Last weekend was a big one at the top of NIHL South 2, as the Oxford City Stars downed the previously unbeaten Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms to take over at the top of the table. Both sides now have a 7-1 record and sit on 14 points. Chasing them hard are surprise package Guildford on 12, Solent on 11 and Bracknell on 10, with the Berkshire side having won 5 out of 5 so far. Also unbeaten are Chelmsford who have played just three games to date.
This weekend sees a mammoth nine games in NIHL South 2 with all 14 teams in action over the course of the weekend. On Saturday, big hitters Chelmsford, Solent, Oxford and Bracknell will try to knock off Bristol, Invicta, Haringey and Cardiff respectively; while at the other end of the table, Slough host Lee Valley and Swindon welcome Basingstoke.
Sunday sees a big clash between Guildford, currently sitting pretty in 3rd in their first season in the league, and leaders Oxford, while Peterborough will look to bounce back from their first league defeat in over a year as they welcome Swindon. Finally, there is a London derby to savour as Lee Valley play host to Haringey.
Bristol Pitbulls vs Chelmsford Chieftains
While some teams in NIHL2 have played as many as nine games this season, former NIHL1 dominators Chelmsford (3 wins, 6 points) have played just three games thus far – winning all three. After comfortable wins over Swindon and Invicta, the Chieftains had a tougher task last time out as they won 5-2 on the road at Solent. Netminder Sonny Phillips stood on his head while import Filip Supa scored his 7th and 8th goals of the season. The Chieftains are missing the suspended Grant Bartlett – twin brother Cameron can now play again after having his six game ban reduced to one on appeal – but nonetheless still look a strong side.
Bristol (1 win/5 losses, 2 points) have somewhat surprisingly struggled so far this season; a last-minute opening day win over Slough has been followed by five consecutive defeats. The roster is identical to last season’s, in which the Pitbulls were one of the best sides in the NIHL South 2 (West) division, but that continuity hasn’t led to success on the ice just yet in this season’s much tougher NIHL South 2. Player coach Richard Hargreaves will need to use all his experience and nous to get a result for his team against a strong Chelmsford side.
This will be another tough one for the Pitbulls, and the Chieftains have to be considered heavy favourites here. There is enough firepower in this Chelmsford side for them to most likely achieve a comfortable victory.
Don’s Prediction: Bristol 2-8 Chelmsford
Laurence’s Prediction: Bristol 3-7 Chelmsford
Solent Devils vs Invicta Mustangs
Solent (5 wins/1 regulation loss/1 OT loss, 11 points) can push themselves up a few places in the league this Saturday from their current position in fourth place, but standing in their way of another two points are Invicta (2 wins/6 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 5 points), who have been battling hard for points.
Invicta had a rough couple of games in October when they lost heavily to Oxford City and Bracknell, but otherwise they have played respectably well against the other top teams such as Peterborough and Guildford. But the Mustangs’ only points this season have come against Cardiff, Swindon and Slough, who are all ranked below Invicta in the league table. Last Sunday, Invicta took on Guildford away and found themselves down 3-0 after half an hour of play. Michael Stokes pulled one back for the Mustangs but a minute later Guildford restored the three-goal lead. Bradley Gutridge scored for Invicta in the third period but Andrew Hemmings’ quick response for Guildford halted any thoughts of a comeback.
Solent, as one of the South 1 teams to drop down this season, have had few troubles this season, as was expected. An overtime loss away to Peterborough and a 5-2 defeat at the hands of another former South 1 club, Chelmsford, have been the sole blemishes on their season. Last Saturday they paid a visit to Lee Valley to play the Lions and went back home with a 12-2 victory. Richard Facey had a seven-point night while Christopher Hocquigny and Rhys McCormick scored a pair of goals each.
Most of last year’s South 2 clubs have struggled against the former South 1 teams, and it’s been particularly tough for the lower sides. Invicta will have to fight hard just to compete in this game, while for Solent, it’s a chance to continue rolling along in their fight for a league title.
Don’s Prediction: Solent 7-2 Invicta
Laurence’s Prediction: Solent 8-2 Invicta
Haringey Huskies vs Oxford City Stars
After over a month on the road, sixth placed Haringey Huskies (5 wins/3 losses, 10 points) are finally back at home on Saturday, as they welcome league leaders Oxford (7 wins/1 loss, 14 points) to the Palace.
The Huskies have experienced a rollercoaster season to date: 100% of their possible points in September, 0% of their possible points in October, and then a tight win over Bristol to start November. In their games against the bigger sides to date, they were heavily beaten at home 13-2 by Peterborough, before going down narrowly 5-3 on the road to Bracknell. Apart from that, the schedule has mostly been favourable for the North London side. That ends on Saturday as they host high-flying Oxford.
The City Stars sent a big message to the rest of the league last Sunday as they beat Peterborough 7-3, and currently sit top of the table. They will look to add two more points on the road on Saturday against a Huskies side that score a lot of goals, but concede quite a few too. Oxford’s key forwards – Kamil Kinkor, Joe Edwards, Josh Oliver and Darren Elliott – will be tough for Haringey to handle.
In the game against Peterborough last month, the Huskies kept it close in the first period before being blown away in the second and third. And this game could follow a similar pattern – expect the Huskies to start off strongly at home, but once the City Stars hit their stride, they will be very hard to stop.
Don’s Prediction: Haringey 4-9 Oxford
Laurence’s Prediction: Haringey 5-10 Oxford
Slough Jets vs Lee Valley Lions
Lee Valley (0 wins/7 losses, 0 points) will be aiming for their first win of the season on Saturday as they travel to Slough to play the improving Jets (2 wins/7 losses, 4 points).
Last weekend Slough put together a winning streak for the first time this season with a surprise win at home against Cardiff Fire 2, which followed on from their overtime win over Invicta a fortnight before. The Jets were looking for revenge on the Fire, who defeated them 13-5 earlier in the season in Cardiff, and thanks to a hat-trick from Luke Dreelan, a brace from Timo Lindgren and a goal from player-coach Lukas Smital, Slough emerged with a 6-2 victory. But the weekend wasn’t over for the Jets, as they hit the road on Sunday to play Basingstoke Buffalo. Slough’s momentum served them well, as after the two teams traded early goals, the Jets pulled out to a brief 4-2 lead. But that fourth goal was scored with Basingstoke keeper Aaron Craft’s gloves and stick down on the ice. The referee still award the goal, but in a show of good sportsmanship, Slough intentionally allowed the Buffalo to score off the ensuing faceoff. Seven minutes later, Basingstoke scored again to draw level, but Slough retook the lead thanks to Nathan Darmanin. It took the home side just over a minute to respond, and then game looked destined for overtime when Marcus Russell stunned the Jets with a shorthanded goal with 97 second remaining to win the game for the Buffalo.
So as the Jets look to take the positives from an up-and-down weekend, the winless Lee Valley Lions are preparing themselves for a tough match—and hoping they can finally open their account in the league. The Lions have lost all seven games this season, but they have had a difficult schedule and they ran Haringey and Guildford close and played well against Peterborough. Last Sunday was a tough one to take, though, as they hosted Solent and were easily defeated 12-2. Solent outshot the Lions 72 to 22 as Richard Facey led the way for the visitors with four goals and three assists, and Lee Valley remain bottom of the table.
Slough will be favourites in this game, as they have momentum and the crowd will be on their side, but don’t discount the Lions. This will be their most winnable game so far, and they are fighters. Spectators could be in for a very good match.
Don’s Prediction: Slough 7-5 Lee Valley
Laurence’s Prediction: Slough 2-3 Lee Valley
Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Basingstoke Buffalo
After being inactive last weekend, Swindon (0 wins/6 losses, 0 points) return to the ice this weekend with a pair of games, the first of which comes at home against Basingstoke (3 wins/5 losses, 6 points).
Swindon have lost all six of their matches this season, and only sit above Lee Valley at the bottom of the table thanks to a better goal difference. The Wildcats haven’t really been competitive in most of their matches so far, with the exception of a one-goal loss to Invicta early in the season and a 6-3 defeat at the hands of Guildford.
Basingstoke, on the other hand, have been rising up the table. After losing their first three games, they have since won three out of their last five, with both losses in that stretch coming against Oxford City Stars. Last Sunday they moved up into eighth place in the league with a 6-5 win over Slough Jets. Daniel Lackey scored a brace and Marcus Russell notched the winning goal with under two minutes left to play.
This weekend against Swindon, the Buffalo will feel confident that they can keep their good form going and pick up another win. For Swindon, the long fight to secure their first win may come to an end with the home support cheering them on, but the odds are against it.
Don’s Prediction: Swindon 3-7 Basingstoke
Laurence’s Prediction: Swindon 4-6 Basingstoke
Cardiff NIHL2 Fire vs Bracknell Hornets
Cardiff (2 wins/2 losses, 4 points) return to home ice on Saturday, and not a moment too soon after a disastrous road trip. But with the good news comes bad news—their opponents this week are the undefeated Hornets (5 wins/0 losses, 10 points), who sit third in the table.
Cardiff’s season, which got off to such a promising start, is now in dire shape. The Fire defeated Slough by a score of 13-5 and then knocked off Lee Valley, 7-1. But both games were at home, and Cardiff on the road are a completely different team. That proved to be the case in their first trip out of Wales this season, as they lost by the odd goal in five to Invicta. Things got even worse last week as they visited the Jets, and were handily beaten, 6-2.
Now they’re back home, but Cardiff are not playing lower sides like Slough and Lee Valley this week, they’re taking on former South 1 side Bracknell. The Hornets have eased through their schedule so far, most notably picking up a 9-6 win over Oxford, who currently top the table. Perhaps the main reason that Bracknell are only third is that they’ve played less games than other sides above them—in fact, they haven’t been in action since 14 October.
Bracknell’s long absence from league competition may have made them a bit rusty and that could play into Cardiff’s hands. And with the home crowd behind them, Cardiff will feel that they have a few things going their way in this game. But although an upset could be on the cards, there’s no doubt that Bracknell are still favourites in this game.
Don’s Prediction: Cardiff 5-8 Bracknell
Laurence’s Prediction: Cardiff 5-8 Bracknell
Lee Valley Lions vs Haringey Huskies
Both the Lions and the Huskies are in action again on Sunday, as they contest the second London derby of the season. The first meeting this season back in September saw Haringey emerge as 8-7 winners, as Stephen Woodford’s four goals for the Huskies cancelled out Ben Duffy’s Lions hat trick.
The Lions are still yet to win a game this campaign (unless they beat Slough the night before) but the schedule has not been kind to them, with a lot of games so far against strong opposition. Now they hit a run of games in which they can think about picking up some points. And a win against their biggest rivals would be a perfect way to inject some life into their season, especially after that bitter 8-7 defeat to start the campaign.
As previously mentioned, the Huskies have had an up and down season to date. So the question really is: which Haringey will show up? With dangerous forwards such as Stephen Woodford, Daniel Clayton and Stuart Appleby in their ranks, at the very least we can expect goals out of this Haringey side.
On paper, the Huskies should win this one. But Lee Valley always raise their game when up against Haringey sides, and this game should be no different. This one should be closer than the league table suggests – don’t rule out a Lions win.
Don’s Prediction: Lee Valley 5-4 Haringey (OT)
Laurence’s Prediction: Lee Valley 2-4 Haringey
Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
If Swindon can’t pick up their first win of the season on Saturday against Basingstoke, they do have another chance this weekend for some points—but in order to secure those points they must complete the Herculean task of defeating second-place Peterborough (7 wins/1 loss, 14 points) on the road.
Peterborough have been brilliant so far this season, scoring three goals for every one they concede and compiling an undefeated record—up until last weekend. It was then that the Phantoms finally stumbled as they hosted Oxford City Stars and were defeated 7-3. Although Peterborough actually outshot the Stars, Oxford took advantage of their opportunities, taking a 4-0 lead after 22 minutes and then easing their way to victory.
The Phantoms will be looking to bounce back, and hosting a poor Swindon side who will have played the day before is exactly what they would have wanted. This could be a long night for the Wildcats.
Don’s Prediction: Peterborough 16-1 Swindon
Laurence’s Prediction: Peterborough 10-1 Swindon
Oxford City Stars vs Guildford Phoenix
An expected front runner takes on a surprise package on Sunday, as league leaders Oxford host the Guildford Phoenix (6 wins/2 losses, 12 points), newcomers to the league this season. The Phoenix currently lie third in the table behind just Oxford and Peterborough, on 12 points after winning six of their eight games so far.
The City Stars have won seven of eight games so far, and will be expected to have extended their lead at the top of the table away at Haringey the previous night. Their big 7-3 win over Peterborough last Sunday laid down a marker to the rest of the league, and Oxford will want to keep up that strong form with two wins this weekend. Czech import Kamil Kinkor is the leading goalscorer in the league to date, with 13 goals in eight matches, while the trio of Josh Oliver, Joe Edwards and Darren Elliott have all hit 10 each.
Guildford graduated to senior hockey this season, and have made a dream start to life in NIHL2, sitting in 3rd ahead of this weekend. One of their two losses to date came to Oxford, however, and Guildford’s early season schedule has been quite kind to them in terms of the opponents they have faced. A tougher run of games follows – away trips to Oxford, Bracknell and Chelmsford are all to come this month – but the Phoenix already have 12 big points on the board. Their standout players so far have been Bailey Wootton, who has eight goals in eight games, and Josh Abbott with 6+5=11 to date.
Oxford can be expected to win this one, with the firepower and experience they have in their team likely to be too much for a young Guildford side. However it should be closer than Oxford’s 7-1 win over the same opponents back in September.
Don’s Prediction: Oxford 9-5 Guildford
Laurence’s Prediction: Oxford 7-5 Guildford
17:00 Bristol Pitbulls vs Chelmsford Chieftains
17:00 Solent Devils vs Invicta Mustangs
17:30 Haringey Huskies vs Oxford City Stars
18:00 Slough Jets vs Lee Valley Lions
18:15 Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Basingstoke Buffalo
18:30 Cardiff NIHL2 Fire vs Bracknell Hornets
17:30 Lee Valley Lions vs Haringey Huskies
17:30 Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
18:15 Oxford City Stars vs Guildford Phoenix
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 week 9)
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