Week 3 Previews for the NIHL Spring Cup
By Lauryn Fuller
Telford got off to a great start in this Spring Cup last weekend, with two wins over the Raiders to acquire all four points. They will be looking to do the same again against the Bracknell Bee’s, who came close to beating the Swindon Wildcats last weekend, only to lose out to an over time winner for the cats and cementing two defeats in a row the Bee’s.
Last season, these teams met each other four times in the short season. The results went in favour of the Bee’s, who won three of the 4 meeting. The last fixture saw the teams tied at 2-2 at the end of regular time. Overtime saw the Bee’s seal the win and the series.
The Bees have scored 6 goals so far in this series, with each goal coming from a different player. One of those being Russian born Vanya Antonov. A right winger who has spent most of his career in Bracknell, progressing through some of the Junior teams before making his mark in the Men’s first. He spent that majority of last season at Streatham, playing 23 games and scoring 26, which is an impressive record.
The Bees have some very strong players in their ranks and would like to finally register some points in this series. They have the skills and potential to score goals, they have struggled defensively to shutout their opponents.
The Tigers have had a roaring start and will have seen the Bee’s performance last weekend. They will want to capitalise on the Bee’s poor start to the Spring Cup. The players they have brought in to boost the roster have all made their marks in the Tigers victories. Coventry Blaze left wing, Ross Venus, picked up the Man of the Match award after last Sunday’s fixture against the Raiders. In two games played he had one goal and two assists; he will be looking to apply his Elite League experience further in this competition.
With the schedule of the series featuring home and away fixtures between the3 two teams, it gives an easy way to bounce back and take some points back from each other. It also allows the teams to become familiar with their opponent’s style of play, which could be the answer in how some of the teams have been so strong in these fixtures.
Well see on Saturday, whether the Bee’s will get off the mark in the series or if the Tigers can push forward and secure another four-point weekend.
Sat Feb-27 Sheffield v Raiders 18:30
The Sheffield Steeldogs come into their next fixtures having had a weekend off. They played on the opening weekend of the series, winning both of their fixtures against the Swindon Wildcats.
On the other bench, the Raiders had their first two fixtures of the Spring Cup last weekend against the Telford Tigers. They come into this weekend’s fixtures having fallen foe to the tigers, losing both fixtures. They will be wanting to make amends for their defats, although this Steeldogs team are yet to be beaten.
The star of the show at the Steeldogs has been 21-year-old Liam Kirk. In his first fixture for the Steeldogs, he scored 4 of the 5 goals that secured them their first win over Swindon. Kirk has spent the last two seasons in the OHL in Canada, playing with the Peterborough Pete’s. He played 110 games in those two seasons (before Covid paused the season last year) scoring 47 in the regular season. In his first two games for the Steeldogs, he has certainty shown his skills in the series so far.
Before last weekend Loanee Raider Liam Stewart announced he would be pulling out of the Spring Cup due to injury. Fans of the Raiders and Stewarts home team, Milton Keynes Lightning (MKL), were eager to see the 26-year-old take to the Ice. In the shortened last season, Stewart played 35 games for MKL and scored an incredible 37 goals. Goals that the Raiders could do with, having only scored 4 goals so far, but have conceded 8.
Last season these teams met each other 4 times in the shortened season. The raiders really struggled against the Steeldogs and failed to record a win against the Sheffield side. They will hope that the boosts to their roster in the Spring Cup can change this record. Sheffield will want to carry on in this series as strongly as they have started. Both of their wins against Swindon on the opening weekend saw big score lines.
With one team still yet to win and another wanted to keep a clean record, who will come out on top after this weekend’s meetings?