Nine games coming up tis weekend for the NIHL1 South clubs. These include 6 league games, 2 in the National Cup and one in the Autumn Cup.
After a week off, it’s another tough double-header for Cardiff as they head to Basingstoke on Saturday and then host the Bison again on Sunday. Two weeks ago, Cardiff showed real improvement, losing by only 4 goals to the Bees in a 5-1 loss and then getting on the scoreboard 4 times in an 11-4 loss to London. This season is certainly a steep learning curve for the newly promoted Fire, more than for any team – but all credit to them for sticking with the league and pushing themselves every week. The aim for them is to keep improving – and to keep the spirit good in the changing room. I don’t think anyone expects them to make the playoffs this season – but their aim will be to get some points on the board. I have no doubt tat will happen before the end of the season.
Basingstoke meanwhile still have their 100% record intact in the league and will be looking at this weekend as a chance to move up the table. With the teams above them only playing one league game each this weekend, 2 wins for the Bison could see them move up at least one place and will certainly help them keep pace wit league leaders Peterborough who are also at 100%.
The other league game on Saturday sees Milton Keynes host Streatham. The game will be the 600th for Ross Bowers as a senior MK player – an impressive record for any player, let alone one who is still only 32, and certainly one to celebrate. The last time these two sides met, Bowers netted twice in a 3-1 win for the Thunder in South London and no doubt he’ll be hoping to match that performance and result on this milestone match. Streatham will be able to add Ryan Watt to the roster that were beaten that day but will again be without the services of first choice netminder Matty Colclough who will sit for the final time in his 3 game ban from 2 weeks ago. From all accounts, young Nate Gregory did a fine job last weekend deputising for the suspended Colcough with a combined 92% save percentage across the two games. If he can pull another performance like that on Saturday, he’ll give coach Cornish a tough decision about who his starting NM should be…
On Sunday, it’s league action all the way. First off, Invicta will host league leaders Peterborough. Phantoms have not given away a point yet in the league and are looking in dominant form so far. Their biggest strength is the depth they have across the squad with 8 players scoring more than a point a game on average in the league and their goals being shared across 13 different players so far. It means that even if someone is having an off day, there are plenty of others to pick up the slack. For me that strength in depth is why I see them as early title favourites. Invicta may not be an easy game for them. The Dynamos have already taken 2 of the other ex-EPL teams into OT and seem to relish these ‘big’ games more than any others. Peterborough will of course go into this as the favourites, but that’s just how the Mos like it and they’ll want to show they can take a point or more against anyone.
Also on Sunday, London travel to Bracknell for a reverse of last week’s 11 goal thriller. Bees managed to just nick all the points last week in a 6-5 regulation win that saw the lead swing back and forth between the teams throughout the 60 minutes. For London, Juraj Huska was back in goal-finding form with 2 goals (after only scoring once in the previous 4 games). For the Bees, Frankie Bakrlik for Bees continues to find the net with at an impressive rate, topping the scoring charts with more than 2 goals a game so far – just over a third of all of Bracknell’s total tally. Those two will likely be amongst the danger men again in the rematch.
Our final league game sees Streatham host Swindon. The sides last met in South London at the start of the month when Swindon just hung on to their 2-1 lead despite a Redhawks onslaught in the third period and being outshout 43-32 across the balance of the game. Renny Marr was the hero in that game, with a 98% save rate. The impressive young keeper is currently at 94% across all competitions this month and is having an incredible season so far. Swindon will want him to continue that form again here. Barring any suspensions/injuries on Saturday, Streatham should have everyone available again for this game and will feel that they have a strong chance here of getting something from this game. Should be a close one.
National Cup action
Saturday sees two games in the National Cup. First off London host invicta. The clubs have met twice so far this season, both times in the cup and with London taking all the points so far. The most recent action was a game every Mos’ player and fan will want to forget, as the Kent side capitulated 11-1 to the Raiders. Invicta have picked themselves up well since then, with competitive losses against Bison and Bees and a win against MK. London meanwhile had a couple of big losses to Bison and Wldcats before a convincing win against Cardiff and that narrow loss to Bees last weekend. Whilst a loss for Invicta in this game won’t put them out of the cup for definite, it will give them a huge uphill battle as they’d need to win every remaining game and require the final game between Streatham and London to be won in regulation.
In Group D, we also have a game between Swindon and Bracknell. A win for the Wildcats would give them a 4 point lead at the top of the table and keep them in a dominant 100% position in the group. A win for Bees would see them climb 2 places into a qualifying position. There’s still lots of hockey to be played in this group and nothing is certain yet, but with all four teams in the group pushing hard for just 2 places in the next round, every point gained could be the difference between qualification or elimination. These two teams haven’t played each other since the pre-season challenge games at the start of September – and it was very much honours even then with a home win by 2 goals for each. This game is definitely too close to call.
Autumn Cup action
Just the one game in the Autumn Cup for the southern NIHL1 sides this weekend as Peterborough host Sheffield in Group 1. With Basingstoke having already qualified, this is a must win for Sheffield. In fact the Steeldogs not only have to win to have a chance of staying in the competition but also have to get that win in Regulation and by a margin of at least 4 goals to be in with even a chance. Even then they would need Bison to beat Phantoms twice and convincingly. A point or a loss by 3 or less goals will see Phantoms qualify.
17:30 London Raiders vs Invicta Dynamos (National Cup)
18:15 Swindon Wildcats vs Bracknell Bees (National Cup)
18:30 Basingstoke Bison vs Cardiff Fire (NIHL1)
19:00 Milton Keynes Thunder vs Streatham IHC (NIHL1)
19:00 Peterborough Phantoms vs Sheffield Steeldogs (Autumn Cup)
17:15 Invicta Dynamos vs Peterborough Phantoms (NIHL1)
18:00 Bracknell Bees vs London Raiders (NIHL1)
18:00 Cardiff Fire vs Basingstoke Bison (NIHL1)
18:45 Streatham IHC vs Swindon Wildcats (NIHL1)
482days will have live twitter updates from Milton Keynes on Saturday and Invicta 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
NIHL National Cup Group C
NIHL1 National Cup Group D
NIHL1 Autumn Cup Group 1