We’ve a busy weekend coming up with 8 league games over the weekend as well one on Thursday to take a look at as well as a National Cup semi-final on Wednesday.
Everyone is in action this weekend and most teams have a double-header (just Raiders and Thunder playing a single game) as we head into the sharp end of the season.
Last weekend, Bison’s win against Peterborough saw them reclaim the top spot, level on points and with a game in hand. They have a tough game on Saturday though as they travel to Swindon who have certainly not given up on the league title themselves. Swindon dropped a point on Wednesday when they twice lost a 2-goal lead over the Raiders before finally losing in the first ever penalty shoot-out in the new Romford rink. But the Wildcats are now only 4 points behind the top two after an excellent start to 2018 and seem to have hit form at the right time to make a big run up the table. A win here for them will definitely make things very interesting at the top! But Bison are in pretty hot form themselves at the moment and will be in bullish form, determined to stay at the top now that they have got themselves back up there.
The other two ex-EPL teams also play each other on Saturday as Peterborough host Bracknell. The Bees finally got themselves a 4-point weekend, their first in 3 months and will be hoping that it’s the start of a turn-around for their season. They are locked into a battle for that 4th place spot with their most likely first-round playoff opponents (London Raiders) and would love to start making a dent on the 3 point difference. Phantoms though will also know that the 2 points is a must if they want to keep up the pressure on the Bison and reclaim the top of the table spot.
Speaking of the Raiders, they travel to Kent on Saturday for a game against Invicta. They will be feeling confident after that great comeback win against Swindon midweek which cemented their 4th place spot. The Raiders have had the better of the Dynamos so far this season, with 6 regulation wins and one OT win against them so far, but Mos have the ability to pull out a big performance and will want to put on a good show for their home fans.
Finally on Saturday, Streatham travel to Cardiff who’s injury worries continue. Captain Callum Buglass left the ice in the first period on Saturday and has yet to return to the ice. He’s a big loss to a side who are already struggling to put out a full bench each week with so many of their senior players sidelined at the moment. Of course, it does mean that some of their promising NIHL2 players are getting a lot of ice time in the 2nd tier and a few of them have already seriously impressed (especially teenage brothers Ben and Sam Smith who have really stepped up this season). Doubtless we’ll see quite a few players doing an NIHL1 and 2 double at Ice Arena Wales with both teams having home games.
Sunday sees Cardiff then make the journey to Basingstoke in what will be a really tough game for them. Despite the heart that team has, I can’t see them taking anything away from a game against the league leaders who are in excellent form at the moment.
We also have Swindon travelling to the Hive on Sunday. These two teams have actually only met once in the league so far this season. Swindon took the extra point in that game when Bebris scored an OT winner, but the from all accounts it was a close game and it’s one that Bees will really want to get something out of in order to keep the pressure on London. Of course, Swindon are also in need of those points in their pursuit of the top two!
Milton Keynes return to the fray after a weekend break last week when they host Invicta. Thunder currently hold a comfortable looking 5 point lead against the Dynamos in the 7th/8th place battle, but the Mos have 2 games in hand and a win in this game will mean that 7th will suddenly become a realistic target for them. Both teams have struggled for points in the last few months and have only wins against Cardiff to their name since mid-November, although both have picked up a few extra points in OT losses as well. The sides have met twice so far this season and have a win each by a single goal (MK won in regulation and Invicta in OT), so expect this to be another close game.
Our final weekend game sees Peterborough travel to South London to take on Streatham. They have met twice so far this season with the Phantoms having the upper hand in both games. The Redhawks are always capable of pulling out a surprise though and when it clicks with them, it really clicks. Trouble is that it isn’t happening consistently enough for them so far this season – but they are never an easy team to play against.
We also have a mid-week league fixture to look at as Swindon travel to Invicta on Thursday. It’s a chance for the Wildcats to finally turn their game in hand over Phantoms into points and a win here could see them really in the mix at the top again. Of course, Dynamos have a habit of really playing up to the top teams and have had some of their best performances this season against the ex-EPL teams. Swindon will obviously be favourites going into this one – but you just never know, especially since it will be the Wildcats’ 4th game in 6 days!
National Cup action
The second of the cup semi-finals also gets into action on Wednesday and Swindon are bidding to reach their second cup final of the season as they host Telford. These two sides met 4 times in the group stage of the competition and the Wildcats took all 8 points with 4 regulation wins. But they were mostly close low-scoring games and with a place in the national cup final against Sheffield up for grabs now, the stakes are higher and Tigers will be looking for some payback. The second leg of this series will conclude the following week.
18:00 Invicta Dynamos vs London Raiders (NIHL1)
18:15 Swindon Wildcats vs Basingstoke Bison (NIHL1)
18:30 Cardiff Fire vs Streatham IHC (NIHL1)
19:00 Peterborough Phantoms vs Bracknell Bees (NIHL1)
17:30 Basingstoke Bison vs Cardiff Fire (NIHL1)
18:00 Bracknell Bees vs Swindon Wildcats (NIHL1)
18:30 Milton Keynes Thunder vs Invicta Dynamos (NIHL1)
18:45 Streatham IHC vs Peterborough Phantoms (NIHL1)
19:30 Swindon Wildcats vs Telford Tigers (National Cup SF)
19:45 Invicta Dynamos vs Swindon Wildcats (NIHL1)
482days will have live twitter updates from Cardiff on Saturday and Milton Keynes on Sunday. 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