Last weekend saw five games in NIHL South 2, and while two of them were close, three other games proved just what a gulf in class there is between the “haves and the have nots” in the league this season. Guildford beat Haringey by the narrow score of 3-1 and, while Solent beat Slough 6-2 on the road, the Jets were leading 2-1 until the halfway point against a strong Devils side before conceding five on the bounce. Meanwhile there were three big home wins for Bracknell (10-3 against Swindon), Oxford (14-1 against Invicta) and Peterborough (15-0 against the aforementioned Slough).
Time will tell whether this weekend offers more of the same, or whether there will be more competitive games to enjoy. Probably the pick of Saturday’s ties sees Solent travel to face the Bristol Pitbulls in Oxford. Bristol ran Peterborough very close in their last encounter, a 3-4 defeat, so could be dangerous opponent for the Devils. Additionally, Basingstoke will host Oxford, hoping to keep the score down against a very strong looking City Stars side; Slough welcome Invicta in what could be a crucial tie in the lower reaches of the table; winless Swindon host Guildford who have a 3-2 record; and another winless side, the Lee Valley Lions, travel to Cardiff to challenge a Fire side who have only played one game this season, winning 13-5 at home against Slough.
Less than 24 hours later, Lee Valley are back in action at home in Sunday’s only game, playing host to a Peterborough side that has scored 28 goals and conceded only two in their last two games. The Phantoms will look to stay top of the table and take another convincing win.
Bristol Pitbulls vs Solent Devils
Bristol welcome Solent to the Oxford Ice Rink as the Devils (3 wins/1 OT loss, 7 points) look to make it three wins on the bounce. The Pitbulls (1 win/2 losses, 2 points), on the other hand, have struggled a bit so far this season and have only picked up two points—but they have played less games than all but two other clubs.
Bristol seem to be a tough team to figure out. Last season they finished second in the South 2 (West) and have returned an identical team for this season. But in their season opener they barely beat Slough, winning with just three seconds left, and they lost their next two games. With that said, although they were beaten comprehensively by Oxford City, they played well against Peterborough, losing just 4-3 in an even contest. Just how good or bad the Pitbulls are may take a few more games to decipher, but a win against Solent would boost their spirits.
And a win might not be as difficult as it seems after a quick look at the league table. Solent may have three wins, but two of those came against winless Lee Valley and Slough. Their sole loss was against Peterborough, which like Bristol, they lost by one goal in a tight match. Still, Solent’s results read better than Bristol’s although the Devils may be caught off guard after two such easy matches against the Lions and Jets, and Bristol do have home ice, even if it is only a temporary home. This game could go either way.
Don’s Prediction: Bristol 8-7 Solent (OT)
Laurence’s Prediction: Bristol 3-5 Solent
Slough Jets vs Invicta Mustangs
Saturday’s clash between Slough Jets (6 losses, 0 points) and Invicta Mustangs (1 win/5 losses, 2 points) will be a battle between two struggling sides who are both looking to recover from dismal performances on Sunday. The Mustangs visited the Oxford City Stars and were sent home licking their wounds following a 14-1 thrashing—and the Jets fared even worse against Peterborough Phantoms as they were shut out, 15-0.
The Peterborough loss wasn’t Slough’s only match last weekend, nor was it their only loss. The Jets hosted Solent on Saturday and lost 6-2 although they did lead 2-1 halfway through the game. Coupled with defeat at Peterborough, the most lopsided results in South 2 so far this season, Slough are now 0-6 on the season. The match against Invicta is one of just four matches Slough could conceivably win before New Year’s, with the other fixtures coming at home against Lee Valley (11/11), at home against Swindon Wildcats (2/12) and then away to Invicta (6/12).
For the Mustangs, the season has also not gone according to plan but at least they have opened their account in the points department after defeating Swindon a few weeks ago. But in the two games since then they have scored just two goals while conceding 25. Invicta are also in the midst of a long spell with few home games. Saturday’s game will be their third consecutive match on the road, after which they will return Kent to play Cardiff next week before hitting the road again for another three games.
The stakes of this game, then, are as high as they can be for a game so early in the season. A win for Invicta will prove that they are a small cut above teams like Slough, Swindon and Lee Valley, while a victory for Slough will give them some hope of picking up a few wins this season and possibly avoiding a repeat as wooden spoon winners.
Don’s Prediction: Slough 7-6 Invicta
Laurence’s Prediction: Slough 5-6 Invicta
Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Guildford Phoenix
New boys Guildford Phoenix (3 wins/2 losses, 6 points) are hanging in there in the top half of the table and Saturday should provide them with a chance for a fairly easy two points as they visit Swindon (4 losses, 0 points).
The Wildcats have lost four out of four and other than a 4-3 loss to Invicta, none of their other games have even been close. Last weekend they visited Bracknell, who jumped out to a 2-0 lead after just four minutes and never looked back, with Josh Ealey-Newman notching a hat-trick and William Stead having a four-point day.
Guildford will take a 3-2 record into Saturday with some good results behind them. After losing their opening match 7-1 to Oxford City, they’ve defeated Lee Valley, Slough and most recently Haringey, with their only loss in that stretch coming at the hands of Basingstoke who beat them five goals to four. Last week against Haringey, Bailey Wootton scored just 45 seconds into the game, although Daniel Peters tied it up in the second period for Haringey. Guildford then scored twice in the final period, courtesy of Joshua Abbott and Scott Greenfield, to secure the win. They shouldn’t have to wait until the third period to put the game away against the Wildcats.
Don’s Prediction: Swindon 2-7 Guildford
Laurence’s Prediction: Swindon 2-4 Guildford
Basingstoke Buffalo vs Oxford City Stars
An intriguing tie in Hampshire on Saturday evening sees the Basingstoke Buffalo (2 wins/3 losses, 4 points) welcoming the Oxford City Stars (4 wins/1 loss, 8 points) to Planet Ice Basingstoke. After Oxford’s 14-1 win over the Invicta Mustangs last week, Basingstoke will look to avoid a similar fate and run the City Stars a lot closer in this encounter.
The Buffalo have had a topsy turvy start to the season; a 6-3 opening day win over Haringey was reversed to a 5-0 loss due to a rules breach, and two further defeats followed albeit against tough opponents in Bracknell and Solent. The last two games, against Invicta and Guildford, have both been victories. The Buffalo therefore have a 100% record against “existing” NIHL2 sides, and a 0% record against former NIHL1 sides. Their main scoring threat is undoubtedly Canadian veteran Blair Dubyk, who has five goals and two assists for seven points so far, while Samuel Brooks, Warren Jones and Neil Leary have all hit the five point mark on the season. At the other end of the ice, Aaron Craft has played in net in every game so far, conceding 23 goals.
Oxford’s season has gone as many people would have expected after dropping down from NIHL1: four comfortable wins over teams previously in NIHL2, and a close tie against fellow ex-NIHL1 side Bracknell which the City Stars lost 9-6. Oxford’s last game, a 14-1 demolition of the Invicta Mustangs, saw import Kamil Kinkor bag four goals – bringing him up to nine already on the season, putting him second in the league behind only Haringey’s Stephen Woodford – and former Basingstoke forward Matthew Lawday also scored a hat-trick of his own. Both Joe Edwards and Josh Oliver have already collected 10+ points on the season as Oxford have already bagged 42 goals – only Bracknell have scored more.
The smart money on this tie is for Oxford to walk away with a win, given the offensive firepower in their team and both team’s respective records so far. We can expect Basingstoke to play aggressive ice hockey and put up a good fight, but ultimately anything other than an Oxford win would be very surprising indeed.
Don’s Prediction: Basingstoke 4-8 Oxford
Laurence’s Prediction: Basingstoke 3-9 Oxford
Cardiff NIHL2 Fire vs Lee Valley Lions
An intriguing tie in South Wales sees the Cardiff NIHL2 Fire (1 win, 2 points) playing host to the Lee Valley Lions (4 losses, 0 points) on Saturday night. The Fire have only played one game, a comfortable 13-5 win over the Slough Jets, while the Lions are yet to win a game this campaign.
Formed in 2015, Cardiff Fire won the NIHL South 2 (West) league title in both of the last two seasons, taking promotion to NIHL1 in the off-season while simultaneously creating a new affiliate team in NIHL2. The division 2 side is a mix of veterans such as Stephen Deacon, Ross Wilkinson, captain Alan Armour and import Robert Sedlak – who all played for last season’s Fire side – and promising young players such as netminder Lewis Davies and forwards Elliott Murdoch, Ben Smith and Sam Mark Smith – all of whom have already experienced NIHL1 action for the senior Fire side this campaign. Their one game so far was a comprehensive 13-5 win over Slough in which both Rhys Harding and Jackson Price picked up hat-tricks, and Sedlak bagged 2+3 on the night.
The Lions travel to Cardiff after a winless campaign so far; a look at their results shows tight 7-8 and 0-2 defeats to Haringey and Guildford alongside 11-1 and 13-4 reverses against Bracknell and Solent. The Lions so far have struggled to field a full side, with injuries and player unavailability meaning coach George Alley has been unable to put his desired line-up on the ice at any time. After starting the season with only four defencemen, the Lions this week announced the addition of former Romford junior Matthew Hamilton to try and help shore up the blueline.
Cardiff is traditionally a tough place to visit, with Slough already experiencing a heavy defeat there this campaign. The Lions will hope to have as many players available as possible for their trip, but even with a full-strength roster it will be tough to topple the Fire who keep several key players from the side that dominated NIHL South 2 (West) last season winning 14 out of 14 games. A win for the Fire is the most likely outcome here.
Don’s Prediction: Cardiff 10-2 Lee Valley
Laurence’s Prediction: Cardiff 7-4 Lee Valley
Lee Valley Lions vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
After a long trip to Cardiff, the Lee Valley Lions host table topping Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms (5 wins, 10 points) the very next day. Peterborough won last season’s NIHL South 2 (East) title with a record of 19 wins, 1 tie and 0 losses, and have picked up right where they left off in this campaign too. Following a 6-1 win over Invicta and narrow defeats over Bristol (4-3) and Solent (3-2 in overtime), the last 2 games saw the Phantoms explode with 13-2 and 15-0 wins over Haringey and Slough.
Peterborough have kept almost an identical side compared to last season, and at the moment look like the only existing NIHL2 side that will be able to consistently mix it with the four ex-NIHL1 sides that have joined the division this season. Phantoms captain Clint Herring is on fire with 7+8=15 in the five games to date, while Shaun Yardley, Conor Pollard and Bradley Moore have all passed 10 points already and the other Pollard brother, Nathan, has 6+3=9. Netminder Dan Lane has only conceded eight goals in five games so far, and is protected by a strong defence featuring the likes of Robert McDonald and Jonathan Brammall in front of him.
The Lions, as mentioned above, are winless so far this campaign and will hope to have taken their first win the previous evening in Cardiff. Whatever the result in Wales, this tie against Peterborough will be an extremely tough one for the East London side, especially playing on back to back days. If they are to get anything out of the game, it will likely come from captain and top scorer Nick Alley who has notched 2+2=4 in just two games to date. Their other top scorer Ben Duffy (3+1=4 in three games) is out for an unknown length of time with a back injury.
After seeing what Peterborough did to Haringey and Slough – teams on the same kind of level as the Lions – the goal for Lee Valley in this game really has to be to keep the score as low as possible. Keeping the Phantoms underneath 10 goals would be a good achievement, especially with the Lions coming off a long road trip the previous night.
Don’s Prediction: Lee Valley 1-12 Peterborough
Laurence’s Prediction: Lee Valley 2-9 Peterborough
17:00 Bristol Pitbulls vs Solent Devils
18:00 Slough Jets vs Invicta Mustangs
18:15 Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Guildford Phoenix
18:30 Basingstoke Buffalo vs Oxford City Stars
18:30 Cardiff NIHL2 Fire vs Lee Valley Lions
17:30 Lee Valley Lions vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
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 6)
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