The Berkshire Cycles Bracknell Bees put pre-season behind them and took to the ice for the opening weekend of the season, starting on home ice against Raiders IHC.
The Bees also started a four game suspension carried over from last season meaning they can only ice one import for the first four games of the season.
Berkshire Cycles Bracknell Bees 6 Raiders IHC 4
The game started end to end with both teams playing defensive hockey and not wanting to create an early costly error. Harvey Stead was first to try and hit the target but the puck screamed past the outside of the post and came all the way back out to neutral ice. Raiders Captain Aaron Connolly came to test Dean Skinns and the play saw Ben Paynter pick up the game’s first penalty as he started a 2 minute tripping penalty at 3.15.
Josh Smith raced toward the Raiders net shorthanded but fired high, then quick transition saw Aaron Connolly back testing the Bees netminder. With the puck being cycled round the zone by the Raiders a loose puck allowed Bees to not only clear but break again shorthanded but Michael Grey was down quickly to cover the puck.
Bees returned to full strength and got a chance to regroup when Harvey Stead stood up Filip Sedivy and cleared the zone. With the Bees chasing the puck down the ice their shift became long and Juraj Huska capitalised by skating in and shooting almost unchallenged but shot high so Dean Skinns watched it sail over the crossbar.
The home team got the start they wanted at 7.15 with a quick play off the face-off. With the draw happening to the right of Michael Grey Shaun Thompson came away with the puck and moved into position, waited until he’d committed Grey then picked his spot and scored for 1-0.
As the midway mark of the first period came both teams were still focussing on defence but a close call for Dean Skinns saw the puck drop down in his skates and deflected backwards. The Bees shot-stopper reacted quickly to prevent a goal. On the play Bradon Ayliffe took a slashing penalty and Bees therefore got their first powerplay of the night.
With the Bees on the powerplay there was a stoppage in play at 11.02 as Oliver Baldock went down on the blue line and stayed down. The Raiders therapist was quickly out to tend to him and he was helped to his feet by his team mates who then helped him straight to the dressing room.
Off the re-start Raiders sprung a shorthanded 2 on 1 but Huska elected to try solo and shot from the hash marks to be denied by Dean Skinns. There was a chance right on the doorstep for Ryan Sutton as the Raiders penalty elapsed but he couldn’t capitalise.
Joe Baird sat out a tripping penalty at 12.50 and with Roman Malinik in alone shorthanded Dan Scott was called for slashing at 14.00 leaving 4 on 4 for the remainder of the Baird penalty. Huska skated in and cut across unleashing a backhanded chance as Bees returned to full strength and Roman Malinik found Shaun Thompson who skated the left wing but Michael Grey made the save. Hot off the save though Bees retained possession and Josh Martin and Vanya Antonov combined to feed Roman Malinik who found the back of the net at 15.49.
It wasn’t long before the goal lamp behind Grey was lit again. This time it was Harvey Stead and Aidan Doughty with the assists as Doughty found stead at the blue line who shot in and despite Grey making the save Roman Malinik was perfectly positioned to deal with the rebound at 17.05.
With 18 minutes played Joe Baird started a holding penalty and 30 seconds in Juraj Huska shot unsuccessfully at Dean Skinns from the hash marks but a minute in John Connolly stepped and shot with a powerful drive which Mason Webster got a re-direct on to open the visitors account at 19.00.
The first period ended with four goals split 3-1 in favour of the Bees.
Bees got the jump early in the second period as Shaun Thompson tried his luck, then got his own rebound and fed back to the blue line but before the puck could reach its destination the net was off behind the Raiders’ goaltender and Stephen Matthews blew the whistle to have it replaced.
Raiders pulled back to within a goal despite having neither team having clear possession. Dan Scott dumped in and neither team could get controlled possession but Raiders capitalised on the broken play when Blahoslav Novak scored at 22.29.
Roman Malinik’s hat-trick attempt was just squeezed out by Grey who left the puck tantalisingly at the top of his crease but nobody could get to it before Raiders cleared. Bees were back quickly after just 19 seconds but Grey had control of this one and made the save.
Good back checking by Scott Spearing denied Liam Chong the chance to finish his run with any conviction leaving an easy save but then Spearing was surrounded by Raiders defenceman when Roman Malinik left him a drop pass and he could get no control of it as the Raiders disrupted the play well.
Ryan Sutton sent one in towards the net which Shaun Thompson deflected but not by enough to get past the Raiders final line of defence and 10 seconds after Novak was called for delay of the game giving Bees another powerplay.
The game pulled level just 20 seconds into the Bees powerplay when Liam Chong lifted the puck high into the net at 25.30.
Chances came at both ends with the game tied, Roman Malinik drove a powerful wrist shot which snuck by one side and off the back boards Shaun Thompson got the puck and his shot snuck by the far post. JJ Pitchley was in prime place on the door step but Dean Skinns sharp save dealt with that.
A period of Bees pressure saw Vanya Antonov pass to Josh Smith but Smith was taken out before he received the puck saw Matthew Turner sat out an interference minor at 29.34.
Roman Malinik held in a wayward pass at the blue line but his pass to Vanya Antonov got trapped in traffic. Moments later Antonov was back in possession but his shot past through the open roof tile matrix drawing a whistle as Raiders returned to full strength.
With 4.37 left in the middle period Vanya Antonov came in and laid a big hit behind the goal before skating out to pick up the puck and slide it in the target at 35.23.
Roman Malinik turned on his speed in an effort to make the lead two goals but couldn’t break free from Julian Smith however. Then Raiders found themselves with a possession in the zone and a free man and Scott and Sylvester combined to find Turner free for the equaliser at 37.58
A coming together in front of the Raiders net saw their goaltender Michael Grey and Bees’ Josh Martin get matching slashing minors at 38.14 and with two chances for Stuart Mogg going untaken the middle period ended 4-4.
14 seconds into the third period the teams returned to full strength and not long after Vanya Antonov held in a clearance and fed Josh Smith who skated in but hooked it just outside the right post. Roman Malinik was next in on net but his shot deflected up and into the netting. Michael Grey dived out of his crease to freeze a dump in as three Bees players made their way to the net.
Vanya Antonov was away on an odd man rush and quickly joined by Stuart Mogg and Josh Smith but as Antonov fed his pass to the far wing he looked behind to see both Mogg and Smith on the same wing as him.
The Raiders got a powerplay at 46.39 when the home team were caught out on a change with a too many men penalty. The biggest chance on the Raiders powerplay came at their own end when Josh Smith was away shorthanded but he was quickly circled by three Raiders and left no opportunity to release a shot.
Back at even strength Matthew Turner advanced into the Bees zone but as he passed the hash marks Edward Knaggs dispossessed him skillfully. Action returned to the other end when Brendon Baird and Josh Martin had a 2 on 1 and that chance was quickly followed by Antonov tipping a Knaggs shot but again Grey kept the net unbreached.
At 52.49 there was nothing he could do to prevent the Bees getting ahead as Vanya Antonov found Ryan Sutton and Sutton carried the puck to the net. He got into a bit of bother with the Raiders defence hustling him by the side of the net but he skilfully flicked the puck to the top of the crease where Josh Smith was waiting to tap in for 5-4.
James Galazzi fell foul of a clipping call at 53.57 but with Bees in possession play continued long enough for Filip Sedivy to bundle Dean Skinns into his own net. As play stopped there was no call made on the Skinns play but Galazzi headed off to serve his clipping minor.
With nothing happening on the powerplay Galazzi returned and Michael Grey got a huge slice of assistance from Dan Scott making a save with the goaltender out of position but Grey was back between the pipes to save the next chance from Aidan Doughty.
Victory was virtually sealed at 58.16 when Vanya Antonov and Josh Smith headed towards the Raiders net, sliding the puck back and forth between the two. As they got closed Smith fed to Antonov for the clinical blow with 1.44 left to play. Raiders called their time-out as the Hive celebrated the goal.
Roman Malinik advanced to the empty net with Raiders keeping Grey on the bench from the time-out but Dan Scott was between Malinik and the target so the Bees’ forward just tried to power the puck through the Raiders’ defenceman.
A stop in play with 16.9 seconds left, and face-off in the Raiders end saw Grey return to the net and he couldn’t get off the ice again during the remainder of the game so Bees ran out 6-4 winners in their league opener.
Bracknell: Antonov 2+2; Smith, Malinik 1+1; Doughty, Thompson 1+0; Knaggs, Sutton, Stead, Martin, Galazzi 0+1. Net: Skinns (60.00) 23/4
Raiders IHC: Chong 1+1; Turner, M Webster, Novak 1+0; J Connolly, Smith, Sylvester, Sedivy, Ayliffe, Scott 0+1. Net: Grey (59.35) 35/6 & Empty Net (0.25) 0/0
Period Scores: 3-1/1-3/2-0
Shots On Goal: 35-23
Penalty Minutes: 14-12
Referee: S Matthews. Linesmen:
On Sunday, after a road trip to Gillingham the Berkshire Cycles Bracknell Bees took on Invicta Dynamos.
Invicta Dynamos 2 Berkshire Cycles Bracknell Bees 3
A short-benched Bees team got off to a good start when Stuart Mogg scored just 6.55 into the game and Josh Martin doubled the lead at 13.38 with the visitors ending the first period ahead by two goals.
Josh Martin’s second game on the powerplay at 30.37, scored while Dynamos’ Matt Foord was sitting out a tripping penalty. With Bees clear by 3 Grant Bartlett netted the opener for the home team at 31.56 and at 34.43 Ondrej Zosiak scored their second to set up a close final period.
Both teams had chances in the third period but good netminding ensured the score at the end of the second period stayed to form the result.
Invicta: G Barlett 1+1; Zosiak 1+0. Net: Long (58.57) 54/4 & Empty Net (1.03) 0/0
Bracknell: Martin 2+0; Doughty 0+2; Mogg 1+0; Galazzi, Malinik 0+1. Net: Skinns (60.00) 38/2
Period Scores: 0-2/2-1/0-0
Shots On Goal: 38-54
Penalty Minutes: 6-4
Referee: P Brooks. Linesmen: O’Neil & West
Bees Head Coach Doug Sheppard summed up the weekend; “You’re happy any time you walk away with 4 point weekend. We played 4 good periods across the weekend but we didn’t have our best performances in the 2nd period in either game and we need to work on that. I’m really happy with the way we responded though, especially on Sunday being as short benched as we were. Deank Skinns did good job closing down this weekend and few guys who perhaps wouldn’t have expected the ice time they got stepped up; Zack Milton, in particular, has come a long way since we first saw him in the summer.
“I think as a whole from pre-season to this weekend we were better defensively but we’re aware there’s plenty of room for improvement.”