NIHL South preview: Warriors expect tough Fire test

Chelmsford Warriors face Cardiff Fire this weekend in the NIHL2 South promotion play-off final.

Both teams topped their regional leagues during the course of the regular season, with each just losing one game this term.

While promotion to D1 is the prize on offer, league rules allow the winning team to request to stay in D2 if they wish to do so.

Fire boss Mark Cuddihy confirmed earlier this season that his team definitely wanted to make the step up, but for Warriors the situation is less clear.

With quadruple winners Chelmsford Chieftains firmly established in D1, there are a number of issues for Warriors to consider if the opportunity arose.

Head Coach Dean Birrell said: “The Warriors exist to develop players to take the next step up the hockey ladder, ideally with the Chieftains but also elsewhere if necessary.

“Hopefully we’ll see many of this group move on and then we’ll start the process again.

“We’ve progressed as a team over the past three seasons and now we’ve got a cluster of players who can certainly hold their own in D1.

“Brandon Ayliffe, Jake Sylvester, Sonny Phillips and others are all capable of making the step up.

“We go into this weekend’s games as underdogs. I’m expecting two tough, physical games against an experienced Cardiff team.

“If we are successful this weekend, the question of promotion is a difficult one.

“I doubt whether we’d take promotion if we won, but we’ll certainly be going all out to beat Cardiff – what happens after that is for others to decide.

“Ice time would certainly be an issue with the increased schedule in D1, while resources in terms of players and travel would also be difficult.

“We’re a development team and hopefully we’ll be able to continue doing what we’ve doing over the past few seasons, but for now our focus is totally on the Cardiff games.”

WEEKEND FIXTURES

NIHL2 South promotion play-off final

Saturday – Cardiff Fire v Chelmsford Warriors
Sunday – Chelmsford Warriors v Cardiff Fire

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