NIHL2 Weekend Preview: 25/26 November

Last weekend was a big one in NIHL South 2. Bracknell lost in Chelmsford, meaning there are no undefeated teams left in the division; Solent hammered Peterborough 6-0 in a surprisingly one-sided game; Guildford pushed the aforementioned Bracknell all the way before the Hornets secured a narrow 4-3 win; and Cardiff won their first away game of the season in Basingstoke, before following that up with an OT win over Bristol the next day.

This weekend sees eight games to be played – and they are evenly spread with four on Saturday and four on Sunday. Bracknell will look to bounce back from that Chelmsford defeat as they welcome the Slough Jets to the Hive on Saturday, while the Chieftains will look to keep their momentum going as they visit Alexandra Palace to face Haringey. Meanwhile the Lee Valley Lions will once again look for their first win of the season as they travel to Kent to face the Invicta Mustangs, and Cardiff will look to take their third win on the bounce as they play in Guildford .

Sunday sees the Lions having another chance to win a game, this time hosting Bristol in East London, while Chelmsford and Guildford clash at the Riverside. League leaders Oxford host a Peterborough side that are still clinging on to second place in the league, but have faltered in recent weeks, while the Swindon Wildcats – who, just like Lee Valley, are looking for their first win of the campaign – entertain an in-form Solent Devils side.

Saturday

Invicta Mustangs vs Lee Valley Lions

Saturday sees an important battle in the lower reaches of the table, as 12th placed Invicta host 14th placed Lee Valley. The Mustangs lost narrowly 5-3 at Haringey last weekend, while the Lions had last weekend off – but their most recent game was also a loss to Haringey.

The Mustangs (2 wins/8 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 5 points) have played eleven games to date, winning just two of them. An OT defeat to Slough saw them claim a point also, giving them five points in total on the season. The Mustangs are goal-shy, scoring just 2.6 goals a game – indeed it has taken them 11 games to score 29 goals, while their opponents Lee Valley have scored the same amount of goals but taken two games less. The Mustangs should be buoyed by a spirited performance at the Palace last weekend, where they pushed the Huskies all the way before Haringey took the win in the last period.

Lee Valley (9 losses, 0 points) have been desperate to break their duck for weeks now, and their last game – a 6-8 home defeat to the Huskies – saw them lead on several occasions but ultimately they were not able to put the game to bed. After a weekend off, they will travel to Kent optimistic of finally winning a game – over the last three seasons, the Lions have a record of seven wins, four losses and a draw against the Mustangs. The East London side and their head coach George Alley will therefore be hoping that Invicta are the perfect opponents for them to take two points against.

This is a fascinating game, and really could go either way. Both sides have not scored enough goals this season and have conceded too many, so it will really come down to which side is firing on the day. Expect a close one!

Don’s Prediction: Invicta 7-5 Lee Valley
Laurence’s Prediction: Invicta 2-3 Lee Valley

Guildford Phoenix vs Cardiff NIHL2 Fire

Fresh off of two one-goal losses to former South 1 heavyweights Bracknell and Oxford City, Guildford look to get back in the win column this weekend with a pair of games, the first of which sees the Cardiff Fire come to town.

Cardiff (3 regulation wins/1 OT win/3 losses, 7 points) will be continuing to try to erase the notion that they are poor away from home, as although they lost their first two away games this season, their most recent trip saw them defeat Basingstoke 6-2. That was just half of a successful last weekend for the Fire, as they then returned to Wales and hosted a thrilling encounter with the Bristol Pitbulls. The visitors held a slim 2-1 lead after two periods but Joe Morris levelled the game with a short-handed goal in the 50th minute. The two sides battled to a draw at the end of regulation and went to overtime, where it took Robert Sedlak just 24 seconds to score the winner for Cardiff.

For Guildford (6 wins/3 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 13 points), this weekend is a chance to turn good performances into points after a disappointing fortnight. After blowing a lead and losing in overtime to Oxford City a few weekends ago, the Phoenix were handed a similarly bitter pill to swallow by Bracknell last Saturday. After rallying to tie the game at 3-3 early in the final period, Guildford watched at least one point slip away as Ben Ealey-Newman put the Hornets back in the lead to stay with under eight minutes remaining.

So Cardiff come into this game with a two-game winning streak, and Guildford with a two-game skid. But judging from league form and Cardiff’s away difficulties, both those runs may be coming to an end on Saturday.

Don’s Prediction: Guildford 7-4 Cardiff
Laurence’s Prediction: Guildford 4-2 Cardiff

Haringey Huskies vs Chelmsford Chieftains

Saturday sees a big game at the Palace as the Huskies play host to the Chieftains. Haringey have played 11 games to date and sit fifth in the table, while Chelmsford have played just the five games and are currently ninth. Having already slipped up this season with a loss to Bristol, the Chieftains will hope to dispatch the Huskies in this encounter.

Haringey (7 wins/4 losses, 14 points) have had a pretty good start to the season, building a points cushion over some of the smaller sides in the division with seven wins so far. Fifth in the table may flatter them slightly – they have played more games than most teams – but nonetheless the newly-formed Huskies have had an impressive start to life, led by the likes of Stephen Woodford, Daniel Clayton and Stuart Appleby – all of whom have an eye for goal. They’ve won their last two games, at Lee Valley and at home to Invicta

The Chieftains (4 wins/1 loss, 8 points) have had a disjointed season so far, playing only five games and not yet playing a double header weekend. They seemed to start off well enough with wins over Swindon, Invicta and Solent, before a shocking 1-3 defeat to Bristol seemed to derail their charge. However, last week they bounced back by ending Bracknell’s unbeaten run as they took a tight 3-2 victory. Netminder Sonny Phillips has been on great form so far, while forward Cameron Bartlett is now back from his ban and joins other danger men such as Ross Brears, Filip Supa, Darren Brown and James Ayling in a high-quality front line.

On paper the Chieftains should have too much for the Huskies in this one, with Chelmsford looking strong at both ends of the ice. But after the Bristol game a few weeks back, the Huskies will be feeling that if they play their best hockey, they too could cause an upset against the heavily-fancied Chieftains.

Don’s Prediction: Haringey 3-6 Chelsmsford
Laurence’s Prediction: Haringey 3-9 Chelmsford

Bracknell Hornets vs Slough Jets

Slough’s three-game run of unbeaten results at home came to an end on Saturday, and this week they look to bounce back away to the formidable Bracknell Hornets, who are also out for redemption after losing for the first time this season last Sunday.

While disappointing for the home supporters, Slough’s (2 regulation wins/1 OT win/8 losses, 6 points) loss last weekend was hardly a surprise, as it came at the hands of the league-leading Oxford City Stars. Slough acquitted themselves well, and goalie Chris Douglas was particularly deserving of praise in the first period, allowing just two goals despite being peppered with 29 shots. After half an hour of play, Slough would have been pleased with themselves as they were only down 3-2 despite Oxford City having the lion’s share of possession. But Oxford’s dominance finally began to show as the game wore on. The Stars scored twice in the second period and then added four goals in the final 10 minutes to skate away with a 9-2 win.

Bracknell (7 wins/1 loss, 14 points), who had not lost in seven games to start their campaign, finally met their match—or in this case, their superior—on Sunday in Chelmsford. The Chieftains put to rest any question that they can’t get along without the suspended Grant Bartlett as Filip Supa and Darren Brown gave them a 2-0 lead in the first period. Chelmsford added a third goal in the second and Bracknell looked dead and buried. But Sean Scarborough scored in the 53rd minute to give Bracknell momentum and Ben Ealey-Newman’s goal with five minute left had Chieftains supporters looking nervously at the clock. But Chelmsford were able to see it out and destroy the last remaining perfect record in the league.

For this weekend’s match, expect a resurgent Slough to put up another good fight against a much superior opponent—but ultimately Bracknell’s strength will win out.

Don’s Prediction: Bracknell 10-4 Slough
Laurence’s Prediction: Bracknell 8-3 Slough

Sunday

Lee Valley Lions vs Bristol Pitbulls

Depending on the previous night’s result in Kent, the Lions will either be looking to build on their first win of the campaign, or still desperate to secure it. They host a Bristol side who have had a strange season so far – they grabbed a shock win over Chelmsford but have otherwise struggled.

The Lions will hope to have got the monkey off their back the previous night against the Mustangs but, whether they have done so or not, this looks to be a tough game. These sides met on two occasions last season in the cup, with the Pitbulls winning 5-3 in East London and 6-1 in their temporary home in Oxford. And the Pitbulls have an identical roster this season to the one that played in the last campaign, whereas the Lions have a side hurt by several injuries.

However the Pitbulls (2 wins/5 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 5 points) are currently below where they would want to be, lying 11th in the table on five points. Bizarrely one of their two wins so far was against Chelmsford in what was probably the biggest surprise result in the league to date, but Bristol have lost to the likes of Guildford, Haringey and Cardiff – they would have liked to have won at least a couple of these games. The Pitbulls have scored 22 goals so far – only Swindon have scored less – so they will hope that a trip to East London is just what they need to find their scoring touch.

This game will be an interesting one. Bristol will look to move up the table as quickly as possible with two points here, while the Lions will look to cause what would still be seen as an upset. If the Pitbulls play their best hockey, they should win – but the battling Lions should never be totally ruled out, especially at home.

Don’s Prediction: Lee Valley 3-4 Bristol
Laurence’s Prediction: Lee Valley 3-5 Bristol

Oxford City Stars vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms

A top of the table tussle in Oxford sees the league leading Stars host a faltering Phantoms side. Peterborough were unbeaten in league competition for over a year before going down 7-3 to Oxford at the start of the month, and since then have also lost 6-0 to the Solent Devils. Oxford, meanwhile, have only lost once so far and have been in imperious form of late.

Oxford (10 wins/1 loss, 20 points) are sitting pretty at the top of the table at the moment, playing some fantastic high-scoring hockey and looking every bit the title contenders a lot of people expected them to be. Of their ten wins, they have passed double figure goal tallies in four of them; and only their 3-2 OT win over Guildford has really been close. Since their only loss this season – a 9-6 reverse in Bracknell – they have won eight on the bounce, scoring 8.4 goals per game and with a goal difference of +69(!) Import forward Kamil Kinkor is on fire this month, scoring 7+4=11 in their four games to date,

Peterborough (8 wins/2 losses, 16 points) were unbeaten in the entire 2016-17 NIHL South 2 (East) campaign, and started this season in the new unified NIHL South 2 with seven wins on the bounce including four consecutive games where they scored more than 10 goals. Things all changed when they hosted Oxford at the start of this month, as the Stars outclassed the Phantoms and took a 7-3 win. Since then, Peterborough dispatched Swindon, but “only” by the score of 9-2 which could be considered low by their standards, before a surprisingly high 0-6 defeat at Solent last weekend. It was the first time Peterborough have been shut out in a very long time, and was another blow in their title charge – a charge they would like to revitalise with a win in Oxford.

That will be very tricky for Peterborough, especially with one of their star forwards Nathan Pollard now playing with the NIHL Phantoms. Oxford are top of the league for good reason, and will hope to continue their hot streak with another victory here.

Don’s Prediction: Oxford 7-6 Peterborough
Laurence’s Prediction: Oxford 6-3 Peterborough

Chelmsford Chieftains vs Guildford Phoenix

A busy weekend for Chelmsford continues on Sunday as they host the high-flying Phoenix in Essex as the Chieftains look to close the gap in the league table.

Chelmsford have played the fewest number of games in the league so far this season, coming into the weekend having played just five fixtures—four teams have already played 11. But this weekend, the Chieftains are finally playing the maximum, with a game on Saturday against Haringey (previewed above) and the Sunday match against Guildford. Chelmsford have, for the most part, done well with their five games, picking up four wins including a brilliant 3-2 victory over the previously undefeated Bracknell Hornets last weekend. Chelmsford fans will be hoping that the shock loss to Bristol a fortnight ago was just a blip on the radar.

Guildford also will play twice this weekend, and will be looking to move further away from those below them in the table. The Phoenix currently sit on 13 points in 6th place, with Cardiff, Basingstoke and Chelmsford all behind them with eight points. But with Cardiff and Chelmsford having played substantially fewer games than Guildford, the Phoenix will want to further increase that lead. Guildford also have the chance to move up the table, with 2nd-place Peterborough just three points clear of the Phoenix.

Guildford will hope to come into the game with some momentum after playing Cardiff at home on Saturday, but it won’t be easy playing away to a strong Chieftains side.

Don’s Prediction: Chelmsford 5-4 Guildford (OT)
Laurence’s Prediction: Chelmsford 4-2 Guildford

Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Solent Devils

Only the strength of a better goal difference is keeping the winless Swindon Wildcats ahead of Lee Valley at the foot of the table. But that goal difference may take a nasty hit again this weekend as Swindon welcome in Solent.

Solent (7 wins/1 regulation loss/1 OT loss) sit third in the table and come to town with a three-game winning streak that includes last week’s 6-0 shutout win over Peterborough. The Phantoms have been such a good side all season, but last Saturday were no match for Solent, who outshot Peterborough 52-31 and scored twice within the first four minutes, including an opening short-handed goal from Richard Facey, as Solent cruised to a statement victory.

As for Swindon (0 wins/8 losses, 0 points), they had last weekend off, but their most recent result is also against Peterborough—and the Wildcats lost that game 9-2. Swindon have come close a few times in their desperate search for points, losing by a goal to both Invicta and Basingstoke. But against the better teams, they haven’t even come close.

Solent certainly are one of the top clubs in the league this year and judging by both club’s recent results against the Phantoms, the Swindon faithful are probably in for a difficult evening.

Don’s Prediction: Swindon 2-11 Solent
Laurence’s Prediction: Swindon 3-8 Solent


Fixture information

Saturday
17:15 Invicta Mustangs vs Lee Valley Lions
17:30 Guildford Phoenix vs Cardiff NIHL2 Fire
17:30 Haringey Huskies vs Chelmsford Chieftains
18:00 Bracknell Hornets vs Slough Jets

Sunday
17:30 Lee Valley Lions vs Bristol Pitbulls
18:15 Oxford City Stars vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
18:30 Chelmsford Chieftains vs Guildford Phoenix
19L45 Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats 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 and we’ll also have live updates from the big top of the table clash between Oxford and Peterborough on Sunday evening. 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 11)

Don: 53pts
Laurence: 52pts

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…)

November 24th, 2017 by