We’ve got seven games to look at across the NIHL1 South teams this weekend: just the three games in the league as well as four in the national cup.
Invicta have a league double-header this weekend as they travel to London on the Saturday and then host league leaders Peterborough on the Sunday. With their cup competition already over (despite still having one game to play), all of the Mos’ focus will now be on the league, and with just 3 points separating the teams in positions 5-8, they will see this as a chance to move up the table. New signings Steve Osman and Jaro Cesky will likely both feel they have something to prove having been released by their previous clubs this season and are both certainly a much needed addition to the Mos’s short bench. While Invicta fans will be delighted with the 5-1 thumping of Bracknell on Saturday, I have little doubt that tired legs will have contributed to the 6-2 loss in Streatham the following day (even if it was a dead rubber game). With the pace of the league having notably quickened this season, back to back games with just over 2 lines is always going to be a tough ask.
London had a disappointing weekend last week and will be looking to bounce back from that. They ran Swindon close in a 3-2 loss on Saturday but were heavily beaten on Sunday by the Bison in a 6-0 loss. This will be the 4th meeting between the teams this season, but their first in the league. So far the Raiders have had all the points in their three cup games with 5-4 and 3-1 wins in Lee Valley as well as the 11-1 home defeat that the Dynamos will want to forget. But that’s the cup and as we have seen time and time again this season, cup form is not equating to league form (or vice versa).
Invicta’s opponents on Sunday bounced back themselves last weekend with Autumn Cup and league wins against Bison and Bees respectively. Solidifying their position at the top of the league, they will have the chance to go 5 points clear with a win in Kent and while the Bison obviously have games in hand, that starts to put scoreboard pressure on them. With 2 recent league losses to their fellow classic-NIHL1 opponents in the form of MK and London, Phantoms will not be taking the Mos lightly. This is likely to be a game where a short bench really could be a major factor for the Dynamos though as Phantoms biggest strength is the quality they have across all of their lines which means that the pressure likely won’t ease up for the full 60 minutes.
Our final league game this weekend sees Cardiff visit Milton Keynes. Cardiff are still struggling to find their first points of the season and it was a tough, battling game I watched last weekend in Wales where they looked outclassed by Swindon for much of the game. But the results are narrowing for them and I genuinely believe that win is going to come soon. The bad news for them is that they also have a long injury list at the moment, with quite a few of their more experienced players like Nick Chinn, Sam Smith and Brad Watchorn currently out of commission. The good news is that they have an absolutely top class netminder in the form of Jordan Lawday who is helping to keep scorelines tight and the team in a position to counter-attack and maybe steal some points in the process. The last time these sides met was back in September when Thunder had a convincing 6-0 win. Fire will certainly be looking to improve on that scoreline.
Milton Keynes will be coming into this game pretty fresh having had the weekend off last week, but that has also given them a full fortnight to brood over their own 6-0 defeat at the hands of Bison two weeks ago. A game that brought then back down to earth with a bang after taking the scalp of league leaders Peterborough the day before. MK have definitely been having a lot of close games so far this season, with more than a third of their games going to OT and half of the remaining games being settled by just a goal or two in regulation.
National Cup action
We’ve got 3 games in the intriguing Group D of the National Cup this weekend. All four teams are in action on Saturday when Swindon host Telford and Basingstoke host Bracknell. Then the Bees and the Wildcats will also be in cup action in Bracknell on the Sunday.
For Swindon and Telford, this is already the 5th meeting between the teams – with Swindon having 2 wins in each of the National Cup and Autumn Cup competitions. Wildcats are in terrific cup form at the moment, having already qualified for the Autumn Cup semi-finals and sitting on 5 wins from 5 at the top of the National Cup Group D table so far. They have already met Telford four times this season and have taken all of the points on offer. The games have all been pretty close though with only one game being won by a margin of 3 goals. The Wildcats will be disappointed though with the immediate loss of Toms Rutkis who is now able to return to the ice after a broken jaw has kept him out for the last 2 months but who will be moving to ice full time with the Cardiff Devils (although the two-way contract is still technically in place). They are also going to be losing one of their strongest d-men in the next few weeks as well as Sam Zajac is returning North for work in early December. Telford though have had a real return to form in the last two weeks, winning all of their last 4 games and they are still very much in contention of a quarter-final cup berth, currently sitting in 2nd place in teh group and just 2 points behind Swindon (although with 3 more games played).
Saturday also sees the Bison host the Bees. Bracknell have struggled without their top goal-scorer Frankie Bakrlik who will also be missing this weekend as he completes his 6-match ban. With Shaun Thompson also missing last weekend, they clearly struggled with secondary scoring. While the cup losses against Telford two weeks ago were at least close-run games, they will not be happy with having been thumped 5-1 by Invicta and then 7-2 this weekend. The news that they have also released Steve Osman with immediate effect is perhaps a surprise, as he sat behind only Best in addition to Thompson and Bakrlik in both goal-scoring and assists within the team. Bison’s cup form has improved somewhat recently having won 2 of the last 3 games in this competition, but they badly need to get some more points on the board in this competition if they are to challenge for a berth in the next round. Their league form has been excellent of course, but may be a little misleading as they have not yet played any of the ex-EPL teams in that competition. This will be the fourth and final cup group game between these two teams with Bison just holding the advantage with 4 points to 3, but any win by Bees will see them take the overall result between the two sides which could prove crucial in the final table.
On Sunday, Swindon will travel to Bracknell for the second meeting this season between the teams. Wildcats had a fairly comfortable 5-2 win against the Bees a month ago – and that was with Bracknell at full strength with Bakrlik and Thompson providing their two goals. It is hard to see how Bees will manage to reverse that result without them, but we’ve certainly seen stranger things happen already this season – and sometimes adversity can really pull a team together.
Our final cup game is sadly another dead rubber in group C where the standings in the group were decided 2 weeks ago. Both Streatham and London have already qualified for the quarter-finals and London cannot overtake Streatham at the top of the group table. So this game will just be about bragging rights and psychological advantage ahead of their remaining league games.
17:30 London Raiders vs Invicta Dynamos (NIHL1)
18:15 Swindon Wildcats vs Telford Tigers (National Cup)
18:30 Basingstoke Bison vs Bracknell Bees (National Cup)
17:15 Invicta Dynamos vs Peterborough Phantoms (NIHL1)
18:00 Bracknell Bees vs Swindon Wildcats (National Cup)
18:30 Milton Keynes Thunder vs Cardiff Fire (NIHL1)
18:45 Streatham IHC vs London Raiders (National Cup)
482days will have live twitter updates from London on Saturday as well as updates from all the games across NIHL1 and 2 in the South across the weekend. 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 C
NIHL1 National Cup Group D