It’s all about the league this weekend in NIHL1 South. With finalists now known for both cup competitions (these to be played mid week with the Autumn Cup final kicking off next Friday), all attention is now on the league. And it’s a doozy of a competition at the top! If Bison and Phantoms haven’t given an inch, with neither team dropping a point since their last meeting – which is setting us up for a huge game next weekend which could well be the league decider. Bison currently hold the overall result between the teams by 2 points and one goal – but a regulation win for Phantoms could change all of that. We’ll go through the full permutations on that game in our article next week.
Eleswhere in the league we have some individual placing battles still ongoing. Swindon look pretty set in third and it would take a miracle to move them there (they can console themselves with their 2 cup finals), but London and Bracknell are still battling for that 4th place spot. While Raiders have the edge now with 2 points and a game in hand over the Bees, both teams have a tough run-in and a game to play each other before that spot is decided. Bees also need to keep an eye on Streatham who are still just about within touching distance of 5th themselves. 7th and 8th look pretty set now as Milton Keynes and Invicta respectively – but both could potentially move up at least one place still.
Despite the doom and gloom at the beginning of the season – this is probably one of the most competitive NIHL1 South seasons we have ever had – and I’ve really enjoyed it!
Basingstoke will finally make up that game in hand this weekend they’ve had for ages, as they play a double-header compared to Peterborough’s single game. But neither game is exactly a ‘gimme’ as they host Swindon on Saturday and travel to Bracknell on Sunday. Swindon had an exhausting schedule: their cup semi-final win against Telford on Tuesday was their 7th game in 11 days. They seem to have come out of it fairly unscathed though with no news of any injuries picked up and will doubtless have enjoyed their first spell of 4 whole days without a game! Bracknell Bees form and performances have picked up recently and with them also chasing a top 4 finish, they won’t want to help their local rival out here. Bison beat both side 5-2 at their last meetings – but I wouldn’t be surprised to see much tighter scorelines their games this weekend.
Peterborough have just the once game this Saturday as they travel to the new Romford rink. This is a potential banana skin for them as the Raiders have turned into one hell of a side this season. They came incredibly close to taking the points from Bison last Sunday and were disappointed to end up with nothing from a game where they pretty much matched the other team from start to finish. They also want to consolidate that 4th place spot in the league and will not want to do any favours for a team that nicked their keeper earlier in the season (although Michael Gray has massively stepped up his game and been a fantastic replacement and could well be in consideration for the player of the month award for February).
London then travel to Swindon on the Sunday. Grabbing the 3rd place spot is probably beyond them now (for certain if Swindon win on Saturday), but they will want to build up form in the run-up to the playoffs. Swindon with one eye on their upcoming cup finals cannot afford to take their eye off the ball in this one though if they want to give their fans another home win to celebrate.
Milton Keynes also have a double-header this weekend as they host Bracknell on Saturday and then travel to Invicta on Sunday. Thunder have lost all 3 of their games against the Bees so far, although they did take them all the way to penalty shots at their last meeting a month ago, can they go one better? The form book suggested that Sunday’s game in Kent should also be a good one. These sides have played out 3 low-scoring battles so far this season with Thunder taking two 3-2 regulation wins and Dynamos taking a 2-1 OT win. This really could go either way.
Finally, Streatham host Cardiff on Saturday. Both sides have just the one game this weekend and after the events of a week ago, this result may not be the foregone conclusion you might have thought before then! I was delighted to see Fire pick up their first points of the season (and was desperately disappointed for them not to see them get the OT win). But taking first Invicta and then Swindon to OT shows the grit they have in the team. It’s been a huge learning experience for much of the team, jumping up from 4th tier to 2nd tier hockey and hasn’t been helped by the sheer number of the injuries to their more experienced players. The good news for them is that they seem to have a couple of those players back and with everyone else learning about the speed and skills needed to compete. Add in a hugely in form netminder, who must surely be being eyed up by an EIHL team or two as well as having the potential to be a senior GB team member on the basis of this season! Streatham meanwhile have had an up and down season, but have probably had more ups than downs. They had a great run in the cup but have struggled for consistency in the league. They have taken points from all but one of the other teams in the league (Phantoms) and have the overall series win against one of the ex-EPL teams (Bees). This will be a tough test for the Fire, especially away from home and with their NIHL2 team also having a game, but if they want to show their progression, they will need to at least better their 6-0 loss of the last time these sides met.
17:30 Streatham IHC vs Cardiff Fire (NIHL1)
17:45 London Raiders vs Peterborough Phantoms (NIHL1)
18:30 Basingstoke Bison vs Swindon Wildcats (NIHL1)
19:00 Milton Keynes Thunder vs Bracknell Bees (NIHL1)
17:15 Invicta Dynamos vs Milton Keynes Thunder (NIHL1)
18:00 Bracknell Bees vs Basingstoke Bison (NIHL1)
18:15 Swindon Wildcats vs London Raiders (NIHL1)
482days will have live twitter updates from Romford on Saturday and maybe Invicta on Sunday (TBC). 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