Smital: Improvement is our No.1 priorityBy Adam Lee
August 09, 2012
Lukas Smital is reluctant to talk up Bracknell Bees’ chances of success in the EPIHL this season, instead simply focusing on improving last season’s ninth-place finish.
Bees found out the hard way last season that there is a very fine line between success and failure, losing 10 of their games either in overtime or on penalty shots, and a further five matches by just a single goal.
Obviously, the chances of Bracknell turning every single one of those matches into wins would have been a huge ask, but in those games alone, there are 20 points that Bracknell could have potentially added to their total.
And the No.1 priority for player/assistant coach Smital is to see improvement on that record.
He admits Bees must adjust to the loss of key defencemen Ricky Skene and Carl Graham, as well as last season’s third import forward Peter Jasik.
However, with three new defencemen in Marcel Petran, Sam Oakford and Jan Bendik, as well as the arrival of enigmatic British forward Ollie Bronniman, Smital believes the loss of those players will not be felt quite so keenly.
“I thought we played better hockey last year than we had in previous seasons and next year we want to go higher and higher,” said Smital.
“I never make excuses, but we lost so many games by just one goal or in a shoot-out.
“They’re the points that if they had gone our way would have put us in the play-offs and it would have been a different story.
“No-one is irreplaceable. We have replaced those players (Skene, Graham and Jasik) with different players and we now have to adjust ourselves to not only not having them anymore, but also to having the new players in the team.
“We know what it takes to get to the play-offs and hopefully these guys we have signed will make the difference.
“Ollie Bronnimann is one of the top British forwards and our job is to get him on top of his game.
“There is absolutely no reason why he can’t be one of the top British points scorers.
“We have also got quite a strong Hornets team at the moment, so there will be guys on a two-way deal just in case of injuries.
“That is a big advantage for us as a club.”
With the announcement of the EPIHL fixture list last week, Bees were presented with perhaps the most difficult opening weekend in recent history, facing a new-look Basingstoke Bison away on Saturday September 15, and then hosting Guildford Flames the following night.
Rather than be intimidated by the daunting start, though, Smital is relishing the challenge.
He is well aware that at least one positive result in that opening weekend could provide a springboard for Bees to push on in the following weeks and months.
“We have got a tough start and it is going to be a huge test for us, but you don’t win or lose the season in the opening weekend,” he said.
“We will do our best to be prepared for it and I actually prefer to have the stronger teams early in the season so that we can see where we are.
“If we can get a good result it will be a big confidence boost and could carry us through the first few weeks of the season and maybe even further – hopefuly that will be the case.”