Nothing much changed in the NIHL South 2 title race last weekend, with the top three sides Oxford, Solent and Bracknell all taking a win apiece. This weekend Oxford are playing on both days as they look to extend their lead at the top, while Bracknell play once and Solent have the weekend off.
Saturday is a bumper day with six games scheduled – Solent and Lee Valley are the only sides not playing. With regards to the title contenders, Oxford travel to Kent to take on the Invicta Mustangs while Bracknell are also on the road in Swindon. There are also two big games in the battle for fourth place as Chelmsford travel to Guildford, while incumbents Peterborough will look to cement that place as they visit Slough. Finally the Haringey Huskies welcome the Bristol Pitbulls in a match that the Pitbulls are billing as a “real dog fight”, and Cardiff welcome Basingstoke to South Wales.
Sunday is relatively quiet with just two games on the bill. Oxford play Swindon in a battle of the West Country sides, while Chelmsford look to continue their run on fourth place in the league as they welcome Haringey to the Riverside.
Invicta Mustangs vs Oxford City Stars
League leaders Oxford look to extend their advantage at the top as they travel to Kent to face 12th placed Invicta.
The Mustangs (6 wins/14 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 13 points) broke a run of three straight defeats last Saturday as they knocked off Basingstoke 3-2 on penalty shots. Young forward James Laming buried the winning shot, while netminder Matthew Passmore was voted Man of the Match for saving 50 shots in open play as well as stopping three of Basingstoke’s four penalty shots. Jake Stedman and Jake Luton had scored the Mustangs’ two goals in regulation time. It’s been a rollercoaster season for the Kent side with some hard-fought wins mixed in with some disappointing defeats, and this promises to be a tough game for a young Invicta team. The first meeting between the two sides earlier in the season saw Oxford triumph 14-1.
Oxford (19 wins/2 regulation losses, 38 points) took an expected win over Lee Valley last Saturday, although they never really hit top gear and struggled to break down the bottom side in the league at times. Nonetheless, the 8-0 win in east London was their fifth in a row and 19th on the season, with the Stars maintaining their place at the top of the league. However Solent and Bracknell both have enough games in hand that they could overtake the Stars if the leaders slip up, so it is imperative that the yellows keep winning in order to put the pressure firmly on the teams behind. After his hat-trick against Lee Valley on Saturday, Czech forward Kamil Kinkor now has 35 goals on the season, as well as 35 assists for a total of 70 points.
Invicta will be on a high after the win against Basingstoke last Saturday, but this game promises to be a very tough ask. It shouldn’t be as one-sided as the meeting in Oxford earlier in the season, but nonetheless expect a comfortable Stars win.
Don’s Prediction: Invicta 4-8 Oxford
Laurence’s Prediction: Invicta 1-8 Oxford
Guildford Phoenix vs Chelmsford Chieftains
A key game in the battle for fourth place takes place in Surrey with fifth placed Guildford entertaining Chelmsford who currently sit sixth. Both sides will be trying their best to catch Peterborough who currently sit in that fourth spot.
Guildford (12 wins/7 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 25 points) continue to impress in their first season in the league, already racking up 12 wins and finding themselves in a solid fifth place. Although it must be noted that they have not yet won a game against any of the former NIHL1 sides, of which Chelmsford are one. If they want to break that duck on Saturday, they will once again need good scoring from the likes of Andrew Hemmings and Josh Abbott, and will hope Bailey Wootton returns soon after missing last weekend’s win over Swindon.
Chelmsford (12 wins/5 regulation losses, 24 points) had an odd start to the season, starting their campaign very late and playing very sporadic games. This seemed to cause them to lose momentum – the Essex side have lost five games already – while it has also made it difficult to assess their true place in the pecking order. As the season has wore on and they have played more games, it looks like last season’s NIHL South 1 dominators are now locked in a three-way fight for fourth place with the aforementioned Peterborough and Guildford. The Chieftains have three games in hand on both the teams ahead of them, and if they win all of those games they could cement fourth place – so a win against Guildford in this game is crucial. Chelmsford beat Guildford earlier in the season 5-0, with now-departed import Filip Supa scoring a brace.
This game is tough to call, with the Chieftains on a three game winning run since their 11-4 demolition in Oxford last month and Guildford winning comfortably against the “classic” NIHL2 sides but regularly coming unstuck against the bigger teams. Chelmsford are the favourites to win this, but it should be tight.
Don’s Prediction: Guildford 6-4 Chelmsford
Laurence’s Prediction: Guildford 3-4 Chelmsford (OT)
Haringey Huskies vs Bristol Pitbulls
In a game Bristol are cleverly billing as a “real dog fight”, the Huskies and the Pitbulls clash in North London. The sides are just a point apart in the hunt for the playoffs, so this game could be key in determining whose season extends into mid-April.
Haringey (8 wins/12 regulation losses, 16 points) are on a really bad run at the moment, only winning one of their last nine games – and that was a tight OT win against a Basingstoke side who were also on a losing run. The Huskies started the season so well but are now hanging onto eighth place – the final playoff position – by the skin of their teeth. They are just one point ahead of Bristol but the Pitbulls have two games in hand, and win for the away side in this one would see them leapfrog the Huskies. The home side have struggled to score goals lately, bagging just 13 in their last six games (just over two a game). They need more production from their top forwards if they want to hold onto a playoff spot.
Bristol (7 wins/10 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 15 points) are going in the complete opposite direction to the Huskies. After a slow start to the season which saw Bristol way outside the playoff places, they now find themselves ninth just one point outside them. The Pitbulls have won three of their last five and will hope to knock off Haringey at Alexandra Palace, allowing them to leap into eighth place at the same time. Although they lost 9-5 to title-chasing Bracknell last weekend, they will be happy to have put five goals past the Hornets. Not only that: the goals came from five different players, showing that the scoring load in the Pitbulls team doesn’t just fall on the shoulders of one or two players.
This is a key game in the playoff picture and, although the Huskies are at home, on current form the Pitbulls seem to be the favourite to take an important win in this one.
Don’s Prediction: Haringey 5-4 Bristol (OT)
Laurence’s Prediction: Haringey 3-5 Bristol
Slough Jets vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
Slough return to home ice for the first time in over a month, and they will be visited by phantoms—from Peterborough, of course!
The Jets (8 wins/13 regulation losses, 16 points) will be hoping for a bit more home ice magic, as the last time they played at the mini-Hangar they pulled up a shock upset over Chelmsford. Of course, the glow of that victory has probably diminished somewhat, as Slough have played three times since then, defeating the winless Lee Valley Lions but losing away to Guildford, 9-2, and then allowing Chelmsford to enact revenge with a 6-3 win over the Jets. Netminder Chris Douglas was brilliant against the Chieftains last week, facing 70 shots and stopping over 91% of them. But the offense couldn’t back up his strong performance, managing just 27 shots. Timo Lindgren picked up another brace, taking him to 22 goals from 18 games, while player-coach Lukas Smital assisted on all there Slough goals, meaning he now has a walloping 54 points from 19 matches.
Peterborough (14 wins/6 regulation losses, 28 points) have recovered nicely after a rough period that lasted from the beginning of November through to mid-January. They’ve won their last four games and are still sitting in fourth place, three points ahead of Guildford. The Phantoms had a week off for rest and recovery, and will go to Slough feeling pretty confident. After all, when Peterborough hosted Slough back in October, the Phantoms handed Slough a 15-0 loss, which remains the Jets heaviest loss this season.
However, the Jets do have home ice advantage, and the small mini-Hangar seems to give them quite an edge, as Chelmsford can testify—and Slough haven’t lost at home since falling to Oxford City in mid-November. But Peterborough may be able to end that run.
Don’s Prediction: Slough 4-7 Peterborough
Laurence’s Prediction: Slough 3-6 Peterborough
Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Bracknell Hornets
Swindon’s hopes of a late playoff push seem to have evaporated over the last few weeks, and this weekend’s opponents Bracknell may put an end to those hopes completely.
Swindon (3 wins/14 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 7 points) were handed another loss last Saturday at the hands of Guildford, 7-2, although the final scoreline may not have truly represented the game. The Wildcats were only outshot 30-25 and both teams kept the penalty minutes down. But two goals from Andy Hemmings and one from Jared Lane put the Phoenix up 3-0 after just 8:19, forcing Swindon to call at early timeout. It didn’t get much better for the Wildcats, though, as they trailed 5-1 after the first period, with Hemmings completing his hat-trick with one second left in the period. Swindon were unable to recover from the poor start, and are now sitting nine points behind Haringey in eighth with just eight games remaining on their schedule.
Bracknell (16 wins/1 regulation loss, 32 points) will want to quickly sweep Swindon aside as they have bigger fish to fry than just destroying the Wildcats dim hopes. The Hornets are still within touching distance of the top of the table, with Oxford City and Solent six and five points ahead, respectively—but Bracknell have several games in hand on both clubs. The Hornets are now riding a seven-game winning streak after last week’s 9-5 away victory over Bristol. True, they only managed one more shot on goal than the Pitbulls, but braces from Sean Scarborough, Daniel Hughes and Joshua Ealey-Newman, plus a five-point night from captain Steven Fisher, put Bracknell over the line.
This is a game between two teams on opposite ends of the table, and the score will surely reflect that—in Bracknell back in October, the Hornets ran out 10-3 winners. Expect the same on Saturday.
Don’s Prediction: Swindon 2-8 Bracknell
Laurence’s Prediction: Swindon 3-9 Bracknell
Cardiff NIHL2 Fire vs Basingstoke Buffalo
After taking their first win since November last weekend, the Basingstoke Buffalo look to win two games on the bounce as they make the tough trip to Cardiff.
Cardiff (7 wins/11 regulation losses, 14 points) have impressed this season considering the fact that their NIHL South 1 side has been beset with injury problems, regularly calling up players earmarked for the South 2 side. But the mixture of youth and experience in this Fire team has led them to seven wins in 18 games so far, and they currently sit just two points outside of the playoff places with two games in hand on eighth placed Haringey. They will hope to take their eighth win of the campaign at home to a Basingstoke team that, before last weekend’s 5-2 win over Lee Valley, hadn’t won since Remembrance Sunday.
The Buffalo (5 wins/12 regulation losses/3 OT losses, 13 points) finally gave their fans something to cheer about last Sunday evening, as the Hampshire side knocked off bottom club Lee Valley 5-2 to record their first win after ten losses on the bounce. Five different players scored the goals while netminder Aaron Craft stopped 41 of 43 shots, as the Buffalo survived a late barrage from the Lions and took victory. Mark Austen was voted as Man of the Match, having also put the icing on the cake with a late empty netter. Now the Buffalo will look to take that momentum into the game against Cardiff. The Fire won 6-2 in Basingstoke earlier in the season, although the Buffalo were missing starting netminder Craft on that occasion.
Despite their recent losing streak, the Buffalo still have a decent chance of reaching the playoffs – they are just three points behind Haringey. And with Cardiff being one of the sides ahead of them in that battle, this game is absolutely crucial for the Buffalo if they want to be in with a chance of reaching the post-season. Expect a tight game with a result that is difficult to predict.
Don’s Prediction: Cardiff 5-3 Basingstoke
Laurence’s Prediction: Cardiff 5-4 Basingstoke (OT)
Oxford City Stars vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
Oxford City play their second game of the weekend at home against Swindon, as the Wildcats are also in action for the second time this weekend.
Oxford will be hoping to come into this game with a six-game winning streak, as they play Invicta on Saturday. But whether that’s a win or a loss, the Stars will return to home ice on Sunday confident that they can pick up two points against Swindon. Last time the two sides met, which was on 20 January, Oxford came away from Swindon with a 9-2 win.
If Swindon should, by some chance, defeat Bracknell on Saturday, they would come into this game against Oxford with all kinds of momentum, although they would probably be exhausted from the effort of defeating the Hornets. However, it’s far more likely that Swindon will lose to Bracknell—and that would put them in an even worse position on Sunday.
Altogether, it looks like it’s going to be a good weekend for the league leaders—and a dismal one for Swindon, who still sit second from bottom in the league.
Don’s Prediction: Oxford 10-3 Swindon
Laurence’s Prediction: Oxford 10-0 Swindon
Chelmsford Chieftains vs Haringey Huskies
Another Sunday fixture, another game between two teams who will have already played once this weekend before they face each other, as Chelmsford welcome in Haringey.
The Chieftains have had games in hand for much of the season, and this weekend they’re playing twice, so it’s important for them to make these games count. On Saturday they have a tough away fixture against Guildford, and then on Sunday they are home against Haringey. This won’t be an easy weekend for Chelmsford, but they have their sights set on the clubs above them. Guildford and Peterborough are both within reach, and the Chieftains would love to finish in the top four. If they have a bad weekend, their chances of doing so will drop.
Haringey have even more incentive to win. They are sitting in the unenviable position of eighth place, trying desperately to hold on and make the playoffs. Saturday’s home against ninth-place Bristol is a must-win, but picking up two points against Chelmsford on Sunday wouldn’t hurt, either.
This could be a close game. One thing to note is that the Huskies are a hot-and-cold team. Which side shows up could determine which way this one goes.
Don’s Prediction: Chelmsford 7-4 Haringey
Laurence’s Prediction: Chelmsford 11-3 Haringey
17:15 Invicta Mustangs vs Oxford City Stars
17:30 Guildford Phoenix vs Chelmsford Chieftains
17:30 Haringey Huskies vs Bristol Pitbulls
18:00 Slough Jets vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
18:15 Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Bracknell Hornets
18:30 Cardiff NIHL2 Fire vs Basingstoke Buffalo
18:15 Oxford City Stars vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
18:30 Chelmsford Chieftains vs Haringey Huskies
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 Sunday 18th February)
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…)