Competitive hockey is back in NIHL1 South with both the league and the Autumn Cup kicking off this weekend. We take a quick look at some of the key games…
Also, remember that the first home and away fixture between each teams will also go towards the NIHL South Cup this season – so that competition will also be starting.
League (and NIHL South cup) action
After sweeping the challenge series last weekend with two relatively comfortable wins, Bees will be feeling confident going into their first league game where they once again face the Raiders. Watching the first leg of that series, I didn’t feel either team was even close to 100% yet so a properly competitive game could be a whole different thing. Bees were deserved winners of the game I watched, with sharper passing and a quicker transition up the ice – if they can repeat that and improve some already good chemistry in their lines further – they will be a force to be reckoned with this season. Both teams were full of skill and speed though and I think will definitely be in the mix for silverware.
Bees then travel to the Dynamos on Sunday. On paper, Invicta definitely look to have strengthened this season and new signings Martins Susters and the Bartlett twins all contributed heavily with hat tricks in the challenge games against Slough two weeks weekend, as did defensive import Ondrej Zosiak. How well the Mos will stack up against NIHL1 opposition is a question still to be answered, but I do think they will be much more competitive than last season.
Saturday also sees Streatham host Milton Keynes. Streatham had back to back challenge game losses against a very strong looking Swindon team last weekend while Thunder had two challenge wins – but against NIHL2 opposition in the form of Slough Jets. Both teams have made some good signings during the summer and this will be a good test to see how they stack up against each other and how well the teams have gelled.
Streatham then travel to Romford to take on the Raiders on Sunday. I see both Streatham and Raiders as being major challengers for the top 4 this season and I think this could be a really competitive match, Games between these two old rivals are often feisty and I can see this one going the same way.
With all of these games counting towards the cup as well, teams are going to be especially keen to make a good start on the opening weekend and with every team having at least one challenge series, there should be little excuse for cobwebs!
Autumn Cup action
I’m going to start by saying I really like the new format of the Autumn Cup. For those who haven’t seen this – the six teams are split into 2 groups (North: Hull, Sheffield, Telford and South: Basingstoke, Peterborough and Swindon) but they only play the teams in the other group! It’s a bit bonkers but I like it. It cuts down on the number of times that the same teams play each other and gives fans a chance to see different teams come to visit. Even better, all group round games are scheduled for the first 4 weeks of the season and the semi-finals and final will be slotted in as midweek games in the near future – so it really will be an Autumn Cup this year!
All six teams are in action this weekend with double headers between Swindon and Hull, Basingstoke and Sheffield and Peterborough and Telford. A chance for early silverware is on and all three series could be very competitive.
Saturday 15th September
17:30 Streatham IHC vs Milton Keynes Thunder (NIHL1)
18:00 Bracknell Bees vs Raiders (NIHL1)
18:15 Swindon Wildcats vs Hull Pirates (Autumn Cup)
18:30 Basingstoke Bison vs Sheffield Steeldogs (Autumn Cup)
18:30 Peterborough Phantoms vs Telford Tigers (Autumn Cup)
Sunday 16th September
17:15 Invicta Dynamos vs Bracknell Bees (NIHL1)
17:30 Raiders vs Streatham IHC (NIHL1)
17:30 Hull Pirates vs Swindon Wildcats (Autumn Cup)
17:30 Sheffield Steeldogs vs Basingstoke Bison (Autumn Cup)
18:00 Telford Tigers vs Peterborough Phantoms (Autumn Cup)
We’ll have live twitter from the league opener between Streatham and MK on Saturday and #gamedaylive updates across the whole league all weekend.