The Cardiff Fire have one of their best opportunities to pick up points in the 2017/18 NIHL South 1 season when they face Milton Keynes on Saturday.
Cardiff sit rooted to the bottom of the standings and still are searching for their first win of the year, while their Saturday night opponents occupy the seventh spot in the nine-team league, with the Milton Keynes Thunder recording 6 wins in 20 games.
Milton Keynes have the upper hand in two previous meetings between the two sides, they took a 6 – 0 victory in their first trip to Ice Arena Wales early in the season, then registered a 4 – 2 win in November.
Since that win in November, the Thunder have failed to pick up a win since losing five games straight but they’ll be favoured to snap that streak on Saturday night.
Cardiff will likely be without Kalle Allner on defence as the 22-year-old from Sweden remains out with an upper-body injury. Allner was one of the two goal scorers the last time these two teams faced each other and has been one of the teams most consistent performers in his first year of hockey in the UK.
Influential forward Sam Bryant may also be set to miss more time, as he sat out last weekends loss to the London Raiders. Despite being one of the smaller guys on the team, Bryant has never been shy of the physical aspect of the game, and the Fire could use his tenacity back in the line up soon to help them on the home stretch of the season.
Goaltender Jordan Lawday will backstop the team, as usual, this weekend. The 19-year-old was part of the Bronze medal winning GB U20s team in last months World Junior Championship and has been the best player for the Fire since joining them midway through the season.
A huge blow was dealt to the Fire as well this week as leading forward Michael Stratford left the team, and actually joined the Thunder ahead of this weekends clash. If the paperwork can go through in time then Stratford may even be on the other bench when the Thunder come to Ice Arena Wales.
Milton Keynes will look to rely on their young star forward Rio Grinell-Parke who’s put up 12 goals and 13 points all season, good for most goals on the team and third in total points for the Thunder this year.
The Fire will need to watch 30-year-old Grant McPherson this weekend as he’s really got Cardiff’s number this year. In the two previous meetings, McPherson has put up four goals, including a hat-trick in the first meeting so he’ll be looking to add to his tally, especially given that he’s only managed one goal against other opponents this year.
After Saturdays meeting with the Thunder, Cardiff will have a week to recover before they hit the road to take on the Invicta Dynamos on January 20th, with Milton Keynes also having weeks rest before they face the league-leading Peterborough Phantoms next weekend.
Cardiff Fires second team will also be in action on Saturday before the Fire 1 team face the Thunder.
Fire 2, will take on Invicta’s second team in Ice Arena Wales, with them looking to improve on their ninth place out of 14.
Invicta is just one spot above the Fire 2 team but with seven games played more, so a win on Saturday could see the Fire 2 team begin to climb the NIHL South 2 standings.