As we move into November and it gets colder outside, the action inside the rink usually gets more intense. And there should be no exception this weekend in NIHL South 2, with six interesting looking games on the schedule and only one game that could be considered a foregone conclusion by some.
That game sees the Solent Devils travel to Lee Valley on Saturday to take on the Lions, with the Devils only dropping points against Peterborough and Chelmsford so far and the Lions yet to get off the mark. But after how Lee Valley played last time out against Peterborough, this game may not be as one-sided as it may look on paper. Saturday also sees Slough welcome Cardiff to Berkshire.
Sunday has four games on the bill, and none bigger than the table topping clash between unbeaten Peterborough and current second place side Oxford. Three more intriguing clashes will also be contested on Sunday. High-flying newcomers Guildford play host to Invicta; two teams on losing streaks face off as Haringey (three games without a win) travel to Oxford to take on the Bristol Pitbulls (four defeats in a row); and Slough will look to win on the road against a Basingstoke side that lost 14-2 and 18-1 to Oxford in their last two games.
Lee Valley Lions vs Solent Devils
The Solent Devils (4 wins/1 regulation loss/1 OT loss, 9 points) travel to East London on Saturday looking to bounce back from a 2-5 home defeat to the Chelmsford Chieftains last weekend. Their opponents, the Lee Valley Lions (6 losses, 0 points) are still looking to get off the mark this season.
Solent were one of four teams to drop down from NIHL1 in the summer and, along with Peterborough, form part of the perceived “big five” in NIHL2 this season. That is backed up in their results, with a 100% record against sides that played in NIHL2 last campaign – including a 13-4 home win against the Lions at the start of October – but defeats to both Peterborough (in OT) and Chelmsford. Thus is it imperative that they win their games against the smaller clubs in the division, and they will travel to Lee Valley hoping to do just that. Led by veteran forward Richard Facey (7+9=16 this season), import Drew Campbell (7+5=12) and player coach Alex Murray (3+8=11), the Devils will be a hard nut for the Lions to crack.
The Lions put in perhaps their best performance of the season last time out against league leaders Peterborough, tying the game 3-3 at one point and keeping it to within a two goal deficit until conceding several goals late in the game and going down 12-5. Lee Valley have lost all six games this season as they have struggled with short benches and tough scheduling – three of their six games to date have been against teams from the “big five”, and the next one follows on Saturday. The team will hope to carry the momentum over from the Peterborough game and, at the very least, give Solent a tough game. As usual, captain Nick Alley (5+3=8) will be their key scoring threat.
The result in this one may look obvious. especially given Solent’s 13-4 victory over the Lions a month ago – but if the Lions can perform as well as they did against Peterborough last time, and the Devils have an off day, this one will not be easy for the visitors.
Don’s Prediction: Lee Valley 5-10 Solent
Laurence’s Prediction: Lee Valley 4-8 Solent
Slough Jets vs Cardiff Fire
Slough Jets have the opportunity to put together a winning streak this Saturday as they host Cardiff Fire 2 (2 wins/1 loss, 4 points), with the Welsh side looking to bounce back from last week’s loss.
Slough (1 win/6 losses, 2 points) finally shed their winless status a fortnight ago with a thrilling 5-4 overtime win against the Invicta Mustangs. Slough had signed 32-year-old blue liner Luke Reynolds from Milton Keynes Lightening of South 1 just before the game and it proved to be an excellent signing. Reynolds scored the game-winning goal on the power play and was named player of the match. The win broke a six-game losing streak to start Slough’s season and lifted the Jets into 12th place, ahead of Lee Valley Lions and Swindon Wildcats 2, who are both still searching for their first win.
Cardiff’s most recent game was also against Invicta last Saturday. It was the Fire’s first road game of the season and as in years past, they proved themselves to be a much weaker side on the road. Having won their first two games of the season, both at home, they lost 3-2 to the Mustangs in Kent. Rhys Harding scored both of Cardiff’s goals, with his second pulling them within a goal with under four minutes remaining, but the Fire couldn’t complete the comeback.
Cardiff and Slough have already met this season, with Cardiff taking an easy 13-5 win. But that was in Cardiff and once again, this game may be decided by the team that the Fire can put together for the road trip. This is not an easy one to call.
Don’s Prediction: Slough 6-5 Cardiff
Laurence’s Prediction: Slough 2-3 Cardiff
Guildford Phoenix vs Invicta Mustangs
High-flying Guildford Phoenix (5 wins/2 losses, 10 points) will be vying to add to their impressive points tally on Sunday as they play host to Invicta Mustangs (2 wins/5 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 5 points), who are slowly but surely climbing away from the bottom of the table.
For a brand new side, the Phoenix have had a brilliant start to life, winning five out of their seven games to put them in fourth place. Their most recent win came last week in a thrilling tussle against Bristol Pitbulls. The two clubs matched each other exactly in shots and penalty minutes, but in the end it was Guildford who sneaked off with the two points with a 2-1 win. Bailey Wootton continued his solid start to the season, picking up his seventh goal in as many games. But it was Joshua Abbott whose third period goal secured the win for Guildford.
Their opponents this weekend are not having anywhere near the same amount of success, but Invicta are still picking up points. A narrow win over Swindon and an overtime loss to Slough Jets accounted for three of their points before last weekend, when they welcomed Cardiff to town. Alix Deviell, Bradley Gutridge and captain Thomas Dennis scored the goals for the Mustangs, with Dennis’ insurance goal in the 56th minute proving very useful as the Fire pulled one back with just minutes remaining to make it almost too close for comfort. But time ticked off and another two points lifted Invicta up to eighth in the league table.
But picking up points against Swindon, Slough and a travelling Cardiff side doesn’t mean Invicta are ready to knock of Guildford away from home. Still, with a little momentum on their side, they can certainly have a go at it.
Don’s Prediction: Guildford 4-2 Invicta
Laurence’s Prediction: Guildford 3-1 Invicta
Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Oxford City Stars
Sunday sees a big clash between unbeaten Peterborough (7 wins, 14 points) – who have a perfect 14 points out of a possible 14 – and Oxford (6 wins/1 loss, 12 points), who lost to the Bracknell Hornets back in late September for their only defeat of the campaign so far.
Peterborough won the treble of NIHL South 2 (East) league title, South 2 Cup and South 2 Playoffs last season, and looked all set to take promotion to NIHL1 before the league restructuring. Now they find themselves in a different looking NIHL2, battling for the title with the likes of Oxford. The Phantoms have kept virtually the same team as last season, and that chemistry has helped them to a 100% start to the campaign. Shaun Yardley (7+19=26) is not only the top scorer in the league, he was also named NIHL South 2 Player of the Month for October, and is one of many key players in this Phantoms side. It will, however, be interesting to see how they react to losing the Pollard brothers, Nathan and Conor, who have both moved up to sign with the NIHL1 Phantoms.
Oxford were one of the sides that dropped down from NIHL1 in the summer, and have scored 14 or more goals in each of their last three games. In face they’ve tallied 74 goals in just seven games so far and conceded just 18. However, exactly half of those 18 were in their only loss of the season to date, a 9-6 defeat in Bracknell in September. And while the City Stars’ numbers are impressive, with the likes of Kamil Kinkor (12+12=24) and Joe Edwards (10+9=19) scoring almost for fun, the loss against the Hornets was the only time this season to date that we’ve seen them against a team on their level.
This game could be fascinating, with two irresistible offences colliding and plenty of firepower on show. It could all come down to defence and goaltending; and in that case Peterborough’s well-oiled backline and star netminder Dan Lane could give them a slight edge over their opponents. Expect this one to be close, and it could go either way.
Don’s Prediction: Peterborough 7-6 Oxford
Laurence’s Prediction: Peterborough 7-6 Oxford
Bristol Pitbulls vs Haringey Huskies
Two teams desperately in search of a win clash in Oxford as the Bristol Pitbulls (1 win/4 losses, 2 points) – without a win in four games – take on a Haringey Huskies (4 wins/3 losses, 8 points) side that picked up eight out of eight points in September but no points in October.
Bristol started the season with a tight 5-4 win over Slough, but since then have lost four in a row. Their schedule has been tough, with games against “big five” sides Oxford, Peterborough and Solent, followed by a one month break, after which they went down 2-1 to high-flying Guildford. Player coach Richard Hargreaves will be desperate for his side to get back to winning ways at their temporary home as they welcome Haringey to town.
The Huskies have had a Jekyll and Hyde season to date; they took maximum points from their four September games, while all three games in October were lost. As with Bristol, the schedule did have a part to play, as the Huskies had to contend with Peterborough, Bracknell and Guildford last month. And just like the Pitbulls, they will see this game as a perfect chance to get back to winning ways. They will need more output from September’s NIHL South 2 Player of the Month winner Stephen Woodford – after 10+4=14 in September, he picked up just a solitary assist in the three October games. If he is back to his best, Haringey have a good chance of winning any game.
As with any game between two teams struggling to find form, expect this one to be scrappy and hard-fought. Any result is possible, but one thing is for sure: whichever team wins this game will be boosted massively by the result.
Don’s Prediction: Bristol 5-4 Haringey
Laurence’s Prediction: Bristol 6-3 Haringey
Basingstoke Buffalo vs Slough Jets
Slough are in action for the second time this weekend on Sunday as they travel to face Basingstoke Buffalo (2 wins/5 losses, 4 points).
The Buffalo will be looking forward to this game after a brutal couple of games against the Oxford City Stars. Basingstoke hosted the Stars in the first game on the 21st, but fell to a 14-2 defeat. It only got worse the next weekend in Oxford, as the Stars won 18-1. Six Oxford players scored braces and Darren Elliott picked up a hat-trick. The losses drop the Buffalo into 10th place and they could use a win against Slough.
The Jets will have had a hard fight the evening before against Cardiff and now on the road against the Buffalo, it will be a tricky game for the Jets. Even should they win against the Fire, the momentum of a two-game winning streak probably won’t be enough. And if the Jets should lose on Saturday, it will only be harder for them. The Buffalo may be a bit shocked from their heavy losses to Oxford City, but they should recover in time.
Don’s Prediction: Basingstoke 7-4 Slough
Laurence’s Prediction: Basingstoke 5-3 Slough
17:30 Lee Valley Lions vs Solent Devils
18:00 Slough Jets vs Cardiff NIHL2 Fire
17:30 Guildford Phoenix vs Invicta Mustangs
17:30 Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Oxford City Stars
18:15 Bristol Pitbulls vs Haringey Huskies
18:30 Basingstoke Buffalo vs Slough Jets
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 8)
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…)