Last weekend was a big one in NIHL South 2, as the Bracknell Hornets defeated league leaders Oxford to do the double over them this season and get closer to the City Stars at the top of the table. This weekend will also be a big one, with all of the top teams in action at least once.
Four games are on the schedule for Saturday, with the biggest probably being Bracknell’s trip to North London to face Haringey, with Bracknell looking to win their games in hand over Oxford and put pressure on the league leaders. Also on Saturday: Invicta make the tough trip to Cardiff to face the Fire, Solent welcome Swindon to the south coast, and Slough play host to the Bristol Pitbulls.
There are also four games on Sunday, with Bracknell and Oxford both in action at home. Oxford welcome Haringey to Oxpens Road while Bracknell play host to Peterborough. Meanwhile Chelmsford host Solent in a battle between the other two sides who dropped down from NIHL1 last summer, and Lee Valley travel to Guildford still looking for their first win of the season.
Cardiff NIHL2 Fire vs Invicta Mustangs
Cardiff Fire host the Invicta Mustangs in Wales on Saturday in a mid-table clash, as the Mustangs look to move closer to Haringey and Cardiff attempt to leapfrog over Invicta into eighth place.
Cardiff (5 wins/5 losses, 10 points), alongside Chelmsford, have played the least amount of games in the league this season, and in view of that, their 9th-place position isn’t all that bad. They took a bit of a hit on Saturday though, as they came close against the flailing Peterborough Phantoms but were unable to emerge with a victory. The Fire were badly outshot and compiled over 70 penalty minutes, but held a 1-0 lead until the mid-point of the game, thanks to Rhys Harding. Even after the Phantoms took over and moved ahead 3-1, Stephen Deacon put Cardiff back in contention with a goal in the 48th minute, leaving plenty of time for the Fire to find the equalizer. But this they were unable to do, as Peterborough left town with both points.
Invicta (5 wins/11 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 11 points) had a rather different weekend. They showed that they had put aside their 11-1 loss to Swindon before Christmas, as they secured a 6-2 win over Bristol. The Pitbulls actually had more shots on goal, but Matthew Passmore stopped 95% of the shots he faced, and Invicta’s offense took a 3-0 lead after 13 minutes. Richard Harris and Anthony Baskerville each scored braces, and despite having the second-worst goal differential in the league—the Mustangs allow an average of six goals a game while scoring just under three per match—Invicta are sitting nicely in eighth position.
That could all change this weekend. If that Mustangs lose to Cardiff, the Fire will take over that position. And don’t forget, Slough, Basingstoke and Bristol are all within two points as well. This weekend could certainly see a few teams in the lower half of the table switching places.
Don’s Prediction: Cardiff 7-4 Invicta
Laurence’s Prediction: Cardiff 5-4 Invicta (OT)
Solent Devils vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
Newly-resurgent Swindon will be trying to continue their recent run of good results as they visit a high-flying Solent side that hasn’t lost since October.
Solent (10 wins/1 regulation loss/1 OT loss, 21 points) picked up yet another victory on Saturday, easily defeating the Slough Jets 14-3 and increasing their win streak to six games. Solent have not lost since they were beaten by Chelmsford on 28 October. The victory over Slough was their most emphatic of the season, as they fired in five goals in the first period. Richard Facey and Andrew Campbell each scored hat-tricks, with Facey also notching four assists. Alex Murray beat him in that category though, helping out on five of Solent’s goals. Solent sit in third, seven points back of leaders Oxford City, but have four games in hand and are looking dangerous.
On the face of it, Swindon (2 wins/9 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 5 points) may not look very dangerous, if you just view their stats. But a look at their most result results tells a different story than their second-to-last positioning in the league. Swindon have just five points on the season, but they all have come in their last three games. The Wildcats took a point off Slough in an OT loss in the first weekend of December, and then a fortnight later crushed Invicta 10-1 in their first win of the season. Swindon didn’t play again until Sunday, when they defeated Haringey 5-3. The Wildcats are on the prowl, and this sudden surge of momentum comes at a time they really need it—after Saturday’s game against Solent, they have a real tester next weekend as they play Oxford City and Chelmsford on consecutive days.
If Swindon can earn a solitary point across those three games, they’ll really have something to be proud of—but don’t bet on it happening. The Wildcats are much better, but it’s hard to believe that they have improved so much.
Don’s Prediction: Solent 8-4 Swindon
Laurence’s Prediction: Solent 10-2 Swindon
Haringey Huskies vs Bracknell Hornets
Bracknell laid down a big marker in the title battle last weekend, knocking off leaders Oxford 5-4 to move to within four points of the City Stars at the top of the table, with three games in hand. They will look to keep up this momentum as they travel to Alexandra Palace to face the Huskies.
Haringey (8 wins/7 losses, 16 points) had a typical up and down weekend last time out: a thrilling 6-5 overtime win over Basingstoke at home on Saturday was followed by a 5-3 loss on the road at unfancied Swindon. They now have 8 wins and 7 losses on the season, so you never know what you will get from the Huskies in any given game. Captain Ben Osborne is on fire though, netting a hat-trick over Basingstoke including the winner in overtime, and also grabbing 1+1 in the Swindon defeat.
Bracknell (12 wins/1 loss, 24 points) meanwhile had the perfect weekend last time out: a 7-3 win over Lee Valley, where they secured the victory despite not being at their best, was followed by that 5-4 victory over Oxford that perhaps makes them the favourite in the title chase. They need to ensure they don’t slip up in games like this one, and will need to ensure they concentrate fully on the task at hand and take the expected two points. One of Bracknell’s big strengths is the depth in their lineup, with their 12 goals last weekend being scored by nine different players.
Bracknell are on fire at the moment, winning five league games in a row and having only being defeated once on the entire season. They should be too strong for Haringey in this one.
Don’s Prediction: Haringey 3-7 Bracknell
Laurence’s Prediction: Haringey 3-9 Bracknell
Slough Jets vs Bristol Pitbulls
Slough Jets will be out for revenge on Saturday as they host Bristol Pitbulls, who defeated them with three seconds remaining in the opening game of the season.
After that loss, Slough (5 wins/11 losses, 10 points) dropped their next five games and looked like prime wooden spoon contenders. But an OT win over Invicta launched the Jets into sudden resurgence as they won five out of eight to leap up the table. They had a chance to further improve their record right before Christmas, but were beaten 7-3 away to Invicta. And last weekend, they were annihilated 14-3 by Solent. Still, the Jets are an improved team and sit one place above Bristol in the table.
Bristol (4 wins/7 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 9 points) also come into this match on a two-game skid. They lost to Oxford City before Christmas, although they only lost by two goals. But last Saturday they lost to Invicta—and just like Slough, they fell by four goals. The Pitbulls have won three of their last six, however, and Saturday’s clash at Slough promises to be a good one.
Both clubs seem to have improved about equally in recent months, and of course there was hardly anything to separate them in that game on 10 September. But Slough have home ice this time and will want revenge for that heart-breaking loss.
Don’s Prediction: Slough 6-5 Bristol
Laurence’s Prediction: Slough 4-3 Bristol
Guildford Phoenix vs Lee Valley Lions
Despite being newcomers to NIHL South 2 in the summer, Guildford have started off their inaugural campaign superbly, taking 17 points from a possible 28 and sitting fifth in the table. On Sunday they welcome winless Lee Valley to the Spectrum.
Guildford (8 wins/5 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 17 points) have made a dream start to life in senior hockey – the Phoenix were a junior team up until this season – and have gelled quicker than a lot of people expected. One of the keys to this rise up the table has been Bailey Wootton; the former Lee Valley, London Raiders and Invicta Dynamos forward has bagged 15 goals and five assists in 14 games and seems to be enjoying life in NIHL2. Josh Abbott (12+8=20) and player coach Andrew Hemmings (4+17=21) have also hit the 20 point mark already.
Lee Valley (12 regulation losses/2 OT losses, 2 points) are still waiting to get the monkey off their back as the only side without a win in NIHL South 2 this season so far. They came close on two occasions before Christmas, but in both instances lost in overtime to Invicta and Cardiff. Last weekend saw a tough trip to Bracknell but the Lions performed admirably, going down 7-3 and earning a lot of praise for their performance. They will hold out hope that this is the game where they finally break that duck.
When Guildford and Lee Valley met earlier in the season in East London, Guildford came out of it with a 2-0 shutout win. If Lee Valley play as well as they did in Bracknell last weekend, an upset could be on the cards; but nonetheless Guildford are the favourites for this one.
Don’s Prediction: Guildford 8-3 Lee Valley
Laurence’s Prediction: Guildford 3-1 Lee Valley
Bracknell Hornets vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
Following on from their game at Haringey on Saturday, the Hornets welcome the Phantoms to town on Sunday in another must-win game for Bracknell.
Peterborough (10 wins/5 losses, 20 points) started the season so well, going through September and October with a 7-0 record. Since then, it’s all gone horribly wrong; they’ve gone 3-5 since the start of November, with two of those wins being much tighter than expected and only one convincing victory among them. They have to somehow get their form back to avoid slipping out of the top four in the table, but that won’t be easy with the Hornets coming to town. Veteran leader Shaun Yardley had 35 points in just 11 games this season, and he will likely need to be firing on all cylinders for the Phantoms to have a chance in this one.
The Hornets will have already played at Haringey the previous night, but that shouldn’t stop them being successful in this one; last weekend they beat Oxford on Sunday after having already played on Saturday. The aforementioned depth in the Hornets side makes them extremely tough to beat; if you shut down one forward line, another one is equally dangerous. Peterborough have their work cut out for them in this one.
Peterborough are too good a side not to eventually get their form back, and their schedule eases up after this game which will probably give them the opportunity. But this game against a hot Hornets side looks very tough for the Phantoms on their current form. Expect Bracknell to win this one.
Don’s Prediction: Bracknell 7-5 Peterborough
Laurence’s Prediction: Bracknell 6-2 Peterborough
Oxford City Stars vs Haringey Huskies
Oxford look to bounce back from defeat at home to Bracknell last weekend as Haringey visit Oxpens Road. Haringey themselves will have already faced Bracknell the previous night.
Oxford (14 wins/2 losses, 28 points) have lost only two games this season – both to the Hornets. And while they should not start panicking yet, they are now only four points clear of the Hornets having played two games more. Therefore it is crucial that the Stars keep their composure and put the pressure back on Bracknell by forcing them to win all their games in hand. Against Haringey, the likes of Kamil Kinkor (25+25=50 already this season), Josh Oliver (22+13=35) and Joe Edwards (15+18=33) will hope to keep up their scoring form.
Haringey have been handed a very tough weekend by the fixture makers, as they face the top two teams in the league back-to-back. They will hope to shock Oxford and take something from this game, but it will be very tough to do so. All of their dangerous forwards – Stephen Woodford, Daniel Clayton, Stuart Appleby, captain Ben Osborne and others – will need to be firing if they want to get anything from this one. Even then, it will be tricky.
We can expect Oxford to bounce back from the Bracknell defeat in this one, and it should be a comfortable victory for them over the Huskies.
Don’s Prediction: Oxford 7-1 Haringey
Laurence’s Prediction: Oxford 9-2 Haringey
Chelmsford Chieftains vs Solent Devils
Sunday will feature a mammoth clash between two of the former South 1 sides as Chelmsford Chieftains welcome in Solent, who play their second game of the weekend.
Chelmsford (8 wins/2 losses, 16 points) come into their first game of 2018 with a two-game winning streak, having dominated in back-to-back battles against Peterborough. This week the Chieftains will be hosting Solent, who Chelmsford defeated 5-2 away earlier in the season. Chelmsford sit in sixth, but have played less games than the sides above them. A win over Solent would help the Chieftains continue to climb up the table as they aim for the league title.
Solent will have played the day before against Swindon, and we’ll have to wait and see how tired out the Solent players will be. Judging from recent results, Swindon may give Solent a very good battle indeed and that may put Solent at a disadvantage against the Chieftains. Add to that the fact that they were soundly beaten at home by Chelmsford earlier in the season, and Sunday’s match could be a tough one for the visitors.
Don’s prediction: Chelmsford 4-1 Solent
Laurence’s Prediction: Chelmsford 5-6 Solent (OT)
14:45 Cardiff NIHL2 Fire vs Invicta Mustangs
17:00 Solent Devils vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
17:30 Haringey Huskies vs Bracknell Hornets
18:00 Slough Jets vs Bristol Pitbulls
17:30 Guildford Phoenix vs Lee Valley Lions
18:00 Bracknell Hornets vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
18:15 Oxford City Stars vs Haringey Huskies
18:30 Chelmsford Chieftains vs Solent Devils
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.
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