The first weekend of 2020 is a tough one for the Phantoms as they face a trip to Basingstoke on Saturday, before the league leading Telford Tigers visit Peterborough on Sunday.
PHANTOMS TEAM NEWS
Phantoms will be without Scott Robson for the weekend as he continues his recovery from injury. Glenn Billing iced on New Year’s Day and is expected to be fit to play in both games this weekend.
Martins Susters is expected to return to the Phantoms line up. He missed the loss to MKL on New Year’s Day with a knock.
Phantoms will find out on Friday afternoon if they will be afforded the services of Nottingham Panthers defenceman, Josh Tetlow, this weekend.
The Bison currently sit in 4th, with three wins in their last 4 games. Their only loss in their last four games was to Phantoms (5-2). All three wins in last four have been in either overtime or penalty shots. The twice defeated the Swindon Wildcats on penalties, whilst also picking up an overtime win over Raiders.
George Norcliffe has missed a number of recent games, whilst Sean Norris and Sam Talbot have both become important parts of the Bison line up. Norris began the season playing for the Slough Jets in the NIHL1, where he picked up 22 points in 10 games. He already has 7 points in 6 games since making the step up.
Talbot scored 26 goals and assisted 12 in just 17 games for the Jets at the start of this season, prompting the Bison to make the most of his two-way contract. The 18-year-old forward has six points for the Bison so far, including a goal in the Bison’s recent 5-2 loss to the Phantoms.
Liam Morris returned to the Bison line up recently after missing recent fixtures. Sam Smith didn’t ice against the Wildcats on New Year’s Day.
Player Coach, Ashley Tait, is no longer the highest point scorer for his side. Michal Klejna has taken over in that respect, with 44 points in 27 games. Tait, however, does bring years of experience in British hockey and a whole host of GB caps. He and Tony Redmond have formed an effective partnership in Basingstoke since Tait’s arrival at the beginning of last year and they will be looking to continue their good run of form in their last four games.
Telford have a comfortable lead at top of the NIHL National table. They are five points ahead of Swindon and nine ahead of Phantoms. Their six-game winning run was ended by MKL on 29th December.
The Tigers have been short benched in defence in their last couple of games. Jonathan Weaver, Ollie Lord and Ross Kennedy missed the loss to MKL, and it is not yet known whether they will return for the fixture with the Phantoms on Sunday.
Dominik Florian has continued his good start to the season and now has 49 points in 27 games. He’s scored 19 and assisted 27 and has been a big part of the Tigers’ form. Scott McKenzie has 44 points in 29 games, whilst Brandon Whistle is on 27 points in 21 games.
Brad Day has been a permanent fixture between the pipes for the Tigers so far this year and has a save percentage of 90.15% so far this term. He is expected to get the start once again against the Phantoms on Sunday.
Tom Watkins has earned plenty of praise from many people around the league for his side’s performances so far this term. The 41-year-old has been in charge of the Tigers since 2010/11 and has brought a number of trophies to the club in that time. He has the chance to do that again this term, with his side top of the league and through to the NIHL National Cup semi-final. The Tigers chose to take on the Swindon Wildcats in the semi-final of the cup.
We’re close to Basingstoke in the league and there’s games in hand. They’re a good team, they proved that last year. Last year they were just behind us in the league, got to the cup final and they’re doing pretty much same job this year by working really hard playing for 60 minutes. They are setting a really good example of gritty and physical hockey that is played in the right way. It will be a really good test for us, it’s another game of the kind we all want to be involved in. They’re all exciting games at the moment and I don’t see either game this weekend being any different.
We’ve had two penalty shootout losses to Telford this year, so it shows that we have a competitive team. When we play well, we compete with the best. It’s chance number three to try and get two points against them. It’ll probably come down to small margins again, so we’ll do our best to get the two points
The league isn’t over, it’s too early to say what will happen. They’re in a good position and a position whereby if they continue in the form they have been, they’ll be the favourites. But everyone can beat anyone and that’s been proven in the first half of the season. It’s not like the last couple of years where you only had to concentrate on a few games to compete for the league. They’re still in the cup so they’ve done well in that respect but there’s a long way to go in all competitions and things might get tighter or the lead might get bigger, only time will tell.
If you would like to travel to Basingstoke on Saturday night to support the Phantoms against the Bison, email email@example.com. Face off in Basingstoke is at 6:30pm.
If you are unable to attend the game, full match updates will be found on Twitter, @GoPhantoms.
For tickets to Sunday’s home game against the Tigers, click HERE, or purchase them from the Planet Ice Box Office upon arrival at the rink. Doors open at 4:30pm, with face off at 5:30pm.
MATCH NIGHT COMPETITIONS
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This week’s ‘shirt off your back’ is #71 Corey McEwen. Tickets are £1 for 1, £2 for 3 and £5 for 10. Be sure to see one of our ticket sellers to be in with a chance to win!