Bees prepare for tough opening weekend to new seasonBy Adam Lee
September 13, 2012
Bracknell Bees' EPIHL season gets underway this weekend with what appears, on paper, to be perhaps the team’s most difficult double header all season.
However, although assistant coach Lukas Smital agrees the matches at Basingstoke Bison on Saturday (6.30pm face-off) and at home to Guildford Flames on Sunday (6pm) will be monumental challenges, he believes it will be the first of many more challenging weekends to come – 22 more in fact.
That is because the Czech forward is anticipating an even stronger league in 2012/13, and believes the EPIHL will be even tighter than last year.
Despite being vastly improved on recent seasons, Bees’ main downfall last year was the fact that the league was so well-fought, meaning lower-placed teams were regularly picking up points against the title-challengers.
So although Bees’ return of 46 points would have been enough to see them into the play-offs in the two years previous, it was only good enough for ninth spot last term.
And Smital believes the league is set to be just as exciting again.
“Any weekend is going to be tough this year,” he said.
“All the strength is spread around the league and any team can beat any team.
“I think it will be just as tight as last year and there might actually be a closer gap between first and sixth, maybe even lower – but it’s hard to predict.”
Where Bees fit into that remains to be seen, and if they are to improve on last year then they will need to discover their goalscoring form quickly, having lost 4-1 and 2-1 to Slough Jets in the Battle of Berkshire Cycles pre-season games last weekend.
Without a third import forward, Bees' British players are under more pressure to deliver, and will need to better the weekend’s goalscoring ratio of one goal for every 40 shots.
Consolation for Bees fans will be the fact that they created plenty of goalscoring opportunities, with Smital himself twice hitting the frame of the goal in Sunday’s home leg.
But the question as to whether or not Bees can bridge the gap on the top teams will become clearer in the next month, and this weekend’s fixtures, against a new-look Basingstoke and a perrenially strong Flames, will not be the greatest benchmark to measure their progress.
“We have a chance (of making the top six), but our goal is to make the play-offs.
“If we get any higher then its a bonus but we need to make the play-offs and then try to get to Coventry.
“The important thing, though, is that we have to take it little by little and step by step.”
Slough Jets 4 Bracknell Bees 1: Period: 2-0, 2-0, 0-1. SOG: 29-46. PIM: 92-68. Jets: Bakrlik 2+0, Barker 1+1, Connolly 1+0, Davies 0+2, Kieras, Bruce 0+1. Bees: Bronnimann 1+0, Smital, Thompson 0+1.
Bracknell Bees 1 Slough Jets 2: Period: 1-1, 0-0, 0-1. SOG: 34-29, PIM: 28-38: Bees: Masa 1+0, Bendick, Smital 0+1. Jets: Bruce, Kozic 1+0, Davies, Kieras, Towalski 0+1.