Cox impressed by 'stronger' Bracknell Bees squadBy Adam Lee
June 20, 2012
Bracknell Bees coach Gareth Cox is delighted with how his team is shaping up ahead of the new EPIHL season, and expects them to be more of a force in the 2012/13 campaign.
Having failed to make the league play-offs for the past three seasons, Bees have decided to make some key changes in a bid to turn the tide.
However, they are determined to do so with as little alteration to the core of the squad as possible.
Cox and his assistant Lukas Smital have made the defence their top priority – in particular making the blue line tighter and also increasing the points that Bees’ D-men are producing.
They have already sought to address that with the signing of Sam Oakford and Marcel Petran from Basingstoke Bison.
And although Bees have lost some integral defencemen from last season, another influential addition to the blue line is expected to be finalised in the coming weeks.
“I’m very pleased with how things are going,” said Cox.
“We look more competitive and stronger than last year and hopefully, with a little bit of luck and few better results, we will be in for improvement.
“We said at the end of the season that we wouldn’t make a lot of changes.
“We were happy with how most of the players performed, but we are also limited in that we don't have an endless pot of money.
“We feel we have got the best we can with the money we had available and the players we have brought in, secondary scoring is going to be a big thing.
"We needed a few more goals from our D-men and I'm sure Petran and Oaky will bring that."
But as well as the changes to the defence, Cox and Smital are also looking for a change in attitude from the forward line.
In a bid to bump up their goals tally, Cox is looking to concentrate his efforts on a smaller squad, allowing the third line more ice time on match nights.
Such a decision, however, does leave a question mark hanging over the Bees' future of Michael Bowman, Alex Barker and Scott Spearing.
All three have yet to be announced as signing for next season, and with Bees expected to run with a smaller squad, then their places are certainly under threat.
"We needed a bit more continuity from our forwards and hopefully we will get that next season," said Cox.
"We need more consistency from them - more regular points – we don't want bit part players, but rather players that will contribute to the team every week.
"We're also going with a slightly smaller squad this year so that everyone gets the most ice time they can.
"It's hard for the guys on the third line to get any momentum and that was one of the areas we identified from the start.
"We decided we wanted to give them more of a shot."
Two players definitely returning for Bees are forward Matt Foord and defenceman Ben Johnson.
Both impressed last season, and were seen by Cox as vital players for the coming season.
"Ben has been with me for a while and he improves year on year – we're really pleased with him," he said.
"He's young and keen and just wants to keep playing and imprioving.
"Foordy led the team on hits last season and is a fantastic two-way forward.
"He's great in the room and was one of the first guys we wanted to get back."