Weekend preview – Cats and Lightning ahead

The league and cup season continues for the TSI World Bracknell Bees this weekend as they travel to Swindon for the Saturday fixture before welcoming the Milton Keynes Lightning to the Hive on Sunday with both games doubling up for points across both competitions.

The Bees and Wildcats have already met this season with pre-season clashes in both Wiltshire and Berkshire. On both occasions it was the visiting team who ran out winners. Swindon currently sit in third place in the National table with 2 wins and 2 overtime losses from their four outings and a goal difference of +6. Wildcats Tomasz Malasinki and Maxim Bibraer lead the league in scoring with a combined 23 points from 4 games, Malasinki contributing 6+8 to that tally. Their leading Brit point scorer is Aaron Nell with 7 points.

Renny Marr, the Wildcats starting goaltender, recorded a shut-out last weekend as his team ran out 5-0 winners over Peterborough Phantoms and boasts a 90.45% save percentage.

On Sunday the Bees will welcome the Lightning to the Hive for the first time since the EPL days. The Lightning’s venture to the Elite League is over and they’ve returned to the second tier of UK hockey.

Their rosters boasts a familiarity with former Thunder Coach Lewis Clifford moving up in the MK structure to coach the senior team this year. Clifford was a former assistant coach at the Lightning. Moving up this summer he brought with him Jordan Lawday to tend the net and forwards Rio Grinell-Parke, Grant McPherson and Hallden Barnes-Garner together with defenceman Ross Green.

Changes were forced upon the Lightning with last year’s roster being an Elite League roster with far less stringent “import” restrictions but there were contract extensions for forward Harry Fergusson and defenceman James Griffin.

Clifford has recruited from across last season’s NIHL to fill his 19/20 roster with signings coming from both the North and South conferences of NIHL1. Leigh Jamieson returns to the Lightning after a couple of seasons in Streatham and with him comes Ben Russell. Last season’s Basingstoke Captain Russell Cowley returns closer to home as he links up with the Lightning this season while Telford’s 18/19 squad provides forward Brodie Jesson and defenceman Jordan Stokes for this year’s Lightning Roster. Elite League experienced forward Carl Tanaka comes in from the Solways Sharks, with Czech Tomas Kana returning to the UK 4 years after his 14 game spell with Swindon. Finn Ari Närhi makes his UK debut this season and has 2 goals from his first three outings.

Since the Bees opening game in Swindon Head Coach Doug Sheppard is yet to ice his full roster. Robin Kovar picked up an injury in the first game that’s prevented him from icing since and has been joined by a host of other players. The Bees are hoping to see these injuries subside and to get the full squad back out on the ice.

Head Coach Doug Sheppard looked forward to this weekend’s games; “If all goes well this week in training we should be getting 3 players back from injury. We’ve been playing some good hockey short benched, we’re going to need everyone going as we look for our first 4 point weekend of the season.”

Bees play at Swindon on Saturday in a 6.15 face-off before the Sunday home game against Milton Keynes, facing off at 5.30 at the Hive.  You can book tickets via 01344 789000.