After a lot of criticism about the one-sided nature of many games in NIHL South 2 this season, the past weekend was like a breath of fresh air. Highly-fancied Chelmsford were stunned by Bristol, as the Pitbulls came out with a 3-1 victory; while Guildford took Oxford to overtime and gained a point despite ultimately losing the game. Both of these results showed that not every game in the league this season is a foregone conclusion.
This weekend sees seven more games in NIHL South 2, including several intriguing ties. The aforementioned Guildford look to continue their good run as they travel to Bracknell on Saturday to take on a Hornets side that have six wins from six so far, while 2nd in the table Peterborough travel to 3rd place Solent. The other ties on Saturday see Haringey host Invicta, Slough welcoming league leaders Oxford and Basingstoke hosting Cardiff.
There are just two games on Sunday, one of which sees Chelmsford look to bounce back from that shocking defeat to Bristol, as they welcome Bracknell to the Riverside. And Bristol themselves are also in action, as they make the trip to South Wales to take on Cardiff.
Solent Devils vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
On the south coast, a team that came down from NIHL1 in the summer hosts a team that probably would have taken promotion to NIHL1 if not for the league restructuring. These teams have already faced off once before this season, with the Phantoms taking a tight overtime victory at home thanks to Bradley Moore’s winner in the 63rd minute.
Solent (6 wins/1 regulation loss/1 OT loss, 13 points) have had a mostly successful season to date. Their only losses have come against fellow fancied sides Chelmsford and Peterborough, as they have dropped only three points so far. Veterans Richard Facey, import Drew Campbell and player-coach Alex Murray are the key men for Solent, with all three having scored 18 points or more already. They will look to avenge that loss to the Phantoms last month with victory in this one.
Peterborough (7 wins/1 loss, 14 points) lost their first league game in over a year two weekends ago, as Oxford beat them 7-3. They bounced back from that with a 9-2 victory at home over Swindon last weekend, but by their standards the scoreline was perhaps lower than would be expected. The big question is whether the Phantoms can keep their momentum and confidence going through a very tough run of games – they face Oxford again, and Chelmsford twice, all before Christmas. And they will have to do it without one of their star forwards Nathan Pollard, who has now moved up to the NIHL1 Phantoms side.
This one should be tight, with two strong sides facing off and a lot of offensive firepower on show. However both starting netminders – Solent’s Chico Cole and Peterborough’s Dan Lane – are also very strong, so this one really is hard to call. It could go either way – and could even go into OT again…
Don’s Prediction: Solent 6-7 Peterborough
Laurence’s Prediction: Solent 5-6 Peterborough (OT)
Haringey Huskies vs Invicta Mustangs
Fresh off a victory over Lee Valley in the London derby last Sunday, the Huskies – currently lying 6th in the table – host an Invicta Mustangs team that have not really got going this season and currently sit in 10th place.
Haringey (6 wins/4 losses, 12 points) have played 10 games to date, winning five and losing five. The table shows six wins and four losses however – their season opener was awarded to them 5-0 after the winning Basingstoke side fielded an ineligible player. After the Huskies took 100% of the possible points in September and 0% of the possible points in October, November has seen them take tight away wins against Bristol and Lee Valley as well as an expected heavy loss to Oxford. The Huskies have done very well in games against the traditional NIHL2 teams, and we can expect more of the same against the Mustangs here. Things could get especially tough for the Mustangs if they take too many penalties – the Huskies scored four powerplay goals at Lee Valley last weekend, and showed great character to repeatedly come back from one or two goals down.
The Invicta Mustangs (2 wins/7 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 5 points) have also played 10 games to date, with only tight home wins over Swindon and Cardiff, and a point from an OT loss at Slough, to show for their efforts. They already played the Huskies once before, going down 6-5 at home back in September. One of Invicta’s issues has been a lack of goals. They have scored just 26, with only Bristol and Swindon – both of whom have played less games – scoring less to date. Michael Stokes is their top scorer with four goals – Haringey already have five players who have reached this milestone.
This one looks like being a tough one for the Mustangs, on the road against a Haringey side brimming with confidence after their derby victory last Sunday. Expect a win here for the Huskies over a goal-shy Mustangs side.
Don’s Prediction: Haringey 8-5 Invicta
Laurence’s Prediction: Haringey 6-3 Invicta
Slough Jets vs Oxford City Stars
It’s been a brilliant few weeks for the Slough Jets as they’ve surged up the table to eighth, but the fun may be over this weekend as they host the table-topping Oxford City Stars on Saturday.
After dropping their first six games, Slough (3 wins/7 losses, 6 points) have now won three out of their last four to move away from the bottom of the pack. The run started with a narrow win over Invicta, and now includes two strong wins over Cardiff 2 and Lee Valley, sandwiching the sole loss in the run, a 6-5 defeat away to Basingstoke. Last Saturday was the Lee Valley game as the Lions came to town looking for their first win of the season. Liam Underdown started the scoring for the Jets as he picked up the lone goal of the first period. Slough extended their lead early in the second period courtesy of Kurt Tyrrell before Lee Valley captain Nicholas Alley pulled one back. The Lions continued to stay in the game throughout the second period, and Alley’s penalty shot to start the third period had the score at just 4-3 in favour of the Jets. But Timo Lindgren responded in under half a minute for Slough and from there the Jets coasted to an 8-3 win, with Underdown and Luke Reynolds picking up braces and player-coach Lukas Smital securing a five-point evening.
This weekend’s opponents, Oxford City (9 wins/1 loss, 18 points) arrive at Silverblades with a seven-game winning streak. The Stars did receive a scare on Sunday, though, as they were nearly upset by Guildford Phoenix. Guildford were the visitors but they didn’t let the home support put them off as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead after 21 minutes with goals from Joshua Abbott and Bailey Wootton. But in the third period, the game completely changed. Oxford outshot the Phoenix 22 to 3 but it looked like Guildford were going to hold on even though Jake Florey had scored a shorthanded goal for Oxford in the 48th minute. As the final minute ticked off, the Stars pulled their goalie and were rewarded as Michael Whillock scored the equaliser with 11 seconds remaining. The game went to overtime and Oxford completed the comeback as Kamil Kinkor scored the winning goal just 35 seconds in.
Slough will need to copy Guildford by scoring early, but it will be extremely difficult against such a good Stars team—and one who defeated the Jets 8-2 early in the season. It’s been a nice run for Slough but this could end up being another heavy loss.
Don’s Prediction: Slough 5-8 Oxford
Laurence’s Prediction: Slough 4-10 Oxford
Bracknell Hornets vs Guildford Phoenix
Saturday’s biggest game sees the undefeated Bracknell Hornets welcoming the high-flying Guildford Phoenix to town, in a battle of the only two teams that have taken at least a point off Oxford so far this season.
Bracknell (6 wins, 12 points) have played a few games less than some of the teams around them, so currently sit 5th in the table despite being the only unbeaten team left in the league. The Hornets had a tough game in Cardiff last weekend but came out 9-5 winners in the end, and also brushed Oxford aside 9-6 back in September. Their unbelievably dangerous offence – built around former Streatham duo Steve Fisfer and Sean Scarbrough who have 41(!) combined points in six games to date – has proven too much for all the teams they have faced so far, as the Hornets have scored an average of nine goals a game.
League newcomers Guildford (6 wins/2 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 13 points) have surprised a lot of people with their strong start to life in senior hockey. There is no doubt that the Phoenix side contains a lot of individual talent, but player-coach Andrew Hemmings deserves a huge amount of credit for moulding them into a team that has established itself in the upper echelons in the table. Last weekend’s result against Oxford was mightily impressive, as the Phoenix led 2-0 at one stage and eventually took the game to OT, claiming a point in a game that they would have been expected to lose. Saturday’s trip to Bracknell is another such game – can the Phoenix pull off another surprising result? A lot could rest on the shoulders of Bailey Wootton and Joshua Abbott, both of which have scored 12 points to date.
Looking at the individual names in the Bracknell side and their form so far on the season, a win for the Hornets would appear to be highly likely. But after the spirit Guildford showed against Oxford last weekend, they cannot be overlooked, and will hope to take at least a point from this encounter, as tough as it may be.
Don’s Prediction: Bracknell 8-6 Guildford
Laurence’s Prediction: Bracknell 7-4 Guildford
Basingstoke Buffalo vs Cardiff NIHL2 Fire
A slumping Cardiff team take to the road on Saturday to play Basingstoke at Planet Ice Silverdome Arena.
The Fire (2 wins/3 losses, 4 points) have lost their last three games on the bounce, including away losses to Invicta and Slough, and then last Saturday, a home defeat to Bracknell. Cardiff, who usually perform well at home, did put up a good fight against the Hornets. The Fire pulled out to a 3-1 lead and were able to take a one-goal advantage into the third period. But Bracknell equalised and then scored a shocking three goals in the space of 34 seconds to surge ahead 6-3. Credit must go to Cardiff for continuing to fight but in the end, Bracknell proved to be too good in the third period and secured a 9-5 victory.
Meanwhile Basingstoke (4 wins/5 losses, 8 points) have had an up-and-down season. They’ve defeated Guildford, which is no mean feat, and have also knocked off Slough, Invicta and Swindon. But they’ve lost heavily to Oxford (twice) and Bracknell, and they’ve also been defeated by Solent and Haringey, although their loss to the Huskies was actually due to the Buffalo icing an ineligible player. Last Saturday Basingstoke visited Swindon, and although as mentioned, they did pick up a win, it wasn’t an easy one for the Buffalo as they had to hold off a third period rally by the Wildcats in a 3-2 victory.
But although Basingstoke have yet to put together an impressive win, with the exception of their narrow triumph over Guildford, they will still be favourites against the Fire. Cardiff will presumably struggle on the road again, and Basingstoke have shown themselves to be a decent team.
Don’s Prediction: Basingstoke 7-4 Cardiff
Laurence’s Prediction: Basingstoke 4-2 Cardiff
Cardiff NIHL2 Fire vs Bristol Pitbulls
Cardiff are in action again but this time they’re at home, and they face a Bristol side fresh off a shock win over Chelmsford. This game has the potential to be a real thriller.
Bristol (2 wins/5 losses, 4 points) started their season with a last-gasp win over Slough and then proceeded to lose five consecutive games to place them amongst the bottom teams in the league. But those losses came against five of the top six teams in the league according to the current table, so Bristol fans still have reason to hope they can pick up some wins against the other lower sides such as Lee Valley and Swindon. What few expected, however, was that the Pitbulls would secure a win last week against former South 1 side Chelmsford. It was a tight game, but Bristol proved to be the better side on the night. They narrowly outshot the Chieftains as Olly Shone scored a brace and Ross Miller saved all but one shot to take away a 3-1 victory. Bristol still sit in the 12th in the table, but their confidence has been given a huge boost.
Cardiff, as pointed out above, are a very different team depending on whether they’re playing home or away. On Welsh ice, they are a dangerous team. Early in the season they swept away Lee Valley and Slough, and last weekend they played very well against Bracknell, even if they did go on to lose by four goals. So for Bristol to pull off another upset will be difficult, but they do have momentum and Cardiff, on a three-game skid, have little of that.
Don’s Prediction: Cardiff 7-5 Bristol
Laurence’s Prediction: Cardiff 4-5 Bristol (OT)
Chelmsford Chieftains vs Bracknell Hornets
The final game of the weekend is a mouth-watering clash featuring two former South 1 sides. Chelmsford are the home side and are reeling from last Saturday’s shock loss to Bristol; Bracknell are the visitors, and come into the game as the only unbeaten side left in the league.
The Chieftains (3 wins/1 loss, 6 points) were expected to be a strong contender this season, but so far it’s been difficult to tell if they will live up to the hype. Part of this is due to Chelmsford having only played four games—less than anyone else in South 2—but Saturday’s defeat at the hand of the struggling Pitbulls has given their supporters even more cause for concern. True, Chelmsford have been hurt by the suspension of Grant Bartlett, but even that doesn’t justify a poor performance against the Pitbulls. After a scoreless first period, Olly Shone put Bristol on the board before Ross Brears knotted things up on the power play. Despite being offered the lion’s share of power plays, Chelmsford were unable to pick up any more goals, while Shone notched a second goal and Giacomo Raffaelli scored for Bristol to secure a 3-1 victory.
Recovering from the loss won’t be easy for the Chieftains as they play host to Bracknell (6 wins/0 losses, 12 points), who have been, quite literally, unbeatable this season. The Hornets brushed aside the lower teams such as Basingstoke, Lee Valley, Swindon and Cardiff, while Oxford City gave them much less trouble than expected. Haringey came the closest in a 5-3 loss, but even then Bracknell were in control for most of the game. However, the Hornets will have just had a tough game the evening before against Guildford Phoenix. How much difficulty Bracknell have in that game and how tired it leaves them could have a definite impact on Sunday’s clash.
Don’s Prediction: Chelmsford 6-8 Bracknell
Laurence’s Prediction: Chelmsford 3-5 Bracknell
17:00 Solent Devils vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
17:30 Haringey Huskies vs Invicta Mustangs
18:00 Slough Jets vs Oxford City Stars
18:00 Bracknell Hornets vs Guildford Phoenix
18:30 Basingstoke Buffalo vs Cardiff NIHL2 Fire
14:45 Cardiff NIHL2 Fire vs Bristol Pitbulls
18:30 Chelmsford Chieftains vs Bracknell Hornets
NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Standings
We’ll have updates on scores and scorers from all the games as we get the information and we’ll also have live updates from Cardiff’s derby game against Bristol on Sunday afternoon. 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 10)
Our experts get 1 point for every correct result, and 3 points if they predict the exact score. (Although as they say: prediction is a mug’s game…)