The weekend started for the Berkshire Cycles Bracknell Bees with a visit to Swindon where the Wildcats were planning a party. With just a point needed for the Wildcats to take the NIHL1 Britton conference nothing but a Bees regulation time win could see the party postponed.
Swindon Wildcats 4 Berkshire Cycles Bracknell Bees 2
A fairly evenly matched first period saw the teams split by just an Aaron Nell strike at 13.29 meaning the first interval was taken with the score 1-0.
A delayed penalty strike from Tyler VanKleef at 23.47 levelled the game but Nell’s second, this one a powerplay goal at 25.49 put Swindon back ahead. The game winning goal came less than a minute later when Toms Rutkis converted another powerplay at 26.33 and a Sam Jones powerplay goal at 29.53 saw Swindon 4-1 ahead. A shorthanded second goal from VanKleef reduced the deficit to 4-2 at 33.47.
The teams ground out a scoreless third period with the Bees edging the shot count Renny Marr stood tall for all 16 shots to keep the net unbreached and see his side through to their league win.
Swindon: Nell 2+2; Rutkis 1+1; Birbraer 0+2; S Jones 1+0; C Jones, Hoog 0+1. Net: Marr (59.58) 35/2 & Empty Net (0.02) 0/0
Bracknell: VanKleef 2+0; Thompson 0+2. Net: Skinns (59.29) 37/4 & Empty Net (0.31) 0/0
Period Scores: 1-0/3-2/0-0
Shots On Goal: 37-35
Penalty Minutes: 6-28
Referee: S Matthews. Linesmen: N Ormond & C Edwards
On Sunday the Berkshire Cycles Bracknell Bees skated out on home ice for the final regular season game in what the schedule had thrown up as a preview of the South Play-offs opening round. Neither Bees nor Raiders could change their table position so all to play for was momentum going into the play-offs.
Berkshire Cycles Bracknell Bees 4 Raiders IHC 2
An end to end start saw Bees edge the early exchanges but they were caught against the run of play at 7.17 when a turnover proved costly. The puck fell for Juraj Huska who’s pass found Jake Sylvester skating in to beat Dean Skinns on the glove side. An even handed strike from Aidan Doughty saw the game level at 10.39, with the Bees set up in the zone they passed quickly and Doughty had the finish to find the way past Michael Gray.
The middle period could barely split the teams in terms of shots on goal but a huge error by Gray gifted Ryan Sutton possibly the easiest goal of the season. With Raiders on the powerplay and a defenceman chasing back a Bees clearance Gray skated to the corner and flicked the puck casually into the slot where Ryan Sutton was and he skated in a few strides before releasing into the open net at 30.49.
The third period had a play-off feel to it with some niggles and tensions boiling and the teams were clearly setting stalls for next weekend. Brendan Baird tapped in after being left unmarked at the far post at 45.01 to make it 3-1 and exactly 4 minutes later a shot from the blue line from Luke Jackson took a deflection from Vanya Antonov to Tyler VanKleef with the import finishing at close range for 4-1. Raiders did pull a goal back through Brandon Ayliffe on a shorthanded breakaway playing a patient game before netting at 52.17.
Bracknell: Malinik 0+2; Doughty, Sutton, B Baird, VanKleef 1+0; Stead, Antonov, Z Milton, Jackson 0+1. Net: Skinns (60.00) 23/2
Raiders IHC: Ayliffe 1+1; Sylvester 1+0; Huska, Smith 0+1/ Net: Gray (60.00) 37/4
Period Scores: 1-1/1-0/2-1
Shots On Goal: 37-23
Penalty Minutes: 14-12
After the weekend Doug Sheppard gave his thoughts; “We have lots of positives to take from the weekend; it was just the kick we need at this time of the season. It’s really important that we’re back finding our feet with still more to build on in the coming weeks.”
Looking ahead to the post-season he added; “It’s a big week of focus now working hard in training and putting ourselves in the right place mentally to go again next weekend in what will be a pulsating weekend of play-off hockey.”