This week we have 9 games across all three competitions in NIHL1: 5 league games, 3 national cup games and 1 Autumn cup game.
We’ll start with a look at the double-header between Peterborough Phantoms (home Saturday) and Cardiff Fire (home Sunday). On paper this looks like a real mis-match with top (and serious title contenders) facing bottom; and in truth, it probably will be. We need to remember though that NIHL1 has had a jump up in quality and especially speed this season and Cardiff are newly promoted as well – last season, they were playing 2 leagues below the Phantoms. While Cardiff have signed some strong players with EPL experience, the majority of the squad is returning from last season and they are going to need some time to adjust. The positive for Cardiff is that there is no enforced relegation this season, so they have that time available to them. Yes, they are probably going to struggle for much of the season, but if they can keep their heads up and celebrate any gains they make over the season, they can have the breathing space to consolidate and grow.
Peterborough meanwhile, are looking very strong at the moment. 100% after 3 league games and only the cup loss to Hull as a sour note in an otherwise great start so far. Coach Slava Koulikov will be encouraged that the scorers are coming across the lines – with 8 different goalscorers responsible for the 14 league goals so far, while as a defensive unit they have given up just 2 goals a game in the league so far.
On Saturday, we also see a reverse of the first shock result of the season as Swindon Wildcats host Invicta Dynamos. Mos were the first (and so far only) of the old NIHL1 teams to beat an ex-EPL team in an overtime thriller with now-departed Bobby Chamberlain as the OT hero. Swindon had a strong weekend in the cup last week, beating both Basingstoke and Hull by 3 goals, although the delight is no doubt tempered with the loss of GB prospect forward Toms Rutkis who had to go surgery on his jaw after the game with Hull and is likely to have an extended period out as a result. The Dynamos had a slightly less successful weekend, losing 5-4 in a cup game to longtime rivals London. Although they can be encouraged with the comeback they came close to completing as they got back from 5-1 down in that game to bring it to within a single goal margin with a 3-goal flurry in the third period.
On Sunday, we see a reverse of one of the fixtures from the opening day of the league season as MK travel to Bracknell. Their first meeting was a high-intensity affair with the teams trading goals in the first two periods, then MK getting a 2-goal lead in the third only to see Bracknell up the gears and score 4 unanswered goals in the final 10 minutes (the last an empty-netter) to give them a 7-5 win. Pre-season fitness may have played a part in that with MK unable to keep up the high-intensity play they displayed in the first 50 minutes in the final 10, but with another 5 games under their belt since then they should now be over that hurdle. Thunder will also have had the advantage of a day off on the Saturday, compared to what is likely to be a hard fought cup game for the Bees against local rivals Basingstoke. Bees though will have home advantage and with top pair Bakrlik and Thompson in strong form at the moment, with the two sitting top of the league points charts, will be feeling confident of repeating the first result.
Our final league game this weekend see Streatham host Swindon. As far as I can tell, the sides last met in the 1993-94 season when the Redskins and Wildcats both played in the Southern BD1 – before half of the two squads were born! Swindon have had a rocky start to the league so far, with both games played against old-NIHL1 sides and taken to overtime. Their cup form has been better and sees them top of their group with two wins from two. Streatham have had a good start to their season as well so far, beating London home and away in the cup as well as a win (Cardiff) and a loss (Peterborough) in the league so far. Their Redhawks team is a good mix of high-intensity and skill players and they will be looking to go one better than MK and Invicta, but Swindon are no mugs and this is likely to be a hard-fought game.
National Cup action
Saturday sees a third meeting in as many weeks between London and Streatham in the cup. Both games so far have been highly-contested narrow wins for Streatham, with last weekend’s game going all the way to penalty shots. Brandon Miles also had a tilt in each game against his team-mates from last year: dropping the gloves against both JJ Pitchley and Julian Smith. This weekend’s game should be more of the same (although Miles may have run out of ex-team mates interested in fighting him). London will certainly be looking for revenge as by all accounts their fans feel they were robbed to get only one point out of the four on offer, while Streatham will look to continue this run of form in the London derby.
Also on Saturday, Bracknell travel to Basingstoke for a reverse of the cup fixture from 2 weeks before, where Basingstoke won with the odd goal in three in a low scoring 2-1 game. Basingstoke will not be best pleased with their National cup form so far, having lost 3 of their 4 games (twice against Telford, once against Swindon). Even a second win against Bracknell won’t put them back into the qualification spots for the quarter-finals. But it will at least put them back level on points with Swindon and Telford, and in with a shot of qualifying if they can win their final cup game against Swindon. A win for Bracknell though will likely put them above the Bison and keep them in contention of making the quarter-finals themselves.
London are in cup action again on Sunday as they travel to Invicta. The two sides have met once in the cup last Saturday, with London taking a 5-4 win. They’ll be happy with the points and the way in which they started, but will be less happy with shipping 3 goals in 10 minutes at the start of the third period. This allow Dynamos back into the game after Raiders should have put the game to bed in the second with a 5-1 lead. Invicta are chasing their first cup points and although coach Parrish will be pleased by the comeback in the third, he’ll want to get off to a better start this time.
Autumn Cup action
It’s all cup action for the Bison again this weekend as they travel to Sheffield for the return fixture from last weekend’s game which saw them win 3-1. The game looked a lot more comfortable for the Bison than the scoreline suggested with Basingstoke dominating the first two periods, outshooting the Steeldogs by 27-7 and outscoring them 3-0 in the first 40 minutes. The Northern side came back in the third when play was much more even and at one point it looked like Bison might regret not converting more of their chances when they had the game by the throat. They hung on though, but as mentioned last week – will really want to improve their scoring efficiency. At the moment, they are making opposition netminders look good!
17:30 London Raiders vs Streatham IHC (NIHL1 Cup)
18:15 Swindon Wildcats vs Invicta Dynamos (NIHL1)
18:30 Basingstoke Bison vs Bracknell Bees (NIHL1 Cup)
19:00 Peterborough Phantoms vs Cardiff Fire (NIHL1)
17:15 Invicta Dynamos vs London Raiders (NIHL1 Cup)
17:30 Sheffield Steeldogs vs Basingstoke Bison (NIHL1 Autumn Cup)
18:00 Bracknell Bees vs Milton Keynes Thunder (NIHL1)
18:00 Cardiff Fire vs Peterborough Phantoms (NIHL1)
18:45 Streatham IHC vs Swindon Wildcats (NIHL1)
482days will have live twitter updates from London on Saturday and Bracknell 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 weekend preview HERE where our NIHL2 correspondents Laurence Thorn and Don McDermott will take a look at the action in that league.