We’ve hit the semi-finals stage of the regional playoffs! So we’re down to just 4 active teams left in NIHL1 South and at stake this week is a chance not only to compete in the regional final but also to take a place in the new National Final 4 weekend which will be held in Coventry in 2 weeks time.
Basingstoke Bison (1) vs London Raiders (4)
The league champions will play the only ‘classic-NIHL1’ side left in the competition. On paper this looks like it should be relatively easy for the Bison – having swept London in the league series with 4 regulation wins. But those games got closer and closer as the season progressed.
The last time these two teams met, back in mid-February, they were deadlocked at 0-0 for two periods before Brandon Ayliffe gave London the lead early in the third. The pressure from Bison intensified even more and captain Aaron Connolly scored yet another important goal for his club when he finally equalised with less than 5 minutes to go. Ryan Sutton then broke hearts in Romford as his sweet finish with just over a minute to go gave them the lead. Raiders threw everything at the net, especially in the dying seconds of the game when they got a PP to go 6-on-4 with an empty net, but they just couldn’t find a way through.
Form this season:
07-Oct: Bison 7 (Jackson x2, Antonov x2, Karpov, Connolly x2) – Raiders 1 (Nahlik)
19-Nov: Bison 6 (Connolly, Karpov, Malinik, Davies x2, Rounding) – Raiders 0
27-Jan: London 1 (Lack) – Bison 4 (Reynolds, Davies, Petts, Antonov)
18-Feb: Raiders 1 (Ayliffe) – Bison 2 (Connolly, Sutton)
So Bison are obviously going into this one as the favourites, but Raiders have a never say die attitude and will fight them all the way. A team that likes to be the gritty underdog in a fight, don’t be surprised to see them come out swinging. Bison would be fools to underestimate them.
Peterborough Phantoms (2) vs Swindon Wildcats (3)
So near and yet so far for Phantoms in the league. I can’t recall a title race quite going down to the wire like that before, but while it was an exciting conclusion to the season for those of us who were neutral, it was a real heart-breaker for the Phantoms. The playoffs are their final chance for silverware this season and winning this series will keep them in the running for 2 trophies, but losing will end their season with nothing to show for it.
They play the Wildcats, who broke their own 27-year trophy drought last Friday when they won the Autumn Cup. They are still in the running for a quadruple though, with a cup final game to come as well. Swindon on their day can compete with anyone in the league – but their consistency has been their downfall and too many dropped points saw them out of the title race a lot earlier than they would have hoped. But this is a massive game and if Coach Nell can fire his players up in the way he did for the Autumn Cup games then they could come at this with all guns blazing.
Unusually, the teams haven’t actually met since mid-January. With all four league games between them completed by December. In terms of form – well it;s a difficult one to call. Phantoms comfortably won the series with 3 regulation wins and an OT loss to their names. But in the more recent Autumn Cup semi-finals in January it was as close as close can get. Both games finished 3-3 in regulation and it took penalty shots to separate them.
Form this season (league):
21-Oct: Phantoms 3 (Griffiths, R.Ferrara, Jamieson) – Wildcats 2 (Nell, Johnson)
05-Nov: Swindon 4 (Zajac, Jones, Liddiard, Bullas) – Phantoms 5 (Salam, Griffiths, Padelek, Weldon, Pliskauskas)
23-Dec: Phantoms 6 (Padelek, Pliskauskas x2, Griffiths, Norton, Billing) – Wildcats 2 (Bullas, Johnson)
29-Dec: Wildcats 5 (Nell x3, Bebris, Whitfield (OT)) – Phantoms 4 (Salem, Griffiths, Padelek, Norton)
Form this season (Autumn Cup semi-final):
11-Jan: Wildcats 3 (Taylor, Nell, Jones) – Phantoms 3 (Salem, Pliskauskas, Griffiths)
18-Jan: Phantoms 3 (Knaggs, Billing, J.Ferrara) – Swindon 4 (Nell x2, Jones, Nell (PS))
I personally could easily see this going either way, but I can’t imagine it being anything but close.
17:15 London Raiders vs Basingstoke Bison
18:15 Swindon Wildcats vs Peterborough Phantoms
17:30 Basingstoke Bison vs London Raiders
17:30 Peterborough Phantoms vs Swindon Wildcats
482days will have live twitter updates from both series – we’ll be in Romford on Saturday and Peterborough 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.