Weekend preview – The season starts here

Following two weeks of pre-season the 2019/20 season of the NIHL National League gets underway this weekend for the TSI World Bracknell Bees with a home and away clash against Peterborough Phantoms.

The Bees and Phantoms last met at the business end of last season when they contested the NIHL Britton Conference Play Off Final with the Phantoms running out winners on that occasion.

Since then there’s been a change in league structure but not many changes in our opponents with the Phantoms taking the unusual step early in the summer of announcing the return of the 18/19 team as Head Coach Slava Koulikov moved to retain the majority of his successful team. The Phantoms contested their pre-season last weekend playing Basingstoke Bison for the Billy Glover Memorial Trophy and ran out victors over the two legs.

Last weekend in contrast proved a juggling challenge for Bees Coach Doug Sheppard with Sunday’s game finishing with a very short bench available to the Head Coach. Having lost Robin Kovar in the opening weekend of the pre-season Bees injuries mounted in the second weekend with a very short bench digging deep in Romford against the Raiders.

The Bees expect a number of those injured to be back in the line up this weekend for their season opener.

Each first game of the season doubles up for both league and cup points so with this being the Phantoms first visit to the Hive in 19/20 and Sunday being the reciprocal fixture both this weekend’s games are for league and cup points.

Despite the disappointing scoreline on Sunday at Romford there are a lot of positives to take from pre-season and it’s those that the Bees will be focusing on building on in practice this week ahead of the two encounters to get the season underway.

Head Coach Doug Sheppard explained; “Every team will face adversity this season, ours has come early with the injuries suffered in pre-season. I have great belief in this team and can’t wait to get the league games started. I’m confident that the guys in the lineup will step up and get the job done this weekend.”

This Saturday is another AVSS School Zone game and also the Bees second induction into the Hive of Fame. Last season Bees founder John Nike OBE was posthumously enrolled into the Hive of Fame and on Saturday night on ice Bees legend Matt Cote will be at the Hive for his enduction.

Tickets are on sale now for this mouthwatering night of hockey on Saturday. Doors open at 5.30pm and face-off is at 6.15pm. The following night the Bees are in Peterborough for the return fixture, face-off is 5.30pm