This weekend it’s all about the league with 7 fixtures across Saturday and Sunday. We also have a midweek league game and an Autumn Cup semi-final to talk about next Wednesday.
Saturday sees the much anticipated return to Romford for the Raiders. After 5 years sharing Lee Valley with the NIHL2 Lions, they finally have a place to call their own again. Photos of the new Romford rink look pretty amazing and I shall certainly be looking forward to attending what looks like a sell-out game against Cardiff. Raiders have been enjoying great league form and will want to get used to being a top-half team, a win here will mean they will be able to enjoy that feeling for at least another week. Cardiff of course are still searching for that first point in the league but with so many of their team either playing injured or completely out of action at the moment, it is hard to see where that will come from.
Sunday sees the Raiders (I’ve yet to hear for definite if the name is reverting to Romford this season) travel to Streatham for the final regular season meeting between the teams. It’s been an odd series between these two teams with the Redhawks winning all four cup games while Raiders have won all three of the league games between the two sides so far. Not one of the previous seven games has been a blow-out though with all going to at most a 2-goal margin, so we can certainly expect another close game between these two old rivals.
Prior to that game, Streatham will be travelling to Swindon on Saturday. The sides have met twice so far in South London and have a win each to show for it, although Redhawks currently have the advantage in the series on goal difference. The Wildcats are in terrific form at the moment, with just one loss from 11 games in January and also secured themselves an Autumn Cup final spot after a close series against Peterborough. Streatham had a good win against Bracknell last weekend but will also need to conserve a little energy for the game against London On Sunday while Swindon have just the one game this weekend.
The game of the weekend is probably the top of the table match up between Peterborough and Basingstoke on Saturday. The Phantoms have extended their lead at the top of the table to 4 points now but Bison have 2 games in hand and this is the proverbial 4 pointer. A regulation win for Bison here and a second win on Sunday would see them retake the top spot in the table and still have one game in hand over the Phantoms. But if Phantoms can take the win, they’ll really be in the driving seat to take the league title.
Sunday’s game for the Bison against Invicta may not be an easy win for them though. Although the Dynamos have definitely had their toughest season since they dropped out of the EPL 15 years ago, their team are far from being a pushover. They are a team who seem to relish the big games and have seemed to play better against tougher opposition. Having said that, despite raising their game against the ex-EPL teams, they have still struggled to turn that good play into tangible points.
Before that game, Invicta will also have travelled to the Hive to play Bracknell on Saturday. The two sides have met thrice so far this season and have 4 points a piece with the Bees having won in overtime twice and Dynamos having one regulation win. Bees started the league well, but their form has had a dramatic drop since the start of November and they have just one win (in OT vs MK) and an OT loss for 3 points from 10 league games in the last 3 months (compared to 8 regulation wins, 2 OT wins and a single loss in their first 11 games). I think both teams will be going into this game with a feeling that they can take the points and kick start the final third of their season.
The final game at the weekend sees Bracknell travel to Cardiff. If Bees can get the win on the Saturday then they will be looking to get their first 4-point weekend since the start of November (when they also played Invicta and Cardiff!).
We also have a midweek league game to enjoy as Swindon become the second team to visit the new Romford facility. Despite their good form against the teams below them in the league, Raiders have only one win in 9 games against the top three. If they want to be a genuine challenger during the playoffs they will need to start winning games like this one. The two teams have met 4 times so far this season and the best the Raiders have managed is a regulation loss by one goal. They will be especially unhappy with the manner in which they capitulated in the Cup QF games last month when they went down 8-0 and 6-2 to the Wildcats. Swindon will feel that they have the measure of the Raiders but back in their own barn with what will hopefully be a big home crowd and this game could have a different feel to it.
Autumn Cup action
The increasingly inappropriately-named ‘Autumn’ cup continues and we’ll finally know who is to play Swindon in the final after this week, when Basingstoke travel to Hull for the second leg of their semi-final. Bison will take a slim one-goal lead into the game after defeating the Pirates 4-3 last Friday. If both teams are at full strength again for this game (always a bit dicey for mid-week games, especially when a 460 mile round trip is involved) this should be another close game. A place in the final and a chance at some silverware should help get the players there though!
17:45 London Raiders vs Cardiff Fire (NIHL1)
18:00 Bracknell Bees vs Invicta Dynamos (NIHL1)
18:15 Swindon Wildcats vs Streatham IHC (NIHL1)
18:30 Basingstoke Bison vs Peterborough Phantoms (NIHL1)
17:15 Invicta Dynamos vs Basingstoke Bison (NIHL1)
18:00 Cardiff Fire vs Bracknell Bees (NIHL1)
18:45 Streatham IHC vs London Raiders (NIHL1)
19:30 Hull Pirates vs Basingstoke Bison (Autumn Cup SF)
19:45 London Raiders vs Swindon Wildcats (NIHL1)
482days will have live twitter updates from the brand spanking new Romford rink on Saturday and Streatham 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