Normally NIHL in the South is deader than a dead thing over the Christmas break, but this year we actually have some hockey going on! Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s exclusively amongst the ex-EPL teams who are used to playing over the holidays (when sensible folks are too busy carousing to bother with hockey!). Despite sounding cynical about it, I’m actually quite excited and I’m hoping to get to at least a couple of these games over the festive period.
On Saturday, we have two league games as Bracknell travel to Basingstoke and Peterborough host Swindon.
A few weeks ago, the Bees twitter feed criticised me for saying they had had a miserable November with no wins from 6 games. This has now been extended to 9 games without a win – and while I applaud them for saying they they are not miserable and are in good spirits – I stand by my contention that this is a miserable run of form and they are in dire need of a win. Of course heading off to Basingstoke, who have dropped just 2 points so far out of 14 games played is going to make that tough. Having said that – I have a sneaky suspicion that Bracknell might just pull it off. They are certainly due a big performance and they have the squad to pull it off. It won’t be easy, Bison know that a win here will see them top at Christmas and have looked like a team on a mission, but Bees have beaten them already in the cup this season and what a Christmas present it would be for their fans to break the losing streak.
After 2 months at the top of the league, Peterborough were finally knocked off the top spot last weekend. To take it back they will need Bracknell to do them a favour as well as taking a win themselves – and Swindon are no mugs. Wildcats have strengthened further this week with the addition of Edgars Bebris – the Latvian-born forward is another with a proven track record in the old EPL, averaging just under a point a game in the last 7 seasons and will be a great addition to the squad. These two teams have met twice in the league already, with the Phantoms taking both wins – but by narrow margins with the game in Peterborough going to OT and winning by just a single goal in regulation in Swindon.
Phantoms and Wildcats will then meet again in Swindon the following Friday for their final league meeting and these two games will also be a preview of the Autumn Cup semi-finals in mid-January.
Our final league series over the holiday period will be a top of the table double-header between Phantoms and Bison on either side of New Years Eve. These two teams have two Autumn Cup games between them in the books already with each taking a home win. With these two teams looking to be our most likely top 2 this season – this will pretty much be two 4-pointer games and will be one hell of a way to end 2017 and kick off the 2018 hockey calendar!
National Cup action
Group D is coming to a head over the Christmas period with 4 of the remaining 6 games being played.
Swindon play all four of their remaining games – home and away against Basingstoke (26th/27th) and home and away against Bracknell (30th/1st). It’s a lot of hockey to play in less than a week, but they can go into this knowing they just need to take one game to OT in order to get the single point they need to qualify.
Basingstoke probably need to win both of their games though in order to keep their hopes of qualification alive. They currently sit 5 points behind 2nd placed Telford with only 3 games left to play. Even if they do win out, they will still need already eliminated Bracknell to do them a favour and win against Telford. That final game is still to be scheduled having been lost to the snows of 2 weeks ago. In the event of Bison failing to get at least 3 points against Swindon in the games this period, I can see that one quietly being assigned a 0-0 scoreline though as it will no longer matter and the fixture congestion at the moment is already pretty bad.
Saturday 23 December
18:30 Basingstoke Bison vs Bracknell Bees (NIHL1)
19:00 Peterborough Phantoms vs Swindon Wildcats (NIHL1)
Tuesday 26 December
16:00 Swindon Wildcats vs Basingstoke Bison (National Cup)
Wednesday 27 December
18:00 Basingstoke Bison vs Swindon Wildcats (National Cup)
Friday 29 December
19:00 Swindon Wildcats vs Peterborough Phantoms (NIHL1)
18:00 Bracknell Bees vs Swindon Wildcats (National Cup)
18:30 Basingstoke Bison vs Peterborough Phantoms (NIHL1)
16:00 Swindon Wildcats vs Bracknell Bees (nationals Cup)
17:00 Peterborough Phantoms vs Basingstoke Bison (NIHL1)
482days will have hopefully have live twitter updates a couple of games over the Christmas period. If you want to come and say ‘hi’ or would like a pin badge, just look for the bright yellow laptop! We’ll also have updates on scores and scorers from all the games across the weekend as we get the information. Going to a game? We’d love to know what’s happening – tweet us @482days with your updates!
Looking for info on the NIHL2 games? You can find the NIHL2 South preview HERE where our correspondents Laurence Thorn and Don McDemott will take a look at all the action in that league this weekend.
Tables for active competitions this weekend
NIHL1 Britton League
NIHL1 National Cup Group D