening. Swindon suffered an expected defeat to league leaders Chelmsford last Sunday, going down 8-0 and not troubling the scorers. This was despite Chelmsford icing only 12 skaters in the game compared to Swindon’s 17. Wildcats netminder Liam Maguire had an impressive game between the pipes, stopping 59 of 67 shots to keep the scoreline from reaching double figures.
Peterborough beat Invicta 6-2 last weekend, taking their record to four wins from the last five games and moving up to ninth in the table. Conor Pollard and Nick Alley scored twice each against Invicta, with Clint Herring and Shaun Yardley scoring the other goals in the win. Swedish forward Ray Almgren didn’t score against Invicta, but scored a goal apiece in his first two games as a Phantom and will look to get back to scoring ways against the Wildcats.
The Phantoms are the favourites in this game, and should take both points back to Peterborough with them if nothing unexpected happens.
17:00 Solent Devils vs Haringey Huskies
17:15 Invicta Mustangs vs Slough Jets
17:45 Slough Jets vs Guildford Phoenix
18:15 Basingstoke Buffalo vs Oxford City Stars
18:15 Guildford Phoenix vs Bristol Pitbulls
18:15 Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Standings