The title battle in NIHL South 2 is really hotting up and all of the top three are in action this weekend as Oxford, Solent and Bracknell each play one game.
Saturday is extremely busy with five games scheduled. League leaders Oxford travel to east London to take on bottom club Lee Valley, while Solent are also on their travels in London as they face Haringey at Ally Pally. Other games on Saturday are Chelmsford’s trip to Cardiff, Invicta hosting Basingstoke and Guildford welcoming Swindon to the Spectrum.
Bracknell play on Sunday as they travel to Oxford to take on the Bristol Pitbulls, while Chelmsford play for the second time in the weekend as they host Slough – a side that beat them earlier in the season. Finally both Lee Valley and Basingstoke also play their second games of the weekend, with the Lions travelling to Hampshire to take on the Buffalo.
Cardiff NIHL2 Fire vs Chelmsford Chieftains
Cardiff stand a good chance of moving up into the playoff spots if they pick up a win on Saturday, but it won’t be all that easy as they host Chelmsford.
Cardiff (7 wins/10 regulation losses, 14 points) are currently 10th in the table but are just two points behind Slough in seventh and Haringey in eighth, with Bristol sitting in between on 15 points. There’s a real logjam for the final two playoff spots and at this stage of the season, every game counts. Saturday’s match will be Cardiff’s third consecutive fixture against a former South 1 side, and they’ll be hoping it’s third time lucky for them, after losing 8-2 against Solent and 8-1 away to Oxford City.
Chelmsford (10 wins/5 regulation losses, 20 points) have had a very up-and-down month. After being upset by Slough on 20 January, they crushed Swindon 11-3 the next day. They followed that up by losing by almost the same score (11-4) to Oxford City, before defeating Basingstoke by 10 goals a fortnight ago. The Chieftains’ position in the table seems safe—they are only in sixth, four points ahead of Slough and Haringey, but they have plenty of games in hand. However, they will need to make those extra games count if they’re going to move up the table at all.
This will be the first meeting between the two clubs this season, and it’s not as easy to predict as it might seem. On paper, Chelmsford are stronger. But they’ve lost to Slough and Bristol this season, and Cardiff are usually pretty good at home.
Don’s Prediction: Cardiff 4-6 Chelmsford
Laurence’s Prediction: Cardiff 4-6 Chelmsford
Invicta Mustangs vs Basingstoke Buffalo
An entertaining clash can be expected on Saturday as 11th placed Invicta host 12th placed Basingstoke, with both sides looking to force their way into the playoff places.
Invicta (5 wins/14 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 11 points) have had an up-and-down season, taking five wins but also going on several losing streaks. They have not been able to take back-to-back wins yet this campaign, and are currently on a three game losing streak. However their last game was a promising 1-3 defeat to a strong Bracknell side, which was not the heavy defeat that a lot of people would have expected. The Mustangs will hope to carry that momentum into this game against their neighbours in the table.
Basingstoke (4 wins/12 regulation loss/2 OT losses, 10 points) have also had a rollercoaster campaign, winning four of their first nine games but then suffering defeat in each of the nine games since. They are now six points outside the playoff places, and if they want to have any chance of making their season stretch into mid-April, they need to start winning soon. As always, their keys to success are goalie Aaron Craft, who is playing a lot better than the raw numbers suggest, and import Blair Dubyk who is the team’s main scoring threat.
These are two sides who still have an outside chance of playing in the post-season, so expect fireworks in this game. It is really hard to call and could very well go to OT as the two sides seem evenly matched. Basingstoke won the reverse tie 6-3 earlier in the season, but after their recent losing streak, it remains to be seen whether they can come out on top in this one.
Don’s Prediction: Invicta 5-4 Basingstoke (OT)
Laurence’s Prediction: Invicta 4-3 Basingstoke (OT)
Lee Valley Lions vs Oxford City Stars
On paper, this game looks like a formality as the league leading Oxford City Stars travel to east London to face a Lions side sitting 13 places and 33 points below them.
Lee Valley (14 regulation losses/3 OT losses, 3 points) have somehow still not managed to clinch a win yet this season, despite improving dramatically in the last few months – three overtime losses are a testament to that. They are only four points behind 13th placed Swindon so all is not lost for George Alley’s side, if they can put a run of wins together. However this is probably not the opponent that such a run will start against.
Oxford (18 wins/2 regulation losses, 36 points) continue to lead the standings, although they lost the lead for 24 hours last weekend after Solent’s Saturday win over Cardiff. The City Stars retook the lead on Sunday however, after beating the same Cardiff side 8-1. The game against the Lions is simply a must-win for the Stars with both Solent and Bracknell breathing down their necks, and you would put good money on the yellows to get the win in this one.
The Lions will give it their all as always, but it’s hard to expect anything else than an Oxford win, although it likely won’t be anywhere near as big as their 18-1 win back in December over the same opponents.
Don’s Prediction: Lee Valley 1-10 Oxford
Laurence’s Prediction: Lee Valley 2-10 Oxford
Guildford Phoenix vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
Guildford have been a breath of fresh air in the league this year, the newcomers sitting fifth and locked in an exciting battle with Peterborough and Chelmsford for fourth place in the league. They host a Swindon side currently sitting second from bottom.
The Phoenix (11 wins/7 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 23 points) have exceeded expectations this season, already picking up 11 wins out of their 19 games to date. The talent in the team was never in doubt, but the way they have been able to gel together and take so many strong wins has been impressive. We mention them almost every week, but player-coach Andrew Hemmings (35 points) and fellow forwards Joshua Abbott and Bailey Wootton (17 goals each) have been the standout forwards for the Phoenix this season and will hope to score big against the Wildcats.
Swindon (3 wins/13 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 7 points) looked to be having a revival around Christmas time, picking up five points in three games between December and early January. Since then, they have lost four of five, with their only win coming against a Basingstoke side on a heavy losing streak. With Lee Valley only four points behind in last place, Swindon will need to continue to win matches to ensure they avoid the wooden spoon. And bringing nine skaters to away games, as they did in last weekend’s 9-1 drubbing at the hands of Bristol, won’t help their cause – they will hope to bring a bigger roster to Surrey for this game.
Even if the Wildcats do bring a full roster to Guildford, expect a win in this one for the impressive Phoenix, who should have too much scoring power for Swindon to contend with.
Don’s Prediction: Guildford 6-4 Swindon
Laurence’s Prediction: Guildford 7-3 Swindon
Haringey Huskies vs Solent Devils
For twenty-four hours last weekend, Solent took over first place in the Wilkinson Division from Oxford City, before slipping back to second the next day. This weekend they have another chance to move up, as they travel to play Haringey.
The Huskies (8 wins/11 regulation losses, 16 points) are currently clinging onto the final playoff spot, right ahead of Bristol and Cardiff, and are mired in a five-game losing streak, in which they have been outscored 42-12. They now face a mammoth task of taking down Solent, who have only lost twice this season. Haringey will play Solent away a month later, and will also have a game against former South 1 side Chelmsford, so there remaining schedule is not all that easy.
Solent (17 wins/1 regulation loss/1 OT loss, 35 points) stretched their winning run to 13 games last week, with an 8-2 away win over Cardiff. Mitchell Murray, Mark Pitts and Andrew Campbell all scored braces, with Pitts adding three assists. Solent jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first half hour, and cruised the rest of the way to briefly put themselves top of the table, one point ahead of Oxford. But the Stars then won on Sunday to go back ahead.
With Oxford playing Lee Valley this weekend, it’s unlikely that Solent will finish the weekend in first place, but they should certainly pick up a win against Haringey to stay just one point back.
Don’s Prediction: Haringey 3-8 Solent
Laurence’s Prediction: Haringey 3-10 Solent
Bristol Pitbulls vs Bracknell Hornets
Bracknell aim to close the gap at the top of the table as they hit the road to take on Bristol, who are just a solitary point out of the playoffs.
Bristol (7 wins/9 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 15 points) sit ninth in the table, a point back of both Slough and Haringey, and the good news for the Pitbulls is that they have three games in hand on both of those sides. Bristol have also pulled together back-to-back wins for the first time since December, defeating Lee Valley 6-2 and then last weekend, crushing a short-benched Swindon 9-1. Adrian Smith and Logan Prince scored braces while Ryan Macfarlane had a five-point evening as the Pitbulls romped against a Wildcats team featuring just nine players and two goalies.
Bracknell (15 wins/1 regulation loss, 30 points) also are a club with games in hand on the sides above them—and in this case, there are only two clubs with more points than the Hornets. Solent are five points clear of Bracknell in second place, while Oxford still sit top of the table, one point ahead of Solent. But Bracknell have more than enough games to make up the points, but they need to keep winning, especially since they have two tough games against Solent remaining on the schedule. But they will be favourites in all other games for the rest of the season, including this one against Bristol.
Don’s Prediction: Bristol 4-8 Bracknell
Laurence’s Prediction: Bristol 3-7 Bracknell
Basingstoke Buffalo vs Lee Valley Lions
Two sides play for the second time in as many days in Hampshire, as the Buffalo welcome the Lions to town. The two sides have not yet faced each other this season.
Basingstoke will be hoping to have snapped their three month long losing streak the previous night in Kent but, if not, will see this game as another chance to do so as they welcome the team bottom of the league. Buffalo import Blair Dubyk is a former Lee Valley favourite, so it will be interesting to see how he does against his former side – expect goals as usual from the tough Canadian.
The Lions probably won’t have beaten Oxford the previous evening, but will see this game as a genuine chance to break their duck on the season. As previously mentioned, the Buffalo haven’t won a game in so long, that this could be the perfect opponent for the Lions to finally take their first win of the campaign against. As usual, in order to do so they will need captain Nick Alley to lead from the front, and will also need good goaltending from whichever of James Andrew, Brett Shepherd or Robyn Maby gets the nod.
This game is so hard to call given the losing runs that both sides are on. It should be a tight game and it may not be decided in 60 minutes – whatever happens, it should be exciting.
Don’s Prediction: Basingstoke 4-3 Lee Valley
Laurence’s Prediction: Basingstoke 5-6 Lee Valley (OT)
Chelmsford Chieftains vs Slough Jets
Chelmsford welcome Slough to Essex in a mouth-watering clash which comes four weeks after the Jets upset Chelmsford in Slough.
The Chieftains will be playing their second game of the weekend, as they will have played Cardiff away on Saturday. Chelmsford will be desperate for a four-point weekend—they have plenty of games in hand on the two sides above them, Guildford in fifth and Peterborough in fourth, but they are quite a few points short and this hasn’t been the greatest season for the Chieftains.
Slough (8 wins/12 regulation losses, 16 points) will be back in action for the first time in three weeks, but despite having remained idle they have held onto seventh place in the league, which will please them. But Haringey are level on points in eighth and Bristol have moved to within a point, so the Jets could certainly use a win on Sunday. We know they can beat Chelmsford after they defeated the Chieftains 6-4 at the mini-Hangar, but away from home ice against a Chelmsford team looking for revenge, it will be tough for Slough to do the league double.
Don’s Prediction: Chelmsford 5-3 Slough
Laurence’s Prediction: Chelmsford 8-5 Slough
14:45 Cardiff NIHL2 Fire vs Chelmsford Chieftains
17:15 Invicta Mustangs vs Basingstoke Buffalo
17:30 Lee Valley Lions vs Oxford City Stars
17:30 Guildford Phoenix vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
17:30 Haringey Huskies vs Solent Devils
17:00 Bristol Pitbulls vs Bracknell Hornets
18:30 Basingstoke Buffalo vs Lee Valley Lions
18:30 Chelmsford Chieftains vs Slough Jets
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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