M4 Derby Series Pre-season Challenge 2nd Leg Match Report (by John Slater)
Bracknell Bees 5 – 3 Swindon Wildcats
The Bracknell Bees returned to The Hive on Sunday for the 2nd leg of the pre-season M4 Derby Series Challenge versus their local rivals the Swindon Wildcats.
The first match in front of the home crowd for the Bees saw Krystof Kafan unfortunately unable to take part due to ITC clearance issues. The squad was at full strength apart from Kaftan’s absence and Alex Mettam got the nod to start the game in net for the Bees. Tomasz Malasinski was missing from the Wildcats line-up, away on international duty, and replaced by Ben Davies who has been signed on a temporary deal. Veteran netminder Stevie Lyle again started the game in the ‘Cats net. Referee Stefan Hogarth took charge of the match with Nathan Carmichael and Jason Earl.
The game got off to a cagey start with both sides looking for the early chance but as the sides battled for the early advantage chances were at a premium until the home side Bees applied the first piece of pressure with three rapid chances. The first game to Rio Grinell-Parke on a break which Stevie Lyle was equal too, almost immediately from that save Josh Tetlow found James Galazzi whose shot was tipped wide. Finally Lukas Smital set up Matt Foord with a great chance but a pad save from Lyle kept the score sheet clean. Alex Mettam was called into action in the Bees net as Toms Rutkis and Aaron Nell combined to force a pad save from the Bracknell keeper. The first goal of the evening came for the visiting side as Kyle Smith fortuitously bundled the puck past Mettam to give the Wildcats the lead with just over six minutes gone. Buoyed by the goal Swindon stepped up the pressure and during a scramble in front of the Bees net Ben Davies and Carl Graham clashed and with the Wildcats player receiving an extra two minutes the Bees headed on to the powerplay but couldn’t make the advantage count. The extra man advantage for the Bees was extended as Stevie Whitfield headed to the box for elbows – this time the home side took full advantage as Carl Thompson set up Luka Basic who finished in close to level the scores. The Bees finished the period on the front foot with Lukas Smital trying a wraparound effort and Carl Graham letting rip with a long range shot.
The early minutes of the second period were scrappy with limited chances at either end of the ice but an early penalty on the Wildcats Stevie Whitfield gave the Bees an early powerplay. It was Swindon who would come close however, a man down, when a breakaway for Jonas Hoog was tipped wide by Alex Mettam. The sides exchanged opportunities as Lukas Smital, Matt Foord and Carl Thompson all forced Lyle into action whilst Alex Mettam was kept busy by Sam Bullas and Ben Davies. The sides also exchanged power plays with Jos Tetlow and then Adam Finlinson heading to the box. Both defences stood firm to the advantage however. A forced turnover at center ice half way through the period saw Luka Basic and Scott Spearing combine well and Carl Thompson finish well to give the Bees the lead. Visibly stirred the Wildcats pushed forward in search of the equaliser but it was the Bees that would extend their lead three minutes after their second goal as Alex Barker fired a wrist shot beyond Stevie Lyle. Just under a minute later Aaron Nell, for Swindon, dropped a pass to Sam Bullas who slid the puck between Alex Mettams legs to narrow the lead once more. The remainder of the period was the defences on top as the game settled down and chances became limited.
At the start of the third period the ‘Cats opted to swap out Stevie Lyle for Michael Crisp in nets. The pace of the game appeared to have slowed in the early moments with chances limited to shots from distance, one of which from Toms Rutkis for the visitors rattled the Bees post. With the game starting to get a little scrappy and with lots of play in the neutral zone it took a pin point pass from Scott Spearing to Luka Basic to extend the Bees lead as the Slovenian forward found the back of the net with just over seven minutes gone in the final stanza. The Bees kept up the pressure with Alex Barker coming close on a breakaway and Harvey Stead rattling the crossbar of the Swindon net and with a little under ten minutes left in the match extended the lead to three goals as Scott Spearing finished a pass from Luka Basic well. Two late penalties on the Bees, on Carl Thompson for tripping and Carl Graham for elbows, gave the visitors a chance to force their way back into the game. Alex Mettam had to be on form to keep Ben Davies out and then a rocket of a shot hit Mettam in the face mask and the Bees netminder needed a minute to gather his thoughts. The Bees defence stood firm through both powerplays, working hard to keep the visitors out. The Wildcats opted to remove their netminder for the extra skater with just under two minutes remaining and pushed forward looking to narrow the lead. The extra pressure told for the visitors but it was too little too late as they netted their third goal through Sam Bullas with only four seconds remaining in the match. The Bees however still sealed the two goal victory to recover from the previous night’s defeat in Swindon.
Man of the match awards went to two goal, four point hero Luka Basic for the home side Bees and to two goal Sam Bullas for the visiting Wildcats.
Period scores: 1-1, 2-1, 2-1
Bees scorers: Basic 2+2; Spearing & Thompson 1+2; Barker 1+0; Galazzi, Pavlicek, L.Smital & Gaborcik 0+1
Wildcats scorers: Bullas 2+0; K.Smith 1+0; Davies 0+2; Stone, Richardson, Nell & Kostal 0+1
Bees PIMS: 8 (Graham 4, Tetlow & Thompson 2)
Wildcats PIMS: 8 (Whitfield 4, Finlinson & Davies 2)
Shots on Bees (Mettam): 40 (8, 13, 19)
Shots on Wildcats (Lyle & Crisp): 15 (8, 7, 0) & 8 (0, 0, 8)