Weekend Review – Wildcats take the opening exchanges

The Berkshire Cycles Bracknell Bees started their 2018/19 season with a pre-season challenge series against the Swindon Wildcats.

Swindon Wildcats 5 Berkshire Cycles Bracknell Bees 2

The Bees took to the ice missing Ryan Watt, Edwards Knaggs and George Hoang but were first on the scoreboard when Shaun Thompson snatched a powerplay goal at 4.20. Both teams traded powerplays through the first period but it was at even strength that Maxim Birbraer drew the game level when he netted at 12.02

The second period also ended with honours even as middle frame goals ended again at one each. A 31.10 strike from Scott Spearing was levelled out by a 32.09 powerplay goal by Birbraer setting up an all to play for third period.

As Doug Sheppard rolled his full lines in the third period Swindon snuck ahead for the first time in the game at 43.42 through Floyd Taylor. Their advantage increased at 50.28 when Aaron Nell scored on the powerplay and with Bees opening up to try and get back into the game a fifth and final goal came for the home team at 54.37 as Luc Johnson netted.

Swindon: Nell 1+2; Birbraer 2+0; Harding, Bullas, Bebris 0+2; Johnson, Taylor 1+0; Jones, Liddiard 0+1. Net: Marr (60.00) 20/2
Bracknell: Thompson, Spearing 1+0; B Baird, Stead, Richter, Martin 0+1. Net: Skinns (60.00) 35/5

Period Scores: 1-1/1-1/3-0
Shots On Goal: 35-20
Penalty Minutes: 10-20
Gamesheet: http://eihams.fixtureslive.com/matchSheet.aspx?fixtureid=2135450

On Sunday the Buzz returned to Bracknell as the Hive once again came alive with ice hockey with a decent turn out to see the Berkshire Cycles Bracknell Bees return to home ice.

Berkshire Cycles Bracknell Bees 4 Swindon Wildcats 5 (after overtime)

Bees again iced without Ryan Watt and Edward Knaggs but Danny Milton also missed the game due to an injury picked up the previous night. George Hoang finally got to make his debut for the club.

Stephen Matthews took charge of the game and just after six o’clock called the teams together for the opening face-off. There was a fast paced start to the game, Josh Martin getting the first chance just after the opening minute as he skated from the blue line to the centre of the zone but firing just wide of the net. Wildcats came back hard with a period of pressure generated but Josh Smith eventually interrupted their passing but lost the puck at the blue line as he skated into the Wildcats end.

Dean Skinns made the first concrete save of the game and got the first whistle at 3.48. Harvey Stead won a foot race for the puck but then lost it in his skates and with Wildcats players crowding around the fringes of the crease Skinns pounced to cover the puck and smother the threat.

At 3.59 Stephen Matthews called the game’s first penalty as Sam Godfrey got a roughing call giving Bees first use of the powerplay. Chances came with the man advantage, starting with a face off in the attacking zone Bees cycled the puck round but Renny Marr saw the shot from towards the back of the zone to pull off a save. Vanya Antonov and Roman Malinik combined on a run with Antonov feeding Malinik in the high slot but Marr made a pad save kicking the puck away to safety. As the Wildcats prepared to return to full strength a Bees shut riffled the outside of the netting but Wildcats weathered the penalty kill and Godfrey returned.

Wildcats regrouped well after their penalty kill. They built pressure around the net, initially drew a save from Dean Skinns which saw the puck end up testing the new rink netting. The visitors went on to win the draw but some good defence saw the play broken and the puck cleared to centre ice while both teams enjoyed a line change.

Sam Jones got the puck at centre ice and carried it into the zone with Edgars Bebris with him but his pass to Bebris saw the latter not quite able to fully connect and his shot was dealt with by the Bees shot-stopper.

Chances continued at both ends as Ben Paynter raced away solo and drew a pad save from Marr. His kick save landed for Sam Godfrey who then did his own run, releasing his shot from the blue line which Skinns saved. George Hoang’s clearance ended up out of play drawing a delay of the game penalty at 10.13.

Josh Smith found himself with a shorthanded break but as he was about to shoot he was taken to his knees. He still released his shot which Marr froze and this allowed Stephen Matthews the whistle he needed to call the hooking penalty on Sam Jones for taking down Smith.

Bees dominated the 31 seconds of 4 on 4 before Hoang returned giving them a 1.29 powerplay to use. With the man advantage there were chances in quick succession on either side of Marr but he covered both well. First Shaun Thompson released one from the right and then Vanya Antonov fired the rebound from the left.

Wildcats hit penalty trouble as an errant elbow from Neil Liddiard at 12.54 put his team down by two skaters and things got no better at 13.05 when Stephen Whitfield took a 2+10 for cross checking at 13.06. Bees pressured hard with the two man advantage and the initial penalty to Jones ended but with Whitfield waiting to start Wildcats remained at 5 on 3 down. The Bees pressure was eventually broken when Harvey Stead’s low shot from the blue line was gloved safely by Renny Marr.

As Wildcats eventually returned to 4 skaters when Neil Liddiard returned to the ice a long speculative dump in from the far end was confidently fed back forward by the Bees, however they failed to replicate the earlier pressure.

A solo run by Zac Milton in the 17th minute saw Marr produce a save. Sam Godfrey then drew a save from Dean Skinns but Bees’ clearance wasn’t for long Wildcats fed straight back in quickly and shots from Bebris and Jones produced two short order saves from Dean Skinns.

A high shot from Anotonov saw Marr rise to save it but Bees continued pressuring the Wildcats zone until Marr eventually got a glove down to draw a whistle. As we entered the final minute of the first period Karel Richter attempted a wrap around but Marr deflected it away and the first period ended without a goal.

Wildcats got the initial better of the second period play but Scott Spearing released the first chance of the period with his high wrist shot cannoning round the boards and out the zone. Shortly after Aidan Doughty fed the puck out from the corner but with a mass of bodies from both teams nobody connected however Doughty rushed the net and picked up the puck, firing in a chance on the turn. Bees the suffered two almost back to back icing calls separated by just over seconds.

Vanya Antonov scrambled to get a stick on the end of a pass but only just connected leaving Marr a relatively easy save. Shortly afterwards it was another powerplay for the Wildcats as Luke Jackson took a slashing penalty at 23.48. Shorthanded Shaun Thompson rounded Maxim Bibraer but then found himself the victim of a holding penalty at 24.28 conceding 1.20 of 5 on 3.

Some good individual work by Antonov broke the first spell of Wildcats possession and although the Wildcats were quick on their transition Luke Jackson’s penalty expired leaving the Wildcats just a single man advantage but this was one they’d convert. A quick side to side pass landed for Birbrear from Bebris and Nell and Wildcats scored the opener at 26.10 ending Thompson’s penalty.

Roman Malinik used his speed to outskate the visitors defence and although it seemed Marr didn’t know much about the high wrist shot his reactions saw him deflect it over. Shortly after it was a Bees powerplay as Stephen Whitfield dumped Karel Richter in front of the goal earning himself an interference penalty at 28.00

Bees were level 35 seconds into the penalty as quick fire chances for Malink and Spearing left a rebound for Shaun Thompson who roofed the puck to the delight of the majority of the Hive.

Play was whistled down shortly after the centre ice face-off and not long after that re-start Whitfield was back in the box with a hooking penalty at 29.07.

Bees camped in the Wildcats end for the majority of the powerplay and a sharp deflection from Renny Marr denied a bullet wristed in by Roman Malinik. The home team took a while to clear and in doing so saw out the end of the powerplay.

Aaron Nell went down in front of the Bees net and the referee’s arm was raised almost immediately. The puck travelled end to end before a Dean Skinns save drew a whistle and Stephen Matthews sent Joe Baird off for the trip that took down Nell at 32.50.

A broken stick on a shot by the Wildcats saw the puck fall for Karel Richter who raced down the ice on an odd man rush with Aidan Doughty but his pass across to Doughty got lost in his skates and he couldn’t connect to get off a shot and another special teams opportunity ended.

A careless line change offered Bees another powerplay at 35.05 as the visiting team got caught for too many men with play in the neutral zone and all the officials watching the change. With face-off in the neutral zone the draw was won back to Edgars Bebris who battled to the net, drawing a hooking call against Roman Malinik but the delayed penalty was wiped out when Bebris scored high into the back of the Bees net, shorthanded, for 1-2.

It didn’t take long for Bees to level the game again as Karel Richter and Josh Smith headed towards the Wildcats goal, the former laid off for the latter by the goal line and casually flicked the puck on his stick blade before then flicking it tight just under the crossbar at 35.57 for a powerplay goal.

The second period saw a couple more chances but as had been the case the previous night the scores were tied at 2-2 as the players left the ice for the second interval.

Aaron Nell started the third period by rining the pipework round Dean Skinns net before Ben Paynter carried the puck into the Wildcats zone and started three quick saves in succession from Renny Marr, the Wildcats netminder sprawling and diving on the third to draw a whistle. Following three more saves at Swindon’s end Dean Skinns was tested.

The third period had started with high intensity and Shaun Thompson pinched back to stop a Wildcats clearance in front of their bench and his quick pass across found Brendon Baird but Marr saw every bit of the puck.

At 46.21 Sam Jones ran through a Bees player in the defensive zone and picked up a 2+10 checking from behind penalty. With tensions high after the hit Josh Martin and Sam Godfrey came together and picked up roughing minors at 46.50.

Bees took the lead thanks to a powerplay goal at 47.22 when Roman Malinik fired from near the hash marks Renny Marr had the angles covered but Scott Spearing was close enough to move in front and deflect the shot home for the go-ahead goal and the start of a ding-dong battle in the hunt for a regulation time win.

Luke Jackson took a minor for elbows at 47.54 and the Wildcats powerplay saw chances at both ends. Aaron Nell raced in towards the net but was saved, moments later he was back at the blue line and released a shot through traffic but the Bees shot-stopper never once lost sight of it. At the end of a long penalty killing shift Roman Malinik raced away short handed but his solo effort met with another save from Marr and Jackson duly returned.

A sharp save denied Jan Kostal at the back door and as Scott Spearing took the puck away to clear a high hit from Kostal angered the Bees player. The two ended up squaring up to each other but nothing further happened before Stephen Matthews called both players for roughing just shy of the 50 minute mark.

Bees played well on the 4 on 4 but neither team could find the back of the net. Back at 5 on 5 Karel Richter ended up with the puck following a broken play but Renny Marr stood firm.

Inside the last six minutes Stephen Whitfield tried a shot from the blue line with Shaun Thompson picking up the rebound. He raced away but Whitfield, chasing back, caught him just as he crossed the blue line taking the puck from him.

Scott Spearing attempted a second deflection of the night when Roman Malinik left a lovely drop pass for Ryan Sutton who fed the puck to the net but Marr wouldn’t be caught twice and ghosted across the cover the deflection.

Penalties weren’t done yet with Maxim Birbraer taking a 10 minute misconduct at 56.06 ending his participation in the game but it would be Wildcats who came away with a powerplay 13 seconds later when Aidan Doughty got called for hooking. Strength was levelled up again at 4 on 4 as Jan Kostal ended his night taking a 2 minute slashing penalty but adding a further 10 minutes at 57.19.

This time the open ice was captialised on by the visitors who levelled the game at 58.14 as Sam Jones stepped in to finish from Adam Harding firing in off the post.

Bees were back in the lead with 1.28 to play. As Aidan Doughty returned Bees got a short powerplay while the remainder of Jan Kostal’s penalty was served. Doughty rushed in to a broken play and finished for 4-3.

Brendon Baird took a 2 minute interference penalty with 42 seconds left in regulation time and added a 10 minute misconduct. Swindon Wildcats took their time out at this point and the restart saw Renny Marr stay on the bench for the extra skater. With half a minute to go Bees lead was eroded by Chris Jones who stepped out from bodies in front of the net to get the equalising goal.

As the 60 minute buzzer sounded the game was headed to 3 on 3 overtime. Bees started well with Stuart Mogg coming close with a back handed wrap around that flashed across the crease with nobody to feed home, and Ryan Sutton also fired from the hash marks with his shot going wide of the far post.

A quick transition play by the Wildcats from the Sutton chance saw Sam Bullas settled a bobbling puck and find the back of the net for the overtime winner at 62.31

Bracknell: Spearing 1+1; Thompson, Malinik 0+2; Doughty, Paynter, Smith 1+0; Antonov, Stead, Richter 0+1. Net: Skinns (62.13) 21/5
Swindon: Bebris 1+2; Jones 1+1; Godfrey 0+2; Bullas, Birbraer, Jones 1+0; Harding, Rutkis 0+1. Net: Marr (62.13) 31/4

Period Scores: 0-0/2-2/2-2/0-1
Shots On Goal: 31-21
Penalty Minutes: 28-64
Referee: S Matthews. Linesmen: F Sytch-Cunningham & C Edwards
Gamesheet: http://eihams.fixtureslive.com/matchSheet.aspx?fixtureid=2135451

After the game Head Coach Doug Sheppard shared his thoughts; “We’ve enjoyed a great weekend’s games and an opportunity to skate off the cobwebs! It was good to get everyone ice time as well through the weekend and test the players under all different circumstances.

“I think we improved massively from Saturday to Sunday. Penalties cost us across the weekend and special teams were the difference. There’s new rules this season that we have another weekend to work on before we hit the season proper.”

He finished by adding; “I’d like to thank the fans for a great turn out on Saturday and on Sunday. Hopefully that’s whetted your appetite for more.