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So, the final weekend of NIHL1 action is finally upon us. For the first time since the league moved to the ‘NIHL’ league name, we’ll have a national playoff champion. Quite exciting really!
4 teams left in the competition as we all head to Coventry – so without further ado, let’s take a look at the runners and riders!
Regulation wins: 26
OT wins: 2
OT losses: 0
Regulation losses: 4
Points: 56 (87.5%)
Goal difference: 98
QF: Beat Invicta Dynamos 13-1
SF: Beat London Raiders 10-4
F: Beat Peterborough Phantoms 3-2
League and Southern Playoff champions, the Bison are riding high on success and are looking to make this into a treble-winning season. They have a small squad with only 15+2 playoff eligible players to bring with them – but there is absolutely no dead wood on that team and they have strength and depth through all 3 lines.
Main goal threat: Tomas Karpov
NIHL1 South’s top scorer with 35+41 from 36 games across the league and playoff campaigns. Karpov may be one of the most under-estimated players in the league. Maybe it’s because he’s been with the Bison for years so when he scores 3 or 4 goals in a weekend it’s not exactly a surprise!
Honorable mention in this category also goes to Roman Malinik who has been immense in the playoffs with 6+5 in the 6 playoff games to add to his tally of 10+26 from 25 league games.
The playmaker: Ivan Antonov has been playing 2nd tier hockey for quite a few years now so sometimes you forget he’s only 20! Incredibly hard-working 2-way player who creates chances with a great combination of a big forecheck and silky hands.
Big on defence: Dan Scott
In his first full season with Bison, Scott has been a huge presence on the blue line. Strong on and off the puck, hits hard and has a real eye for a breakout pass.
Between the pipes: Dean Skinns
Home grown netminder with bags and bags of high level experience. He’s been a solid #1 for the team again this season with a combined 92.4% save percentage across the league and playoff campaign.
Captain’s Log – He’re what Aaron Connolly has to say:
“Spirits are high in the Bison camp but our preparation hasn’t changed coming in to final four weekend. We have stayed focused and worked hard throughout the year which seems to be working for us. Coventry is always such a special weekend and there is nothing like the buzz leading up to it. I hope everyone involved has a great weekend, especially the teams/supporters who haven’t been before.”
Regulation wins: 23
OT wins: 4
OT losses: 2
Regulation losses: 3
Points: 56 (87.5%)
Goal difference: 90
QF: Beat Milton Keynes Thunder 11-3
SF: Beat Swindon Wildcats 9-6
F: Lost to Basingstoke Bison 2-3
Twice the bridesmaid this season for Peterborough Phantoms. They lost out on the league title by the narrowest of margins and then lost the Britton playoff final by just one goal. They’ll be hoping this is their time to shine. Missing two of their big attacking options in Owen Griffiths and Darius Pliskauskas for some/all of the playoff campaign didn’t help either – no word yet on whether either will be able to play this weekend. Don’t count them out though!
Main goal threat: Nathan Salem
A new arrival on the team this season, Salem has quickly become a fan favourite in Peterborough with his hard working, physical play. He’s shown he;s clearly got an eye for goal as well with 27+31 in 37 league and playoff games.
The playmaker: Leigh Jamieson
Another new face for the team this season, Jamieson has been a real force to be reckoned with – big and strong on the puck, he another of those who knows how to pick out a team-mate with a great pass as his 37 assists this season show. 12 goals says he can score himself as well.
Big on defence: Tom Norton
Incredibly strong positional d-man who isn’t flashy but rarely makes a mistake. He’s got a great eye for a pass as his 20 assists this season will attest. He’s not exactly goal shy either, with 8 goals from the blue line – but his real strength is in his own zone where he’s tough as hell to get past.
Between the pipes: Euan King
Solid netminder who is simply Mr Reliable – he may not be big and flashy but he rarely lets in a soft goal either. A mid-season addition to the team, he’s had a very strong season back in his home town with a combined 93.1% save rate across the league and playoff campaign for the Phantoms.
Captain’s Log – He’re what James Ferrara has to say:
“Last week was disappointing, two good teams played the game the right way and it could’ve gone either way. As we have already shown, we fight until the end and we have the biggest trophy of the year in our sights. We have prepared well this week and have experience of what it takes to be successful at Coventry. We are determined to show everyone how great we can be as a team, and want to win silverware for our fans, even more so having been so close on other occasions already this season – that just makes us more dangerous. Coventry is always an exciting weekend, I hope everyone has a good time.”
Regulation wins: 28
OT wins: 3
OT losses: 1
Regulation losses: 4
Points: 63 (87.5%)
Goal difference: 119
QF: Beat Billingham Stars 13-6
SF: Beat Solihull Barons 9-5
F: Lost to Telford Tigers 3-8
Winners of the Northern league this season after coming out on top of the big end of season showdown, the Steeldogs are on the hunt for a second trophy. A team in every sense of the word – they may not have the showiest players but they do have very solid systems and a real ethos of playing for each other.
Main goal threat: Milan Kolena
Steeldogs top scorer this season with 40+43 from 41 league and playoff games this season. Kolena has great hands and can skate through the defence well. Has had a great playoffs so far with 4+7 from the 6 Steeldogs games.
The playmaker: Ashley Calvert
A strong supplier but also one who pops up to score himself on a regular basis as his 22+29 in 39 games shows. Buys into the team systems well and is usually found in the right place at the right time.
Big on defence: Ben Morgan
In with a shout of getting the ‘playmaker’ tag instead, defenceman Ben Morgan is the sort of guy everyone wants in their team. Strong in defence and a great supplier on the transition as his 42 assists this season show. He can score a bit too with 11 goals to add to his tally this season.
Between the pipes: Dmitri Zimozdra
Russian born but Sheffield trained, 29 year old Zimozdra re-joined the Steeldogs from local rivals Sutton Sting over the summer. A superb netminder who moves really well across the net and it’s going to take a lot of work to pull him out of position.
Captain’s Log – He’re what Lewis Bell has to say:
“The run up to the Coventry weekend has been a little up and down really, without really reaching our best level until the final game at home against Telford. I think we suffered a little bit of a hangover after winning the league title and have just had to get our focus back, but we are back on track now after a good performance at home and will be having a good week of practice leading into Coventry. The boys are all really excited for the weekend, and it will be a lot of the lads’ first trip to the Coventry weekend so hopefully we can make it a memorable one and add another trophy to the league title.”
Regulation wins: 26 (including one for double-points),
OT wins: 1
OT losses: 2
Regulation losses: 6
Points: 56 (77.8%)
Goal difference: 135
QF: Beat Whitley Warriors 5-2 (one game only)
SF: Beat Hull Pirates 9-8
F: Beat Sheffield Steeldogs 8-3
Telford Tigers had a bit of an up and down season. They came a slightly distant third in the league, 7 points off the top. But come playoff time they came good and a huge 6-0 win in the first leg of the final was more than enough to see them home despite losing the second leg by a goal.
Main goal threat: Jason Silverthorn
The 38 year old Canadian belies his age on the ice. With nearly 3 points per game (47+50 from 35 league and playoff games) in the league this season he’s shown he is still going strong.
The playmaker: Rick Plant
Home town hero Plant is another at the top end of the age bracket but with a whopping 59 assists to add to his 21 goals from 37 games this season, he uses his experience well.
Big on defence: Jonathan Weaver
A regular in the GB senior team until last year, Weaver has been a huge asset to the team again this season, bossing the defence and chipping in 15+36 from his 26 league and playoff games this season.
Between the pipes: Denis Bell
Impressive youngster who is being tipped as one who’s likely to get a GB senior call up in the future. Across the league and playoffs he has averaged a 92.6% save rate.
Captain’s Log – He’re what Jason Silverthorn has to say:
The team is really excited about getting to Coventry this season, coming off a tumultuous summer it’s taken a lot of hard work from countless people both on and off the ice to get us to this point! Our core group are especially looking forward to it as we haven’t yet won the playoff weekend, with all the league changes it is still the second tier which means we are hungry to add that trophy.
Been able to win the North Playoff against some stiff competition in Whitley, Hull & then finally the league champions Sheffield and all the ups & downs that went along with it will have us ready for this weekends competition both mentally & physically. It will be important to have good uptempo skates this week to allow is to come in with lots of confidence in both our structure and overall game at this point.
Sat 1pm: Telford Tigers vs Peterborough Phantoms
Sat 5pm: Basingstoke Bison vs Sheffield Steeldogs
Sunday 1pm: NIHL2 National Championship game (Oxford City Stars vs Sutton Sting)
Sunday 5pm: NIHL1 National Playoff Game
482days will have full twitter coverage of all four games on across the weekend with our usual brand of slight irreverent commentary in between showing off our lovely goal notifications (thanks to the very talented David Strover).
We’ll also have a special #predictionisamugsgame (#piamg) competition just for those attending the weekend. You can find full details of that here (LINK) as well as in the playoff program.
Looking for the NIHL2 South weekend preview – you can find that here (LINK) where our regular NIHL2 correspondents Don McDermott and Laurence Thorn take a look at the final league games of the season as well as the NIHL2 National championship game.