Featured in the paper every Thursday, Bracknell Bees head coach Doug Sheppard gives his latest views on the club’s season on and off the ice in an exclusive column.
I SIGNED off my column two weeks ago with the advice for Bees fans to “expect the unexpected”. I didn’t think those words would come true so soon.
Last week we were all gripped by cup fever, as we looked forward to the first leg of our semi-final on home ice against Peterborough. We’ve got a strong record of home wins, and we expected the biggest crowd of the season.
What no-one expected was that the game would be postponed because of the weather.
When you’ve got games back-to-back, which was intended, you’re playing a 120-minute game of hockey. If we’d travelled up to Peterborough on Sunday after a good home performance, I knew the team would carry that confidence on to the ice for the final 60 minutes. They would continue the smart, simple team game that has been so successful this season.
Josh Smith got us off to a great start, but our play lacked composure. Cup hockey is exciting, but players need to channel the excitement constructively.
When the game began to slip away from us, I called a time-out to remind the players that the semi-final wouldn’t be decided on this one game. They pulled the score back to 6-3 in the final minute.
So there’s all to play for when we meet for the return leg.
There’s no need to go all out to get the three goals back in the first period. Let’s look for a lead, knowing that a goal advantage in each period would set up another great night of hockey in the Hive.
Meantime, it’s back to league hockey this weekend, away in Swindon on Saturday and at home on Sunday against Invicta.
Let’s keep the Hive buzzing, whatever the weather.
Meanwhile, The Wokingham Paper also spoke with Sheppard this week to get his thoughts ahead of this weekend’s games.
The two challenges could not be more contrasting, travelling to league leaders Swindon Wildcats on Saturday (6.15pm) before welcoming rock-bottom Invicta Dynamos to The Hive on Sunday (6pm).
Just four points separate Bracknell in fourth and table-topping Swindon, who themselves suffered disappointment at the weekend as they lost 9-8 on aggregate in their cup semi-final against Basingstoke Bison.
And Sheppard is pleased to still be fighting on three fronts as Bees seek a first trophy since 2007.
“Swindon are going to have a similar disappointment to us and they’re definitely going to want to bounce back,” said Bracknell’s boss.
“It’s a tough place to go so that is going to be a tough game, no question about it.
“But we’ve shown we’re capable of beating any team when we play the right way.”
He added: “I’d be lying if I said the league is out of reach.
“It’s certainly one thing we’re gearing up for.
“We’ve got league games, we’ve got that big cup semi-final game coming up and you want to be playing well heading into the play-offs as well.
“There’s still three things that we’re focusing on, so we haven’t given up on any of them.”