It’s 2nd v 3rd in the NIHL National on Saturday night as the Phantoms travel to Swindon, before the Raiders come to Peterborough for Sunday night’s encounter.
PHANTOMS TEAM NEWS
Phantoms will once again be without Scott Robson and Glenn Billing due to injuries but could welcome back Bradley Bowering and Conor Pollard to the line-up after a couple of weeks out.
Will Weldon will have a late fitness test ahead of the weekend’s games. Phantoms were handed a boost, though, with Weldon’s X-Ray coming back all clear, putting the Phantoms #29 in contention for the matches with Swindon and Raiders.
Joe Hazeldine with feature again for the Phantoms, but Josh Tetlow will be in the Nottingham Panthers’ line up this weekend.
Saturday’s game is an important one for both sides. The Wildcats are currently three points behind the Telford Tigers, who sit top of the table. Aaron Nell’s side are looking to close the gap between themselves and the league leaders. Phantoms, meanwhile, are four points behind the Wildcats and will be looking to close that gap on Saturday night.
Tyler VanKleef will line up against the Phantoms for the first time this season. The Canadian forward had been injured for the first two months of the season but made his debut a few weeks ago. VanKleef made the move from North America to the Nottingham Panthers at the beginning of last season but moved on to the Bracknell Bees after 16 EIHL games. He played 18 times for the Bees, scoring 17 goals and collecting 25 points before making the move to Wiltshire in the summer.
Swindon’s line of Eddie Bebris, Chris Jones and Toms Rutkis have enjoyed their games against the Phantoms so far this term. The forward trio have 17 points combined against the Phantoms in three meetings so far and will undoubtedly be looking to build on that on Saturday night.
Tomasz Malasinski and Aaron Nell are second and third in the scoring charts in the league. Malasinski has 47 points in 22 games, whilst Nell has 43. They trail Jason Hewitt in the scoring charts, who already has 52 points on the season.
The Opposition Bench
After experiencing the Elite League and collecting five Great Britain caps, Aaron Nell returned to his local side and became the Player Coach in the 2015/16 season, when he replaced Stevie Lyle.
Nell said: “Peterborough and Telford are two teams who we will probably be fighting it out with come the end of the season. We played both of these teams a couple of weeks ago and lost twice, so it is going to be a big challenge.”
Raiders currently sit 8th in the NIHL National table, level on points with ninth placed MKL with 16 points. Raiders have conceded more goals than any other team so far this season, with 116 conceded in 23 games.
Raiders could be about to ice their fourth goalie of the season this weekend. Ethan James began his hockey career in the Romford junior system and went on to play in North America. He’s well known to Slava Koulikov, having been part of his GB20 squad a couple of years ago. He’s now back in gold and blue and could ice against the Phantoms on Sunday.
On Friday afternoon, Raiders announced the signing of 26-year-old defenceman, Dan Fuller, from Aberdeen Lynx. He began his career with Streatham and Guildford before making the move to play junior hockey in North America. Aberdeen was his first club since moving back to the UK, and he has now joined the Raiders. He goes straight into the Raiders’ line up for their game on Saturday night against the Hull Pirates.
Raiders will be without goalies Greg Blais and Brad Windebank, but Michael Gray may feature after returning from an injury of his own.
Jake Sylvester is leading the way on points for the Raiders this year, scoring 14+9 for 23 points in 23 games. He scored the lone Raiders goal in Phantoms’ 10-1 win a few weeks ago. Former Phantom Erik Piatak has found his form in gold and blue, with 7+7 for 14 points in 14 games in his time at the Sapphire so far.
The Opposition Bench
Sean Easton, in his third year with the Raiders, is also the GB18’s Head Coach. He spent all but two seasons of his playing career with one of the Chelmsford sides.
It’ll be a very, very tough game. Swindon usually respond well after they’ve been beaten. We have had a good match up against them in the last few years. But usually when they lose to us, the next game is even tougher. They’re chasing top spot and we’re chasing them, so it’ll be a tough game. It’s the same mindset as last week when we went to Telford. We want to make sure we’re still in the race in the new year, so we need to be winning these games.
We have a couple of guys back and we’re hoping Welds will play so we need to just make sure we play a simple and smart road game. We need everyone to turn up and be ready to play from the first drop of the puck until the final buzzer, and we need to make sure we bring the levels of competitiveness that we know we have.
It’s nice to have the record of 3 wins from 3 but they’re a team that can hurt anyone on their night. Think they’ve taken 3 points from Telford, beat Swindon and Hull. It’ll be the same for me as it has been in the last few weeks, there’s no point in looking at the name on the front of the jersey, just play your hockey. We take one game at a time. It doesn’t matter what happens on Saturday because Sunday is a new day and a new game. But with it being at home, we want to continue our good run at home and also do it for the fans who have been great so far this year.
If you would like to travel to Swindon on Saturday night to support the Phantoms against the Wildcats, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Face off at the Link Centre is at 6:15pm on Saturday night.
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 Raiders, 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
50/50 tickets are £1 for 1, £2 for 3 or £5 for 10. To be entered into the draw to take part in Puck It, simply purchase £5 worth of 50/50 tickets and you’ll be in with a chance of taking part!
This week’s ‘shirt off your back’ is #96 Jarvis Hunt. 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!
With the Phantoms’ Christmas raffle due to be drawn on the 21st of December, now is the perfect time to get your tickets and be in with a chance of winning some fantastic prizes!
Tickets will be priced at £2 each or £5 for 3 tickets.
Books of five tickets are available to pick up from HockeyDog on a game-night or by dropping into the Phantoms office Mon-Fri 9am-5pm (2A Treelyn Park, PE2 7WH)
The draw will be made at our game against the Bracknell Bees on 21st December. It will be drawn during the second period break in skate hire.
So, make sure you get your tickets soon to be in with a chance of winning some amazing prizes!