Last weekend saw some fascinating NIHL South 2 action as the Bracknell Hornets lived up to their early billing as title contenders with a 9-6 win over fellow title contenders Oxford; Haringey maintained their 100% start with a tight victory over the Invicta Mustangs; the Solent Devils got their campaign underway with a win in Basingstoke; Peterborough edged out Bristol by the odd goal in seven, and the newly-formed Cardiff NIHL2 Fire demolished the Slough Jets 13-5.
This weekend sees six more games on the bill, with both Swindon and Chelmsford finally beginning their campaigns. The Wildcats have two games, away to Haringey on Saturday and at home to Chelmsford on Sunday, while Sunday’s clash in Wiltshire is the Chieftains’ only game this weekend.
Sunday also sees Lee Valley and Guildford meet in East London, with both sides looking for their first victory of the season; Peterborough host Solent in a battle of two unbeaten teams; Oxford look to bounce back from their defeat to Bracknell when they take on Slough who are winless so far; and two more winless teams square off as Basingstoke host Invicta.
Haringey Huskies vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
The Haringey Huskies have started their existence with three wins from three, sitting joint top of the NIHL South 2 table alongside the Bracknell Hornets. They look to make it four wins from four on Saturday as they welcome the Swindon Wildcats to Alexandra Palace.
Haringey’s ranks were boosted in the off-season with the key signing of Stephen Woodford, the former Chelmsford Warriors forward returning to hockey after a year out. He looks as if he’s never been away, having banged in seven goals already, which sees him sit joint-top of the league goalscoring charts alongside Bracknell import Sean Scarbrough. Returnee Daniel Clayton has also impressed, netting three times and assisting on a further five goals to give him eight points in three games to date. However the defence still needs work, having conceded 18 goals in the three games so far.
Swindon, meanwhile, kick off their NIHL South 2 campaign in the fourth week of the season. There is precious little news as to who will make up their squad this season – only player-coach Daniel Sullivan is confirmed – but they are likely to feature their usual mix of young prospects from the Swindon-based Okanagan Hockey Academy as well as local veterans such as the Coakley brothers, Adam and Andrew, and veteran forward Loris Taylor.
It is hard to say how this game will go without knowing the make-up of Swindon’s side, but it would look to be a high-scoring affair, with the aforementioned Woodford and Clayton on top scoring form for the Huskies, but the defence needing work at the other end. Expect a goal fest at the Palace.
Don’s Prediction: Haringey 7-4 Swindon
Laurence’s Prediction: Haringey 7-5 Swindon
Lee Valley Lions vs Guildford Phoenix
The Lee Valley Lions host their second home game of the season on Sunday against the newcomers to NIHL South 2, the Guildford Phoenix. The Lions have lost both their league games to date, while Guildford were defeated in their solitary outing so far. Both will be looking to kickstart their season with a win.
Lee Valley have got off to a topsy-turvy start to the season. A valiant performance in an 8-7 defeat away to London rivals Haringey was followed by an expected 11-1 defeat at the hands of the Bracknell Hornets. The Lions were short-benched in both games, with captain and last season’s top scorer Nick Alley among those absent, but still would have hoped to take at least a point from the Haringey game, especially after scoring seven goals. The clash with newcomers Guildford will be an interesting test.
Ice hockey in Guildford is on the up, with long-time EPL frontrunners the Flames moving up to the EIHL this off-season, and the Phoenix junior side stepping up to senior hockey in NIHL South 2. They have built a side packed full of players who have come through the Guildford junior system and who have now returned to their roots, and the team features an impressive number of players with higher level experience.
Netminders Harry Buckingham and Sam Calder, defencemen Monty Gailer, Harry Hatfield, Ellis Sandy and Luke Tull, and forwards Josh Abbott, Malik Adeniran-Adams, Oliver Denis, Scott Greenfield, Michael Krogh, Jacob Rondeau-Smith, captain Nick Minhinnick, player-coach Andrew Hemmings and the Wootton brothers Bailey and Haydn all having played in the NIHL1 or higher. In addition, defenceman Henry Aiken played the last two seasons for the Lions before making the switch in the summer. The Phoenix lost their first ever senior game 7-1 at home to Oxford two weeks ago.
On paper, the individual experience of the Phoenix side should see them overcome the Lions. But the Lions have continuity on their side, with most of last season’s team staying on, whereas Guildford may still need to find some chemistry. And the Lions are usually difficult to beat at home. This one is tough to call.
Don’s Prediction: Lee Valley 5-4 Guildford
Laurence’s Prediction: Lee Valley 4-3 Guildford
Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Solent Devils
Peterborough Phantoms remain entrenched in fourth place after securing two wins from two matches so far this season, but they will have a real tester on Sunday as former South 1 side Solent come calling. Peterborough secured a hard-fought win last weekend over Bristol, with the two sides trading goals throughout until the start of the third period, when Nathan Pollard and Bradley Moore scored just 29 seconds apart to give Peterborough a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Solent have played just once this season, opening their account on Saturday in Basingstoke. The Buffalo were off the mark quickly, scoring two early goals, but Solent scored four unanswered to secure the two points. Richard Facey found the back of the net twice for Solent and Mark Pitts and Alex Murray contributed the other goals. Against the Phantoms, Solent will need to make sure they don’t fall behind early, otherwise they may be in for a surprise against a strong Peterborough team. A win for Solent would help them make up some ground on teams like Bracknell and Oxford City, and a win for Peterborough would cement the Phantoms as legitimate challengers for the top spots in the league.
Don’s Prediction: Peterborough 6-5 Solent
Laurence’s Prediction: Peterborough 4-3 Solent (OT)
Oxford City Stars vs Slough Jets
Slough’s challenging start to the season continues on Sunday with yet another away game, this time at the Oxford Ice Rink to face the Stars, former South 1 heavyweights. Oxford City have already shown their strength this season, brushing aside the newly-formed Guildford Phoenix and a decent Bristol Pitbulls squad. But the Stars head into this game against Slough with a chip on their shoulder following last week’s 9-6 loss to current table-toppers Bracknell Hornets. In a mouth-watering clash between two of the league favourites, the Stars proved to be the less disciplined side, racking up over twice as many penalty minutes as Bracknell and as a result, conceding five power play goals, including four in third period. But the good news for Oxford City is that Czech import Kamil Kinkor is continuing to have a fine season, with four goals and five assists so far, and the Stars are sitting third in the league, just two points back of Bracknell and Haringey.
A win against the Jets on Sunday will keep the Stars right in the mix—and a win is the expected result. Slough are winless on the season after falling to pieces last Saturday against Cardiff Fire 2, losing 13-5. The only good news for Slough is that player-coach Lukas Smital is currently one of the top three goalscorers in the league and scored a hat trick in Cardiff. Against the Stars, Slough will have to play out of their skates but they will also be bolstered by the return of netminder Chris Douglas, who missed the fixture against Cardiff due to unavailability.
Don’s Prediction: Oxford 11-2 Slough
Laurence’s Prediction: Oxford 8-3 Slough
Basingstoke Buffalo vs Invicta Mustangs
Basingstoke and Invicta will be anxious to pick up their first points of the season and one of the sides will do just that this weekend as they meet up at Basingstoke’s Silverdome Arena. The Buffalo thought they had secured a win in their first game of the season after defeating Haringey 6-3, but the league found they had iced an illegal player and the game was awarded to the Huskies. Since then the season has gone from bad to worse for Basingstoke. They were thrashed 10-3 by Bracknell and then last weekend, after having an early lead against Solent, succumbed to a 4-2 loss.
Invicta also had a heart-breaking result against Haringey. They outshot the Huskies 41-37 and spent just six minutes in the penalty box, while Haringey piled up 34 minutes. Even more agonisingly, Invicta had rallied from being down 4-1 to draw level at 5-5. But just twenty seconds after James Laming found the equalizer, Daniel Clayton scored to put the Huskies back in the lead and Invicta were unable to find another goal in the remaining 10 minutes. The key to Sunday’s game between these two winless sides will be who can have the quickest start and hold their nerve. This one may go down to the final minutes.
Don’s Prediction: Basingstoke 7-6 Invicta (OT)
Laurence’s Prediction: Basingstoke 2-4 Invicta
Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Chelmsford Chieftains
The reigning NIHL South 1 league champions, the Chelmsford Chieftains, will be the last of the 14 NIHL South 2 sides to get their campaign underway, as they travel to Swindon on Sunday to face the Wildcats. The Essex side dropped down from NIHL South 1 in the off-season and will look to start life in NIHL2 with a bang.
As stated earlier, Swindon have released precious little about their NIHL2 side this season, but we can expect them to play a quick-tempo game with a number of talented youngsters from the Okanagan Hockey Academy usually featuring in their lineup.
Chelmsford have built an interesting side, with six outstanding NIHL1 players in goaltender Sonny Phillips and forwards Ross Brears, Darren Brown, Anthony Leone and the twins Cameron and Grant Bartlett being joined by new import Filip Supa, who lit up NIHL North 2 with 192 points in just 84 games spread across three seasons, and a host of players from the now-defunct Chelmsford Warriors team that played in NIHL South 2 (East) last season.
Another key new signing is veteran defenceman Robbie Veares, who played one season each in the EPL and NIHL1 for the Romford/London Raiders but has spent most of his career in the NIHL2; but the Chieftains were hit by a blow just before the start of the season when Matt France, signed from London in NIHL1, had to leave the team due to work commitments. On Thursday the team announced that former club captain Danny “The Mayor of Chelmsford” Wright, who was Chieftains assistant coach for the last two years, would replace France. The 37-year-old brings tons of experience to the side but may be rusty, having not played much in the last couple of seasons.
Chelmsford’s side looks good on paper, but whether it will be able to challenge early league front-runners Bracknell and Oxford remains to be seen. They should be strong enough to beat Swindon in this game, but one key factor could be the faceoff time – the game faces off at 7:45pm on a Sunday evening. If some of the Chieftains players are unable to travel the width of the country for such a late time, it could leave the squad looking a bit thin, and could give Swindon the opportunity to cause an upset.
Don’s Prediction: Swindon 3-5 Chelmsford
Laurence’s Prediction: Swindon 3-5 Chelmsford
17:30 Haringey Huskies vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
17:30 Lee Valley Lions vs Guildford Phoenix
17:30 Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Solent Devils
18:15 Oxford City Stars vs Slough Jets
18:30 Basingstoke Buffalo vs Invicta Mustangs
19:45 Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Chelmsford Chieftains
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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