League leaders Oxford had last weekend off, with chasers Solent and Bracknell both taking wins to close the gap at the top. This weekend, Oxford and Solent are both in action against the same opposition (Cardiff) which will be an interesting measure of how the two sides stack up.
Solent’s trip to Wales is on Saturday, with faceoff at 14:45. If the Devils win, they will lead the league (for 24 hours at least). There are two more games on Sunday too, with Bristol hosting Swindon on Oxpens Road in a game with a real West Country flavour, and Peterborough looking to continue their recent resurgence as they travel to Basingstoke.
The only game on Sunday is Oxford’s home game against Cardiff, as they look to extend their lead at the top of the pile or, if Solent won the previous night, the City Stars will look to regain that top spot.
Cardiff NIHL2 Fire vs Solent Devils
Solent have the chance to top NIHL South 2 on Saturday – the Devils are just a point behind leaders Oxford and travel to South Wales to take on the Cardiff Fire.
Cardiff (7 wins/8 regulation losses, 14 points) are having a strong season to date, winning seven of their 15 games thus far and finding themselves just two points outside the playoff places. They won’t make it easy for Solent, and the Devils will have to work hard to take the win and top spot in the league. Cardiff beat Haringey 3-2 in a tight game last Sunday, with Elliott Murdoch, Rhys Harding and import Robert Sedlak taking a goal each. The Fire would love a similar result here, although it promises to be a much tougher game.
Solent (16 wins/1 regulation loss/1 OT loss, 33 points) are on imperious form at the moment, having won their last 12 games in a row and only having lost once in regulation this season. They got even better last weekend with the return of Mitchell Murray from a long ban. Playing his first game since the 23rd of October 2016, Murray (the brother of player-coach Alex) scored a hat-trick as the Devils beat Guildford 7-2 on Saturday. With both Murray brothers as well as Drew Campbell, Richard Facey and Mark Pitts, who scored two goals and added three assists against Guildford, the Devils have a scary array of offensive talent and will be hard to stop here.
While Cardiff are on good form and are hard to beat at home, Solent should be too strong for them in this encounter. Expect the Gosport-based side to be topping the table come Saturday evening.
Don’s Prediction: Cardiff 3-8 Solent
Laurence’s Prediction: Cardiff 3-6 Solent
Bristol Pitbulls vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
Bristol continue their push for the playoffs this weekend as they host Swindon Wildcats in Oxford. The Wildcats still sit second from last, but have been playing better in recent weeks.
Bristol (6 wins/9 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 13 points) have been securing points regularly ever since mid-November, having won five of their last 10 games. Most recently they’ve taken two of their last three, defeating Cardiff and Lee Valley while losing to Solent. Against Lee Valley on Saturday, captain Olly Shone led the way for the Pitbulls, scoring a hat-trick in a 6-2 win. Shone now has 22 goals in 16 games for Bristol. Shone and the Pitbulls will need to be in good form against on Saturday, though, with Swindon coming to town.
Swindon (3 wins/12 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 7 points) ended their three-game losing streak—with all losses coming against the former South 1 clubs—a fortnight ago with a 6-4 win over Basingstoke. The Wildcats were narrowly outshot by the Buffalo, but Christopher Leykam’s hat-trick was enough to see Swindon pick up two more points.
Bristol and Swindon haven’t faced each other yet this season, and with both clubs playing well, it’s a hard game to predict. A win could put Bristol very near the playoff places, while Swindon will need as many points as possible if they’re going to make a late push for eighth place.
Don’s Prediction: Bristol 5-4 Swindon (OT)
Laurence’s Prediction: Bristol 7-4 Swindon
Basingstoke Buffalo vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
Peterborough will look to continue their recent resurgence as they travel to Basingstoke to play a Buffalo team trying to snap an eight-game losing skid.
The Phantoms (13 wins/6 regulation losses, 26 points) have extended their winning streak to three games after last week’s narrow victory over Guildford—a win that gave Peterborough a three-point cushion over the Phoenix for fourth place in the Wilkinson division. In many respects, Guildford were in charge of the game, outshooting Peterborough 34-20 and compiling less penalty minutes. But in the stat that matters—goals scored—the Phantoms were able to take a 2-1 advantage. Craig Wallis and Conor Pollard each scored to give Peterborough a 2-0 lead, and although Guildford pulled one back in the 34th minute, that was as close as they could come.
Basingstoke (4 wins/11 regulation loss/2 OT losses, 10 points) have somehow remained in touch with the playoff places, sitting six points behind Haringey, but if they’re going to move up out of 12th place, they’ll need to start winning games again—something they haven’t done since 11 November. They’ve only picked up two points in that time, from a pair of overtime losses. Incidentally, one of those OT defeats was away to Peterborough in early December, with the Phantoms winning 8-7. But in order to play well against Peterborough again, the Buffalo will need to put behind them last week’s 12-2 humiliation at the hands of Chelmsford.
Going solely off their last meeting, this game could be very close. But both club’s league positions and recent form would seem to indicate that the Phantoms stand an excellent chance of picking up two points on Saturday.
Don’s Prediction: Basingstoke 3-6 Peterborough
Laurence’s Prediction: Basingstoke 1-8 Peterborough
Oxford City Stars vs Cardiff NIHL2 Fire
Cardiff are in the unique position of playing both of the top two in the league this weekend. A day after welcoming Solent to Wales, they make the shorter trip to Oxford to take on the City Stars.
Oxford (17 wins/2 regulation losses, 34 points) have in many respects dominated the league this season, taking 17 wins in 19 games and scoring a barely believable 178 goals – an average of 9.4 goals per game! But they only lie one point ahead of Solent in the table after two costly defeats to Bracknell in September and January, and they could see Solent leapfrog them on Saturday to sit atop the table. Either way, this is a must-win game for the City Stars at home, as they will not want any more slip-ups with two crunch games against Solent still to come this season. Oxford’s last outing as a crushing 11-4 win over Chelmsford two weekend ago, with Michael Whillock and Josh Florey both scoring hat-tricks and Kamil Kinkor picking up six points on the night.
Cardiff will travel to Oxford hoping to make the game more than a formality, but it will be a tough ask – especially after having played against another strong opponent the night before. Cardiff have played two games against former NIHL1 sides so far this season, losing them both, and you would have to be brave to bet on the Fire taking something from this game – Oxford having scored 104 goals in their ten home games so far this season.
Cardiff will battle hard as always in this one, but the difference in quality and experience is likely to be too difficult to overcome. Expect Oxford to take a big win here and end the weekend top of the league table.
Don’s Prediction: Oxford 12-4 Cardiff
Laurence’s Prediction: Oxford 10-2 Cardiff
14:45 Cardiff NIHL2 Fire vs Solent Devils
17:00 Bristol Pitbulls vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
18:30 Basingstoke Buffalo vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
18:15 Oxford City Stars vs Cardiff NIHL2 Fire
NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Standings
We’ll have updates on scores and scorers from all the games 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 NIHL1 games? You can find the NIHL1 South weekend preview HERE.
482days Expert Prediction Competition (after Sunday 4th February)
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