This weekend the TSI World Bracknell Bees have the chance to reignite an old rivalry and start a new one as they play at Basingstoke on Saturday before welcoming new team Leeds to the Hive on Sunday.
Last year’s clashes between Bees and Bison were fierce encounters and this season promises to be no different. Both teams have moved to the National League and the new season sees the competition recommence. Since the teams last met there have been some changes in both rosters. Basingstoke lost their captain, Russ Cowley, who moved on during the closed season but captured the signature of Ryan Sutton who was in the Bees roster last season.
The Bison roster this season has expanded from last season with a number of two-way contract players also added giving them the challenge of getting everyone a fair share of game opportunities. Despite the Player/Coach, Ashley Tait, being 44 the team is young with an average age of less than 24 years.
Between the pipes is former Bees shot stopper Alex Mettam who will once again take the bulk of the duties this season with Dan Weller-Evans ready to take up the other games. “Import” slots remain taken by Richard Bordowski and Michal Klejna who both had respectable seasons last year.
The following night action returns to the Hive and the Leeds Chiefs make their first visit to Berkshire. The Chiefs are a brand new team this season playing out of the newly opened rink in Leeds. They’ve had a successful summer of recruitment, starting with Sam Zajac as Player/Coach. Zajac hjas built a good team around him for their inaugural season.
Goaltending is looking after by Sam Gospel. The former Nottingham Lions goaltender made his name with Telford Tigers where he played 4 seasons in their EPL years. During that time he also made guest appearances for Nottingham Panthers in the Elie League. Last season he was back at Telford and this season will take the bulk of the netminding duties for the Chiefs.
There’s a lot of names that will be familiar to hockey fans with Luke Boothroyd and Steve Duncombe lining up in defence alongside the lesser experienced Lewis Baldwin, Tyler Nixon and Bobby Streetly and of course Zajac himself. Up front there’s James Archer, once a stalwart at Manchester before playing a season in Peterborough and two in Hull. Richard Bentham has played for numerous teams over the last 13 years before settling in Leeds this season. Joe Coulter has been pretty impressive with Solways Sharks over the last few years before joining the new Leeds organisation this season.
Add in Andres Kopstals and Radek Meidl and they have the bases covered this season. The biggest challenge facing Zajac will be to gel his players into a team in a fast-paced, competitive league.
Bees Head Coach Doug Sheppard said; “Basingstoke have a similar team to last season, we know Saturday will be a tough game. We don’t know a whole lot about Leeds but looking at their roster they have a number of good, experienced players. We’re looking forward to building on the positives from last weekend.”
Bees play in Basingstoke on Saturday night at 6.30pm before a Sunday home game against Leeds at the Hive where face-off is 5.30pm