The Slough Jets reached the top of the NIHL South 2 standings last weekend, as they took a 7-3 home win over the Basingstoke Buffalo to move two points clear of previous leaders Chelmsford.
This weekend, the Jets look to hold on to that top spot as they travel to Haringey for the first of five away games in a row, while both Chelmsford and Oxford look to stay in touch with the Jets as they both face Bracknell, on Saturday and Sunday respectively.
Bristol Pitbulls vs Guildford Phoenix
Two sides coming off big wins last weekend square off on Saturday, as 10th placed Bristol welcome Guildford who lie in fifth place.
Bristol put their recent shaky form aside last Saturday, as they won 9-2 on the road against the Invicta Mustangs in Kent. Invicta had knocked off Chelmsford at home a few weeks previously, so it was expected to be a tough game for the Pitbulls – but braces from David Manning and Joshua Dolphin, to go along with single goals from Jamie Newton, Giacomo Raffaelli, Michael Hargreaves, Nathan Chilcott and Giovanni Raffaelli gave the Pitbulls a big win and helped them to go level on points with ninth placed Cardiff. And with just three points separating the Pitbulls from the sixth placed Raiders in the packed mid-table region, there is still all to play for this season for Richard Hargreaves’ side. A win over Guildford here would be huge, both points-wise and also for the momentum it would give to the Pitbulls.
The Phoenix also took a big win of their own last weekend, beating Haringey 8-2 at the Spectrum in Guildford. It was the first time this season that the Phoenix have won three games on the bounce, and it allowed them to move three points clear of the Raiders, who are directly behind them in the table – although the Raiders do have two games in hand. Goalscorers against Haringey were Josh Abbott, Bailey Wootton (both x2), Jared Lane, Andrew Hemmings, Jacob Rondeau-Smith and Luke Tull; while Sam Calder stopped 28 of 30 Huskies shots. With the likes of the Raiders and Peterborough breathing down their necks, a win for the Phoenix here is much-needed in order for them to hold on to fifth in the standings.
This is an intriguing encounter that could go either way – this is one not to be missed.
Haringey Huskies vs Slough Jets
The Huskies look to bounce back from the aforementioned 8-2 defeat to Guildford last weekend, but face a difficult test on Saturday as they welcome the Jets to Alexandra Palace.
The Huskies had been on a good run of form prior to the game in Guildford – winning three of their previous four games, with the sole defeat in that run coming against the Jets in what was a tight 3-0 loss in Slough. But last Sunday was a poor one for the Huskies as they were comprehensively beaten by the Phoenix, being out-shot 57-30 and also taking 49 penalty minutes in the process. Ricky Rutherford and import forward Gheorghe Dragomir got the goals for Haringey in Guildford, with netminder David Wride having a very busy night as he turned away 49 shots. He could be similarly busy on Saturday.
The Jets extended their winning streak to 18 games on Saturday, moving to the top of the league standings as they won a tricky game against a Basingstoke side that have also given scares to fellow frontrunners Solent and Oxford this season. The Jets were only leading 4-3 after two periods against the Buffalo, before scoring three times in the third period to take the win by a final score of 7-3. The star of the show was once again forward Sean Norris, who bagged a hat-trick, while the Jets also got goals from Adam Rosbottom, Liam Underdown, Harry Wright and Craig Cowell.
Slough’s home game against Haringey last month was a tight one, with the Jets coming out as 3-0 winners. The league leaders will hope for a more dominant scoreline in this one, as they look to maintain their place at the top of the pile.
Lee Valley Lions vs Basingstoke Buffalo
The Lions look to bounce back from last weekend’s disappointing defeat against Swindon, as they welcome 13th placed Basingstoke to the Den on Saturday.
The Lions had taken their first win of the season in Swindon the previous weekend, so were looking forward to the Wildcats’ visit last Saturday. However, a disastrous 0-6 scoreline after the first period put their hopes of winning the game to bed, and they ultimately fell to a 12-3 home defeat against a Swindon side directly above them in the table. That result means that the Lions are still looking for their first home win of the season, and will feel that this game against the Buffalo is probably their best chance of doing it.
However the Buffalo aren’t to be underestimated, despite sitting 13th in the table. They have been involved in several close games this season, making life difficult for the likes of Slough, Solent and Oxford; and beat the Lions 8-2 in Basingstoke three weeks ago in a feisty game. The Buffalo played very well in the first two periods in Slough last weekend, with goals from Samuel Compton, Cameron Buckle and Oscar Evans not quite enough as they ultimately fell to a 7-3 defeat.
This game is a big one for both sides, as the Buffalo look to move up the table and the Lions look to finally win a game at home. If the Lions can play as they did away at Swindon two weekends ago, they have a chance here.
Bracknell Hornets vs Chelmsford Chieftains
Chelmsford look to bounce back from the disappointment of losing their lead in the league standings, as they take on a struggling Hornets side at the Hive.
The Hornets suffered their fourth defeat in a row last weekend, as they went down heavily 8-2 to title-chasing Solent in Gosport. Ben Ealey-Newman and Carl Graham were on target for the Hornets, but it was nowhere near enough to win the match as the Devils showed their class to take a big win. Mark Duffy started the game in net for the Hornets, but was replaced with young netminder Rory Edwards for the third period after letting in 6 goals from 29 shots in the first two periods. It was already the ninth defeat of the season for the Hornets in their 18th game, and they have now slipped down to eighth in the league table.
The Chieftains suffered a big defeat of their own in their most recent game, going down 7-5 on the road against the Invicta Mustangs two weeks back. They didn’t play last weekend, and watched on helplessly as the Slough Jets took over at the top of the table. The Chieftains are now two points behind the Jets, with both teams still having eight games to play – so there is still all to play for despite the loss to Invicta last time out. The Chieftains can still boast the best goalscoring rate this season (7.55 goals scored per game) and the third best defence (2.7 goals against per game, only Solent and Oxford have tighter defences) so they will still be confident that they can lift the league trophy in April.
A few months ago, we would have expected this game to be a close one. But with the Hornets’ recent struggles, along with the fact that Chelmsford need to win in order to keep the pressure on the Jets ahead of them, a Chieftains win is very much the most likely result here.
Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
Two sides affiliated with higher division clubs square off at Mallard Road on Saturday, as Peterborough host Swindon.
The Phantoms had a tough task last weekend as they welcomed title-chasing Oxford to town, and were on the wrong end of an 8-4 defeat to the reigning league champions. Nick Alley, Conor Pollard, James Pentecost and Ross Clarke were all on target for Peterborough, but they were unable to keep Oxford off the scoresheet at the other end, as Dan Lane conceded eight goals on 45 shots before being replaced by Jack Peacock for the last 12 minutes of the game. That was the Phantoms’ 10th loss of the season in 20 games, giving them an exact 50% record on the season to date and putting them seventh in the table. If they want to move up the table and finish in the top six or top five, they need to focus on winning games against the teams below them in the table – starting with Swindon on Saturday.
The Wildcats have had a wild few weeks – after 17 losses in a row to start the season, they have won twice in their last three games, both on the road; first beating Bristol two weeks ago and then defeating Lee Valley 12-3 last Saturday. And sandwiched between those two games was a 5-0 home defeat to Lee Valley too. The Wildcats’ season seems to finally be on track after a slow start, and they will be hoping to string together some late-season wins and perhaps catch Basingstoke for 13th place – although the Buffalo have played five games less, so that will be a tall order.
When these two sides met earlier in the season, Swindon surprisingly took the game to overtime – it was their first point of the season after 12 consecutive regulation losses to start the campaign. With the Wildcats’ recent upturn in form, a close result here would not be so much of a surprise; but the Phantoms will still have to be considered the favourites in this one.
Basingstoke Buffalo vs NIHL2 Raiders
The Buffalo play their second game of the weekend on Sunday, as they welcome the Raiders to Basingstoke. The 13th placed Buffalo have been hard to knock off in their own barn recently, holding Solent to a tight 2-4 defeat and beating Lee Valley 8-2 in their last two games at home. And with six home games still to come this season, including this one, the Buffalo will be confident that they can get a few more wins under their belts and move up the table.
However this will be a tough one for Basingstoke – the Raiders sit sixth in the table, three points behind Guildford with two games in hand, which is impressive for a side that was just formed last summer. The mix of youth and experience in the Raiders team seems to have worked out very well, as youngsters such as Tommy Huggett, Ewan Hill and George Gell benefit from playing alongside the likes of import Kamil Kinkor and former EPL forward Alan Lack. The Raiders did suffer a disappointing 7-2 home defeat to league leaders Slough last time out, but will feel more confident of getting a win this time around.
When these two sides met in Romford earlier in the season, the Raiders took a big 10-3 win. While the scoreline is unlikely to be so high this time, the Raiders have to be considered favourites for the win here.
Oxford City Stars vs Bracknell Hornets
The Hornets are in action for the second time on Sunday, as they travel to Oxpens Road to take on front-running Oxford.
The Stars took a comprehensive 8-4 win over Peterborough last weekend to keep themselves very much in the title hunt – they are six points behind leaders Slough but have played three games less, so it is imperative for the Stars to keep winning in order to stay in touch. On the scoresheet against Peterborough were Darren Elliott (x3), Jake Florey, Tom Davis, Matthew Lawday, Mchael Whillock and Dax Hedges, as Oxford took their sixth win in a row and their 15th on the season. They have only lost twice, to Guildford in October and to Solent in December, and will be looking to extend their winning run to seven on the bounce as they welcome a troubled Hornets side on Sunday.
As we’ve discussed over the last few weeks, there’s been a lot of upheaval at Bracknell on both the coaching side and also the player personnel side, and this weekend’s tough double-header against two of the league’s best sides in Chelmsford and Oxford really doesn’t seem to have come at the right time for the Hornets. After suffering an 8-2 loss at the hands of Solent last weekend, the Hornets will look to put in improved performances in this weekend’s two games – but will be under no illusions about how tough they will be.
Expect the Stars to take the win here and keep the pressure on league leaders Slough.
Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Invicta Mustangs
Yet another team is in action for the second time in the weekend on Sunday, as Swindon follow up the previous evening’s trip to Peterborough with a home game against the Invicta Mustangs.
As discussed earlier, the Wildcats’ record at home this season is not good, as they have failed to win a home game in ten attempts, only registering one point in an overtime defeat against Peterborough. Their last home game didn’t go well at all, being shut out 5-0 by bottom side Lee Valley, which was the Lions’ first win in almost two years. But the Wildcats will feel that this is their best chance of breaking their home duck this season, as they welcome a Mustangs side just two places above them in the standings.
The Mustangs shocked the league two weeks back with that big 7-5 win over Chelmsford, but couldn’t follow it up last weekend as they slipped to a disappointing 9-2 defeat at the hands of Bristol. Aaron Ferris and Owen Dell scored the goals for the Mustangs, who handed a senior debut to 2003-born defenceman Gregor McAllan, but they couldn’t keep the scoreline down at the other end and slipped to their 14th defeat in 19 games this season. With Basingstoke breathing down their necks – the Buffalo are three points behind with four games in hand – it is crucial for the Mustangs to win games like this against teams below them in the table.
This is a tough one to call, and both sides will feel they can definitely get something from this game.
17:00 Bristol Pitbulls vs Guildford Phoenix
17:30 Haringey Huskies vs Slough Jets
17:30 Lee Valley Lions vs Basingstoke Buffalo
18:00 Bracknell Hornets vs Chelmsford Chieftains
18:15 Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
17:30 Basingstoke Buffalo vs NIHL2 Raiders
18:15 Oxford City Stars vs Bracknell Hornets
18:15 Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Invicta Mustangs
NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Standings