9 games across the NIHL1 South teams this weekend: 7 in the league and 2 in the National Cup.
Saturday starts with Swindon hosting Invicta. For the Wildcats this will be Sam Zajac’s final weekend with the club before he moves back to the North-East for work. Zajac has been a huge presence on the Swindon blue line since the start of the season, chipping in nearly a point per game across all competitions and will surely be missed. For Invicta, newly signed Cesky and Osman seemed to settle in well last weekend and getting back to 3 lines will definitely be a relief for coach Parrish. These teams met twice back in September with a win a apiece, although the Mos’ win was in OT. Invicta actually seem to be doing better against the ex-EPL teams on average than they have against the classic-NIHL1 teams so far this season. 7 of their 11 league points have come from the games against the bigger clubs in the division. Swindon have been the form team in the cups this year, having won every game in both Autumn and National Cup competitions so far – but have not been able to translate that to league form and are currently in 4th place and 7 points off leaders Peterborough (although they do have a couple of games in hand).
Saturday also sees Basingstoke host Streatham. The Bison have been a major force in the league so far and have yet to drop a point – or even let a team take them to OT so far. Admittedly they have yet to play any of the other ex-EPL sides in the league yet, but have also managed not to slip up against the classic-NIHL1 teams and have a very impressive 1.4 goals against average – by far the lowest in the league. Streatham have blown hot in the cup, having won their group with a 100% points record, but are struggling down in 8th place in the league with just 7 points from 12 games. The Redhawks have the quality in their line-up to be matching the bigger teams and while Basingstoke will be aware that they are the side to have come closest to taking league points against them – having led 3-0 at home before eventually succumbing 4-3 when teh sides last met in late October.
Cardiff continue their hunt for a first league point against London on Saturday. The Welsh side have seen their results improving, especially in the last month. Some of this is of course down to the signing of netminder Jordan Lawday, but the rest of the squad is also getting to grips with the much faster-paced league. The Fire have a number of players out injured which isn’t helping, but it has also meant opportunity for some of their young NIHL2 players to step up – and the Smith brothers (19 year old Ben and 16 year old Sam) certainly both impressed me when I watched them recently. London will not give them an easy game though. The Raiders currently sit 6th in the league with 12 points from 12 games and play a fast and fluid game.
Cardiff also travel to Invicta on Sunday. Fire have struggled with numbers at away games this season, not having managed to take a full 3 lines out of Wales since they played Swindon at the beginning of October. Invicta meanwhile have got themselves back up to having 3 lines again and may actually go into a game with more players than their opposition for the first time in almost 2 months!
London also have a league double-header as they host Peterborough on Sunday. These sides have only met once this season, when London shocked the the Phantoms with a 6-3 road win, cutting short the league leaders’ run of 11 unbeaten games. The Raiders were actually outshot 46-25 in that game, with Euan King apparently being outstanding between the pipes. Of course, since then King has switched sides and will be lining up for the Phantoms in this clash!
Milton Keynes have their only game of the weekend on Sunday when they host Basingstoke. Thunder are also playing 500-hockey at the moment with 15 points from 15 games putting them at in a solid 5th position in the league. The one team they haven’t managed to get close to in scoreline so far though is the Bison – with 2 big losses (7-2 and 6-0) in the record books so far this season. They will want to improve on those results at the very least.
Our final league game sees Bracknell travel to Streatham. Bees, in their only game this weekend, will be delighted to welcome back Bakrlik as his 6-game suspension came to an end last weekend. The mercurial player is doubtless one of the most talented forwards in the league and Bees have had a torrid time without him in the side with 6 losses and no points recorded during his suspension. These two sides have met just once so far, with the Bees winning by a convincing 6-1 margin. Of interest, in that game – there were a total of 20 minor penalties of which 17 were for fighting, with bouts between Galazzi and Hayes, Martin and Miles, Stead and both Ranson and Paynter!
National Cup action
Saturday sees Sheffield travel down to Peterborough for a game in Group B. The two met in the national cup last weekend in Sheffield with the Steeldogs taking both points in a 6-3 win. But there have also been two fixtures between them in the Autumn cup with Phantoms taking all four points there. A regulation win for Peterborough will see them leapfrog Sheffield into 2nd place and a qualification spot – but anything else will see them remain at the bottom of the table.
In Group D, we have a top of the table clash between Swindon and Telford. As mentioned above, Swindon have yet to lose in a cup game this season and have 5 wins against Telford recorded so far. Telford have been narrowing the scorelines though and last week took Swindon to overtime. Expect another close game here.
18:15 Swindon Wildcats vs Invicta Dynamos (NIHL1)
18:30 Basingstoke Bison vs Streatham IHC (NIHL1)
18:30 Cardiff Fire vs London Raiders (NIHL1)
19:00 Peterborough Phantoms vs Sheffield Steeldogs (National Cup)
17:15 Invicta Dynamos vs Cardiff Fire (NIHL1)
17:30 London Raiders vs Peterborough Phantoms (NIHL1)
18:00 Telford Tigers vs Swindon Wildcats (National Cup)
18:30 Milton Keynes Thunder vs Basingstoke Bison (NIHL1)
18:45 Streatham IHC vs Bracknell Bees (NIHL1)
482days will have live twitter updates from at least one game, but we’re undecided on where to show up at the moment! 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
NIHL National Cup Group B
NIHL1 National Cup Group D