NIHL South: Season preview 2016/17

NIHL South returns this weekend for what should be another action-packed season.

Chelmsford Chieftains swept all before them in 2015/16 to win the D1S quadruple and they are likely to be the team to beat once again despite numerous changes to their roster.

BIH takes a look at the league and what we can expect from the upcoming campaign:

Chelmsford Chieftains – Experienced imports Juraj Huska (above) and Lukas Zatopek are back for another year, but the Chieftains will be without Julian Smith, Euan King, Ross Brears and James Ayling who won’t be icing for the club this year.

Promising youngsters Brandon Ayliffe, Jake Sylvester, Ollie Baldock and Sonny Phillips have stepped up from Chelmsford Warriors in D2, while the likes of Matt Turner and Danny Hammond will ensure Chieftains will be challenging once again.

Invicta Dynamos – Finished 13 points behind the Chieftains last time around, but Head Coach Kevin Parrish has assembled an impressive squad this term.

Former Czech junior international forward Adam Rehak looks to be this summer’s standout signing after an excellent year in Poland.

Ex-EPL ‘D’ man Tommy Ralph strengthens Dynamos’ rearguard, while Mason Webster brings added toughness following his move from London Raiders.

With forwards Callum Fowler and Steven Osman both agreeing another season, Dynamos’ fans could be set for a thrilling campaign.

Wightlink Raiders – Forward Jaroslav Cesky and ex-London Raiders defender Vaclav Drabek bring experience to an exciting looking squad.

Jeremy Cornish has retained the services of Ryan Webb and Danny Ingoldsby and Ryan Webb, while new signings Aiden Doughty and George Norcliffe add further depth to the Raiders’ core of youngsters.

Matty Colclough is one the division’s top netminders, but the loss of forward Craig Tribe could hit the club’s hopes of mounting a title challenge.

Oxford City Stars – Broke into the top four last season and will hope to build on that this year.

Finnish defender Joonas Liimatainen (above) looks a quality addition and with ex-EPL goalie Tom Annetts agreeing another season between the pipes the Stars could be tough to break down.

Ondrej Pekarik took time to find his feet last term, but improved as the season progressed and should be a handful this year, while Alan Green and Darren Elliott bring a wealth of experience to the Stars roster.

Whether they can repeat last season’s effort remains to be seen, but Stars will certainly be competitive.

Streatham IHC – Flattered to deceive last year, but with ex-Great Britain international Nicky Chinn taking over as Player/Coach Streatham should be a force to reckoned with.

Former fan favourite Sean Scarbrough has rejoined the club and ex-Chieftains goalie Euan King is a quality performer at this level.

David Savage and Callum Best both return after signing during the last campaign, while Chinn will hope enforcer Chris Wiggins can avoid injuries this season.

If Streatham can keep everyone fit they should be in the mix.

Solent Devils – Player/Coach Alex Murray has lost promising forward George Norcliffe to Wightlink Raiders, but he will hope new signing Rhys McCormick can step into his skates following a spell in Canada.

Last season’s top points scorer Richard Facey has agreed another year, while Matt Lawday will hope to make his mark in D1 after impressing with Basingstoke Buffalo last season.

With teams around them upgrading their squads during the close-season, Devils could be in for a difficult winter.

MK Thunder – Struggled for consistency last year, but have added some genuine quality to their squad for the new campaign.

Prolific Czech forward Jakub Klima (above) has made Milton Keynes the latest stop on his tour of NIHL1 South, while ex-MK Lightning defender Ross Green bolsters the club’s blueline options.

Cameron Wynn will be keen to prove a point after previously impressing with GB U20 and netminder David Wride is an excellent addition between the pipes.

Thunder could be handful on home ice and if they can improve on their travels they could force themselves into the top half of the table.

London Raiders – Traditionally one of the stronger teams, Raiders endured a miserable 2015/16 season but have significantly strengthened their roster this summer.

Kamil Kinkor has been signed from Streatham and JJ Pitchley has made the switch from Bracknell Hornets to give the Raiders some much-needed additional firepower.

Top scorer Marek Nahlik has signed for another season, while Jacob Ranson’s arrival from the Dynamos is a further boost to Raiders’ attacking options.

Ex-Chieftains skipper Julian Smith joins the defensive unit, leaving Raiders looking capable of mounting a mounting a sustained challenge.

Bracknell Hornets – With new Slovak imports Jaroslav Kucej and Peter Hudec in their ranks Hornets will hope to improve their fortunes this year.

Head Coach Kenny Redmond will look to the likes of Stewart Tait and Danny Hughes to help develop his younger players, but after failing to break the 100 goal barrier in 2015/16 the Hornets will need to find goals from somewhere if they’re to avoid a season of struggle.

In D2S, Cardiff Fire are fancied to mount a serious promotion challenge after narrowly missing out last season.

Basingstoke Buffalo, Chelmsford Warriors and Peterborough Islanders should provide stiff competition, while Bristol Pitbulls and Haringey Racers will also hope to force their way into the reckoning.

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