After a rather quiet festive period in NIHL South 2 with only two games played across two weeks, the division roars back into life this weekend with seven games on the schedule.
There are five games to enjoy on Saturday. Out-of-form Peterborough look to kick off 2018 with a win as they take the long trip to Cardiff; third placed Solent welcome the Slough Jets to the south coast; 12th placed Invicta host 10th placed Bristol; Basingstoke travel to Alexandra Palace to face Haringey; and second placed Bracknell look to continue their strong form as they welcome winless Lee Valley.
While there are only two games on Sunday, the biggest tie of the weekend will take place on that day as leaders Oxford welcome Bracknell – the Hornets are the only side to beat the City Stars this campaign; while buoyed from their first win of the season just before Christmas, the Swindon Wildcats will look to start a win streak as they host Haringey.
Cardiff NIHL2 Fire vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
An inconsistent Cardiff team welcome in the freefalling Phantoms as both sides look to start the New Year right.
The Fire (5 wins/4 losses, 10 points) have not hit the ice in league action for over a month now, and they may have to shake off a bit of rust. Their form heading into their winter hibernation was solid, as they had won three of their last four, losing only to Guildford away, while picking up wins over Basingstoke, Bristol and Lee Valley. But that momentum has to be taken with a pinch or so of salt due to their long period of inactivity. There are two major factors which do work in Cardiff’s favour, though. The first is that, as we point out almost every week, Cardiff are better in Wales than they are away from home ice, and this game will be in Welsh territory. The other factor is the struggles of their opponents.
Peterborough (9 wins/5 losses, 18 points) were once the hot team in the league, arguably that main contender from the traditional South 2 teams to contend for the title against the likes of Oxford City, Chelmsford, Bracknell and Solent. But after winning their first seven games, the Phantoms stumbled in a 7-3 loss to Oxford City and have seemingly never recovered. They have now lost five of their last seven games and although they remain in fourth place, the situation looks rather grim. In games against Oxford City, Chelmsford and Solent, Peterborough have been outscored 37-10 and have lost five out of six, with one OT win over Solent early in the season. But with the bad news is good—the Phantoms only have two games remaining against the former South 1 sides, both of which are against Bracknell.
Saturday’s game against Cardiff is tough to call. Cardiff are more in form, but are inconsistent and perhaps a bit rusty. Peterborough are slumping, and the two sides have yet to meet this year. This is a big game for both clubs—look for them both to come out fighting hard.
Don’s Prediction: Cardiff 6-8 Peterborough
Laurence’s Prediction: Cardiff 4-5 Peterborough (OT)
Solent Devils vs Slough Jets
Solent return to action after nearly a month off and put their five-game winning streak on the line against Slough Jets, who have surged up the table but still struggle against the higher-ranked clubs.
The Jets (5 wins/10 losses, 10 points) last played on 16 December and were handed a 7-3 loss away to Invicta in what was somewhat of a surprise result. Slough have been steadily picking wins over the past few months against lower sides such as Swindon and Lee Valley, and the Jets had already defeated Invicta once earlier in the season. But Aaron Ferris led the way for the Mustangs with a hat trick as they picked up a big win. The end of the game was overshadowed, unfortunately, by an incident which has put Slough’s Jack Lee out of action for the time being. The EIHA is currently reviewing the footage of the incident.
Solent (9 wins/1 regulation loss/1 OT loss, 19 points) have had no such drama, and boast an unbeaten run going back to late October. Having lost just twice on the season—and with those losses coming against two of the better teams in the league, Peterborough and Chelmsford—Solent will feel pretty confident that they can keep their run going on home ice against the Jets. After all, Solent’s last game was also against Invicta—and Solent emerged from that one with a 6-0 win.
Don’s Prediction: Solent 8-3 Slough
Laurence’s Prediction: Solent 8-3 Slough
Invicta Mustangs vs Bristol Pitbulls
Invicta look to recover from their somewhat surprising loss to Swindon in mid-December as they host Bristol on Saturday.
The Mustangs (4 wins/11 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 9 points) had a decidedly mixed weekend last time they played. Invicta were able to knock off Slough, 7-3, in Kent and then travelled to Swindon to play the winless Wildcats. But Haydn Lee scored in the second minute for Swindon and the Wildcats ended the first period with a 4-0 lead and never looked back. Swindon outshot Invicta 60 to 42 but the goal scoring was far more lopsided as Invicta were sent packing with a 10-1 loss. Invicta have also been the most penalised team in the league, with a staggering total of 476 minutes, over 100 more than the next closest team, Slough Jets. (Although in fairness to the Mustangs, they have played more games than any other team!)
Bristol (4 wins/6 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 9 points) have been very much a side in form in recent times, and they’ll want to continue that run in the new year. The Pitbulls have won three out of their last five, including an upset victory over Chelmsford—just one of two losses this season for the Chieftains—and two dominant displays against Basingstoke and Lee Valley. Bristol’s most recent game ended in a loss, but it came at the hands of league leaders Oxford City, and the Pitbulls lost by just two goals, 7-5.
Bristol and Invicta sit level on nine points in the league, but Invicta have played—and lost—five more games than the Pitbulls. Bristol should be favourites in this game.
Don’s Prediction: Invicta 3-6 Bristol
Laurence’s Prediction: Invicta 2-5 Bristol
Haringey Huskies vs Basingstoke Buffalo
Seventh placed Haringey welcome 11th placed Basingstoke to North London on Saturday, in a rematch of the first game of the season for both sides. In that game, the Buffalo won on the ice, but the game was awarded 5-0 to the Huskies after Basingstoke were found to have iced an ineligible player.
Haringey (7 wins/6 losses, 14 points) have endured a rollercoaster season to date. 100% of possible points in September, 0% of possible points in October, and then a 3-3 record in November and December. After a long lay-off – their last game was on the 9th of December as they went down 8-4 at Slough – the Huskies are back in action at home. As always it is hard to know what to expect from them, but so far this season they have been good at home, only losing to three of the bigger sides in the division in Peterborough, Oxford and Chelmsford. One key player to watch out for is Daniel Clayton; the 21-year-old forward is on a roll at the moment and is top of the team’s scoring charts with 11+13=24 in just 13 matches.
Basingstoke (4 wins/8 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 9 points) are one of three teams, alongside Bristol and Invicta, currently tied on nine points and occupying positions 10 to 12 in the table. All of these sides will still be holding out hope of finishing in the top eight and reaching the playoffs, therefore the Buffalo need to go on a good run pretty soon in order to keep this dream alive. The Hampshire side have lost their last four games, with their last win coming on the 11th of November, so will be hoping that January will see an upturn in form for them. Their experienced Canadian import Blair Dubyk will need to keep firing in order for this to happen, the former Haringey Greyhounds forward having bagged 11+6=17 to date in 12 games.
This one should be close and it is hard to call, but the Huskies will probably have the edge playing in front of their home crowd – especially if Clayton keeps up his recent hot streak.
Don’s Prediction: Haringey 5-4 Basingstoke (OT)
Laurence’s Prediction: Haringey 7-4 Basingstoke
Bracknell Hornets vs Lee Valley Lions
Second in the table face bottom of the pile in this one as title aspirants Bracknell welcome winless Lee Valley to Berkshire.
Bracknell (10 wins/1 loss, 20 points) are on a roll this season, the former NIHL South 1 side showing why pre-season predictions of them challenging for the title were not wrong as they have surged to 10 wins in 11 games. They were also the only side to knock off league leaders Oxford so far, with their only loss coming to another former NIHL South 1 side Chelmsford. Bracknell have scored 82 goals in 11 games to date – almost eight a game – with Josh Ealey-Newman (19), Sean Scarbrough (15), Steve Fisher (13) and Danny Hughes (11) all reaching double figures on the season already. It is this firepower that has formed the basis for their title challenge so far.
Lee Valley (11 regulation losses/2 OT losses, 2 points) have had a tough season thus far. They have not yet won a game, although they took two of their last four encounters to overtime to earn two points. They have struggled with short benches and tough runs of games, and their last game before Christmas saw them take an 18-1 defeat at Oxford. George Alley’s side always give it their all, but against a team like Bracknell it will be extremely tough to break their duck. If they are to get anything from the game, they will need captain Nick Alley to lead from the front as he usually does; Alley is the only Lion to have reached a double-figure goal tally this season, netting 11 times.
Bracknell knocked off the Lions 11-1 at Lee Valley back in September, and a similar result would not be a surprise here with the Hornets on top form at the moment.
Don’s Prediction: Bracknell 12-3 Lee Valley
Laurence’s Prediction: Bracknell 11-1 Lee Valley
Oxford City Stars vs Bracknell Hornets
A day after hosting Lee Valley, the Hornets play their second game of the weekend – and it’s an absolute cracker in Oxford against the City Stars, as the league leaders host the current second placed side.
Oxford (14 wins/1 loss, 28 points) are leading the league by a margin of eight points, having won 14 out of a possible 15 games. They have scored an almost unbelievable 140 goals in those 15 games – nearly 10 goals a game – and their Czech import forward Kamil Kinkor has already scored 24+25=49 points on the season, including a nine-point night in their last game against Lee Valley. It’s no wonder that he was named NIHL South 2 Player of the Month for December.
However – Bracknell are the only team to have beaten Oxford this season, winning 9-6 at the Hive back in September helped by a hat-trick by their own import, American forward Sean Scarbrough. And although they are eight points back from the City Stars, they have four games in hand; so if they win this game and then their games in hand, they could topple the City Stars from the top…
This is a fascinating game and the fans in Oxford should be in for an absolute treat. It really is too close to call – but whichever team takes the win would probably have to be considered as the favourite for the league title.
Don’s Prediction: Oxford 7-6 Bracknell (OT)
Laurence’s Prediction: Oxford 8-7 Bracknell (OT)
Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Haringey Huskies
The Huskies will hit the road for their second game of the weekend on Sunday as they travel to Swindon to take on a Wildcats side that is eager to put together a winning streak.
Swindon (1 win/9 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 3 points) sit second from bottom but there is real reason for optimism now. It started back on 26 November at home against former South 1 side Solent, when the Wildcats came surprisingly close in a 5-4 loss. The next weekend, Swindon visited the surging Slough Jets and took them to OT—and although Slough came out winners, the Wildcats still secured their first point of the season for the OT loss. Swindon had to wait 15 days before playing again, but when they did take to the ice against the visiting Invicta Mustangs, the Wildcats stamped their dominance on the game from the get-go and roared to a 10-1 victory to move off the bottom of the table. Now, after another long layoff, will the Wildcats be able to continue with their momentum, or did the holiday break kill off that advantage? We’ll find out on Sunday against Haringey.
The Huskies will have already played what promises to be a tough game against Basingstoke on Saturday, and the recent string of results has not been great for Haringey. They’ve narrowly defeated Lee Valley and Invicta, and were thrashed by Chelmsford and Slough. If they lose to Basingstoke and take a three-game losing streak on the road to Swindon, it could be a tough night for the Huskies.
Don’s Prediction: Swindon 6-5 Haringey (OT)
Laurence’s Prediction: Swindon 3-5 Haringey
14:45 Cardiff NIHL2 Fire vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
17:00 Solent Devils vs Slough Jets
17:15 Invicta Mustangs vs Bristol Pitbulls
17:30 Haringey Huskies vs Basingstoke Buffalo
18:00 Bracknell Hornets vs Lee Valley Lions
18:15 Oxford City Stars vs Bracknell Hornets
18:15 Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Haringey Huskies
NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Standings
We’ll have live twitter from the big clash on Sunday between Oxford and Bracknell, as well as 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 15)
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…)