The NIHL South 2 season well and truly roared into life on the fourth weekend of competition, as Swindon and Chelmsford joined the party – meaning that all fourteen teams have now played at least one game. Saturday saw Haringey make it eight points out of eight on the season with a win over the aforementioned Swindon, while Sunday saw wins for Guildford over Lee Valley; Peterborough in an overtime thriller against Solent; Oxford over Slough; Basingstoke against Invicta; and Chelmsford who put 13 goals past Swindon.
This weekend sees seven more games, as the Haringey Huskies take centre stage with two big ties: firstly at home to last season’s treble winners Peterborough who have three wins from three this season, before a trip to another undefeated team on Sunday, the Bracknell Hornets.
There are five more games for us to sink our teeth into this weekend. On Saturday, the Solent Devils look to bounce back from their OT defeat to Peterborough as they play host to winless Lee Valley; Invicta host Swindon with both sides looking for their first win; and Slough play their first home game of the season against Guildford. In addition to Haringey’s trip to Bracknell, Sunday also sees Guildford at home to Basingstoke, and Chelmsford host their first home game of the season against Invicta.
Solent Devils vs Lee Valley Lions
After finishing sixth in NIHL South 1 last season, the Solent Devils made the drop to South 2 for this campaign, and their start to the season has seen them take three points from a possible four, with a 4-2 win over the Basingstoke Buffalo being followed by a 2-3 OT defeat to last season’s NIHL South 2 (East) champions Peterborough.
The Devils have scored six goals so far, with Canadian import Drew Campbell and alternate captain Richard Facey bagging two each, while Mark Pitts and player-coach Alex Murray have each tallied one. Former Guildford and Oxford junior William Crossley has two assists. At the other end of the ice they have conceded five goals, with star netminder Christian “Chico” Cole posting a .915 save percentage on the season thus far.
The Lions have had it tough so far in the league. An 8-7 loss to London rivals Haringey was followed by an expected 11-1 defeat at home to Bracknell, but last Sunday’s 2-0 home defeat to Guildford was disappointing for the team; they were able to ice three full lines for the first time this season, but were unable to beat Guildford’s young netminder Harry Buckingham. More bad news came following the game – Ben Duffy, who has scored three of the team’s eight league goals this season to date, fractured two vertebrae after a hit from former Lions defenceman Henry Aiken, so looks like he will miss significant time this season. More scoring responsibility will thus fall on the shoulders of captain Nick Alley and fellow forwards Chris Fox and Ross Sin-Hidge, all of whom passed 15 league points last season, as well as new recruit Matt Brown.
This game would look to be another tough one for the Lions, visiting a Solent side that is largely unchanged from the one that turned many heads in South 1 last season. If the Devils stick to their gameplan and play a disciplined game, they should walk away from this one with the two points.
Don’s Prediction: Solent 8-4 Lee Valley
Laurence’s Prediction: Solent 5-2 Lee Valley
Invicta Mustangs vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
Swindon travel to Kent to play Invicta as both sides look to end their winless starts to the season. Invicta have struggled to an 0-3 start and Swindon, who started their season last weekend, have dropped both of their games so far.
Swindon’s weekend was one to forget, certainly. They started on the road against Haringey Huskies in Saturday’s lone South 2 matchup, and the Wildcats were never in the game. South 2 Player of the Month Stephen Woodford started the final game of September with a goal in the second minute and went on to score a hat-trick. Stuart Appleby notched four goals himself as Swindon netminder Liam Mcguire was pummelled with 61 shots to slip through. Swindon mustered 28 shots on goal, scoring twice on powerplays courtesy of Danial Sullivan and captain Loris Taylor. Swindon had their home opener on Sunday and achieved an even more disappointing result, again allowing 61 shots and losing 13-4 to Chelmsford.
But Swindon will have a chance to put all that behind them on Saturday against Invicta, who have also struggled mightily to start the season. Invicta came close to a win a couple of weeks ago against Haringey, losing but just the odd goal in 11, which would have given them hope last week against a winless Basingstoke. But it was not to be for Invicta, who picked up yet another loss as they were defeated 6-3.
Still, Invicta’s close result against Haringey should provide them with confidence against Swindon, who as mentioned were thrashed 10-2 by the Huskies. Something to watch for on the Wildcats side of the puck will be their goalie. Liam Mcguire, after allowing 10 goals on Saturday, did not play on Sunday and instead Michael Crisp was between the pipes. But regardless of who minds the net for Swindon, Invicta will still be favourites heading into this one.
Don’s Prediction: Invicta 6-4 Swindon
Laurence’s Prediction: Invicta 6-3 Swindon
Haringey Huskies vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
Two teams with their full quota of points meet at the Palace, as Haringey host Peterborough. Haringey actually lost their opening game in Basingstoke, but were awarded the two points due to Basingstoke fielding a suspended player, but since then have won three out of three. The Phantoms have also won three from three, albeit last week’s win over Solent came after OT.
The Huskies have been on scintillating form in their last three matches, scoring a total of 24 goals in wins over Lee Valley, Invicta and Swindon. September’s NIHL South 2 Player of the Month winner Stephen Woodford has been scoring almost for fun, with ten goals and four assists so far, including a “triple triple” of hat-tricks in all of the Huskies’ three wins. However they have not yet faced one of the real front-running teams in the division, so Saturday’s game against Peterborough will be a real test. The Huskies also announced an addition to the roster today: Ricky Rutherford returns to the Palace after three years away from hockey. He is no stranger to Haringey, having iced for the Greyhounds in the ENL (now NIHL) and the Racers in both the EPL and the NIHL. In his last season, with the Racers in 2013-14, he tallied seven goals and four assists for 11 points in 16 games.
The Phantoms dominated last season, winning the treble of the NIHL South 2 (East) league title, the South 2 Cup and the South 2 Playoffs. The team is almost unchanged this campaign, and so far they have won three from three: 6-1 over Invicta, 4-3 against Bristol and a 3-2 OT win over Solent have been their results thus far. The win over Solent was a big statement, showing that the Phantoms are able to compete with – and beat – teams that have dropped down from NIHL South 1. They’ll look to make a further statement in North London on Saturday with a win over the Huskies.
Saturday’s game should be an intense affair, with both sides playing aggressive ice hockey and featuring several big-scoring forwards. Peterborough can be expected to come out with the two points, but the Huskies will likely make the Phantoms work very hard for them.
Don’s Prediction: Haringey 6-5 Peterborough (OT)
Laurence’s Prediction: Haringey 4-7 Peterborough
Slough Jets vs Guildford Phoenix
Slough’s three-game road trip to start the season will end on Saturday as they return to their temporary ice arena at Montem Lane, Silverblades, to host the Guildford Phoenix. Slough will be looking for their first win of the season, while newly-formed Guildford will be eager to pick up their second win.
Slough head into the weekend after a bruising three games in which they were outscored 26-11, including last weekend’s 8-2 loss to Oxford City Stars. But Slough can take some positives. They only lost to Bristol because of a goal in the final four seconds, and despite their struggles in a 13-5 loss to Cardiff, they were without regular netminder Chris Douglas and they did rally in the second period even though the lead was already out of reach. Player-coach Lukas Smital ended September in the top five categories for goals and points in South 2, and the Jets will hope that he can continue his hot start against the Phoenix.
The men from Guildford travel to Slough with a change to start a winning streak after taking down the Lee Valley Lions on Sunday, 2-0. Guildford may have compiled 87 penalty minutes in the game, but they compensated by firing off nearly as many shots—76. Bailey Wootton and Oliver Denis supplied the goals for the Phoenix as Harry Buckingham stopped 38 shots to pick up a shutout.
Saturday’s game will be a tough one to predict. So early in the season there is little to go off of, and although both sides have played Oxford City, they each lost by six goals so there isn’t much to be taken from those results. But the Jets are hoping for a big show of support at Silverblades and if Smital can stay consistent, the Jets may put an end to their losing streak.
Don’s Prediction: Slough 6-4 Guildford
Laurence’s Prediction: Slough 2-6 Guildford
Guildford Phoenix vs Basingstoke Buffalo
Guildford have two games this weekend, and their second will be back at home against Basingstoke. The Buffalo broke their three-game losing streak on Sunday with a win over Invicta and then made a few roster changes.
Basingstoke announced on Tuesday that Daniel Lackey was dropping down from the Bison to the Buffalo in a move that will surely boost the South 2 side. Meanwhile, 17-year-old Sam Brooks is started a formal two-way between the two Basingstoke teams. The news broke just a few days after the Buffalo won for the first time this season as they knocked off Invicta at home, 6-3. Hallam Wilson and Oscar Evans each picked up a pair of goals.
Basingstoke are better than their 1-3 record shows. They only lost to Haringey on a technically, and although the decision is perfectly fair because rules are rules, the Buffalo can still take solace in the fact that on the ice, they won the game. And beating Haringey is not an easy task, as the Huskies are currently the top team in the division. Guildford, who will come into the game having already played against Slough, will need to put in an excellent performance to stop the Buffalo.
Don’s Prediction: Guildford 4-7 Basingstoke
Laurence’s Prediction: Guildford 4-3 Basingstoke
Bracknell Hornets vs Haringey Huskies
A day after hosting unbeaten Peterborough, Haringey travel to another team that is yet to lose, as they take on the Bracknell Hornets at the Hive. The Hornets have scored 30 goals in their three games so far and are looking like title contenders already, while the Huskies will be looking to either build on, or bounce back from, their result against Peterborough the previous evening.
Bracknell have very much enjoyed life in NIHL South 2 thus far after a few tricky seasons in South 1; three wins from three, 30 goals scored and ten conceded – it doesn’t get much better. After expected wins over Basingstoke and Lee Valley, a 9-6 victory at home to Oxford two weeks ago was a big statement against a fellow championship contender. The Hornets are led by experienced forwards Sean Scarbrough (seven goals) and Steve Fisher (five goals), while Will Stead, player-coach Danny Hughes and the Ealey-Newman brothers Ben and Josh have all put up good numbers thus far as well.
The Huskies will once again rely on their main goal threat Stephen Woodford against the Hornets, while Sam Park, Stuart Appleby and Daniel Clayton have also impressed offensively thus far. At the other end of the ice, former Hornets netminder David Wride is one of three keepers on Haringey’s books along with Jussi Lynch Grut and Haringey junior Thomas Adams. It will be interesting to see who gets the start in this one; whoever it is will face a lot of rubber and will need to be on their game.
The Hornets will be expected to win this one and go four from four on the season. But with the offensive firepower in the Haringey ranks, a surprise result can’t be absolutely ruled out. Nonetheless, a Bracknell win would seem to be the most likely result here.
Don’s Prediction: Bracknell 8-6 Haringey
Laurence’s Prediction: Bracknell 7-4 Haringey
Chelmsford Chieftains vs Invicta Mustangs
Chelmsford have only played one game so far this season, securing a dominant 13-4 victory over the lowly Swindon Wildcats. Invicta, on the other hand, will have played four by the time they travel to Essex—they play Swindon on Saturday—and have lost all three completed games. Basingstoke, Haringey and Peterborough have all kept Invicta from getting their first points of the season.
But Invicta are expected to pick up a win against Swindon and if they do, they will come into the clash with the Chieftains with a little momentum—and they’ll need all the momentum they can get. Chelmsford are historically a strong side, and their performance against the Wildcats only solidified the notion that they may be contenders once again this season. Cameron Bartlett got his season off to the perfect start, netting four goals and picking up an assist, while MOTM Filip Supa secured a hat-trick of goals and assists.
However, the Chieftains are a little short on players. They made a few signings before last weekend but that only brought their totals up to 12 forwards and worryingly, only five d-men. But even if the blue liners fatigue early, that still may not be a worry for Chelmsford against Invicta—the Mustangs will have played the day before but Chelmsford will be fresh coming into the game.
Don’s Prediction: Chelmsford 9-4 Invicta
Laurence’s Prediction: Chelmsford 8-4 Invicta
17:00 Solent Devils vs Lee Valley Lions
17:15 Invicta Mustangs vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
17:30 Haringey Huskies vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
18:00 Slough Jets vs Guildford Phoenix
17:30 Guildford Phoenix vs Basingstoke Buffalo
18:00 Bracknell Hornets vs Haringey Huskies
18:30 Chelmsford Chieftains vs Invicta Mustangs
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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