M4 Derby Series Pre-season Challenge 1st Leg Match Report (by John Slater)
Swindon Wildcats 7 – 2 Bracknell Bees
The Bracknell Bees headed along the M4 to face their local rivals, the Swindon Wildcats, in pre-season M4 Derby Series 1st leg action.
This was the first match action for the new look Bees but unfortunately Krystof Kafan would be unable to take part due to ITC clearance issues. The squad was at full strength apart from Kaftan’s absence and young Matt Smital got the nod to start the game between the pipes for the Bees. The Wildcats went into the game missing Tomasz Malasinski who was international duty and replaced by Ben Davies who has been signed on a temporary deal. Veteran netminder Stevie Lyle started the game in the ‘Cats net. Referee Paul Brooks took charge of the match with Nathan Ormond and James Ions on the lines.
For a pre-season game the match started at a fast pace with the home side having the better of the early play and chances. Matt Smital was solid in the Bees net turning away early shots from Max Birbaer and Ben Davies. With a little over three minutes on the clock Bees Josh Tetlow was penalised for boarding and the Bees penalty kill unit got its first taste of action and stood firm including a top drawer pad save from Matt Smital. Having seen off the powerplay the Bees started to get a foothold in the game and Josh Smith came close to breaking the deadlock. A further penalty on the Bees with seven and a half minutes gone, this time on James Galazzi for holding, saw the Wildcats take advantage to net the first goal of the game. A long range shot from Callum Buglass finding its way past a screened Matt Smital. The home side extended their lead a little over two minutes later as Ben Davies and Max Birbraer combined with Birbraer finding the back of the net. The Bees didn’t let their heads drop though with both Lukas Smital and Carl Thompson forcing Stevie Lyle into action in the Swindon net. A scramble in front of the Bees net, which Matt Smital did well to cover, led to a confrontation between Josh Tetlow and Kyle Smith with both receiving two minutes roughing and the Wildcats player receiving a further cross checking penalty too. The Bees headed on to the powerplay and immediately applied pressure with Alex Barker and Martin Pavlicek coming close and a goal mouth scramble being cleared by the Wildcats defence too. With the teams back to full strength a turnover at center ice led to a Wildcats break and Toms Rutkis converted the chance to extend the home sides lead to three goals. Again though the Bees stuck at the task at hand and Carl Thompson and Scott Spearing combined well with Spearing’s shot missing narrowly wide. Rio Grinell-Parke, Alex Barker and Matt Foord also came close but couldn’t find a way past Stevie Lyle. From nothing a deflected shot from Aaron Nell snuck its way past Matt Smital for the ‘Cats fourth goal but it was the Bees who finished the period on the front foot as Lukas Smital went coast to coast only to see the final shot saved before a blast from David Gaborcik went close too.
After an action packed first period the second was a quieter affair with the action swinging from end to end and the sides exchanging chances. Lukas Smital, Matt Foord and Josh Smith went close to netting the Bees first goal while Matt Smital denied Ben Davies and Michael Stratford. A David Gaborcik chance missed narrowly wide and a Martin Pavlicek break was well saved by Lyle. Another big save from Matt Smital denied Max Bribaer shortly before a big blast from Neil Liddiard was tipped in front by Jonas Hoog and the puck nestled in the back of the Bees net to extend the home sides lead further. The Bees had a chance to narrow the lead however as Jan Kostal headed to the Wildcats penalty box on a boarding minor. Good efforts from Matt Foord and Martin Pavlicek were turned away by Stevie Lyle and at a break in play the Wildcats took the decision to replace Lyle with Michael Crisp for the remainder of the match. As the penalty on Kostal ticked down the Wildcats broke through Jonas Hoog who setup Aaron Nell for Swindon’s sixth goal. To the Bees credit however just under two minutes later their efforts paid off as Lukas Smital finished a nice move between Rio Grinell-Parke and Martin Pavlicek for the Bees first goal. The Bees kept up the pressure for the remainder of the period with Alex Barker forcing a glove save out of Crisp before another goal mouth scramble in front of the ‘Cats net. Martin Pavlicek, Carl Thompson and Rio Grinell-Parke all forced Crisp into action as well as again the Bees finished the period on the front foot.
The Bees came out for the third period looking for an early goal to narrow the lead and nearly found it as a Scott Spearing shot was spilt by Crisp in the Swindon net but despite the scramble that resulted the Wildcats managed to clear their lines. The Bees kept up the early pressure and with just under six minutes gone in the final stanza the Bees netted their second goal of the evening with Carl Thompson finishing well following good work from Luka Basic and Scott Spearing. Matt Smital stacked the pads shortly after to deny Floyd Taylor a good opportunity and shortly after he also denied Ben Davies well too. The final goal of the game came with a little over twelve minutes remaining as Ben Davies finished a breakaway chance. The Bees found themselves on the powerplay only seconds later as Stevie Whitfield headed to the Swindon penalty box for hooking. Despite the pressure that the Bees applied though Michael Crisp stood firm to all the Bees could throw at him. The final ten minutes of the game were scrappy with the home side looking to see out the clock and the Bees pushing forward at every opportunity but unable to find another way past the Wildcats defence. With no further scoring the home side saw out the victory but the Bees will be happy enough with their first outing with promising signs evident.
Man of the match awards went to young Matt Smital in the Bees net and Adam Finlinson for the home side Wildcats.
Period scores: 4-0, 2-1, 1-1
Wildcats scorers: Nell 2+0; Hoog 1+2; Davies 1+1; Rutkis, Birbraer & Buglass 1+0; Finlinson 0+2; Stone, Smith, Bullas, Richardson, Whitfield & Liddiard 0+1
Bees scorers: Smital & Thompson 1+0; Pavlicek, Basic, Grinell-Parke & Spearing 0+1
Wildcats PIMS: 8 (K.Smith 4, Kostal & Whitfield 2)
Bees PIMS: 6 (Tetlow 4 & Galazzi 2)
Shots on Wildcats (Lyle & Crisp): 10 (6,4,0) & 16 (0, 8, 8)
Shots on Bees (M.Smital): 35 (14, 11, 10)