Standing in the Way – Bracknell BeesPosted: 01/08/2011
As teams are getting closer to having complete rosters, it’s time to début a new series where we preview the 9 teams that the Bison will be facing in the course of the 2011/12 English Premier Ice Hockey season. First are our local rivals from up the road, the Bracknell Bees.
Name: Bracknell Bees
Home Ice: John Nike Leisuresport Complex aka The Hive
Head coach: Gareth Cox
Last season’s position: 10th
Top scorer: Michael Pinc, 38 goals +62 assists = 100 pts
Match night ticket price: £11 adults, £10 OAPs/students, £5 child
Despite finishing bottom of the EPL last year head coach Gareth Cox has kept faith with last year’s starter Carl ‘Scrambler’ Ambler. Ambler ended last season with a 4.98 GAA and a 87.33% save percentage but truth be told, I think Ambler actually played very well. He did when I saw him at any rate. Scrambler is an appropriate nickname due to the…shall we say kinetic nature of how he plays in net which makes him look somewhat nervous but I don’t think Ambler’s that bad all in all. His main drawbacks were that he got hung out to dry a LOT last season and sometimes he was a little too kinetic. Is Ambler the best goalie in the EPL? Nope but he’s not as bad as his stats last season say he was.
With the somewhat surprise departure of Adam Marashi to the Hornets in the ENL, the Bees needed a back up netminder which they found in Tom Annetts. Now I’m not going to go over my thoughts on Tom again on this blog (for anyone new, check out the Goodnight and Good Luck piece) but Mr Annetts will obviously be able to do a job at EPL level.
I suppose the obvious joke after last season is “defence, what defence?” and that’s probably fair. Arguably one of their better defencemen in Greg Randall has moved north to Peterborough but managing to keep the talented Sam Waller and adding toughness in the form of Carl Graham will help the blue line. New Latvian born defenceman Sergejs Louskins will instantly become a fan favourite for the simple fact he’s not last season’s import Valdemar Pelikovsky who is likely still giving Bees fans nightmares even now. Louskins’ previous numbers speak more of a defensive stay at home guy but in the EPL teams normally need their defensive imports to put up more in the way of numbers. His career numbers don’t speak of a Mindy Kieras but we’ll see how he does before we pass full judgement.
The addition of Andy Munroe, a player who won the EPL treble with Peterborough not too long ago could go either way. He was alright if not spectacular for Slough last season but the talent is there.
I must confess to no being a massive fan of Ben Johnson and for me he’s the 5th d man in the rotation. Depending on what happens with Scott Spearing and Brad Watchorn (both can play forward or d so Bracknell could possibly play with 6 d) I don’t expect him to see tons of time either way.
After last season where the Bees defence shipped an average of 5.5 goals a game there needed to be changes made to the blue line. They’ve addressed the issues to a degree with an improved import and making some tweaks that will hopefully bring that 5.5 number down. Bracknell’s blue line corps is improved on last season, I’ll give Cox that but I don’t think it’s a championship winning defence by any stretch. Bar Louskins there is no real standout, all star quality Brits back there who can really shut the game down. Waller might be ready for that in a year or two but I’m not sure he can do it now. It’ll be interesting to see how well they do against the top offences in the EPL.
So to get the elephant in the room out of the way; yes, Bracknell’s top line of the last two seasons of Jaroslav Cesky, Nicky Watt and Michael Pinc have departed down the Wiltshire way to Swindon which left a hole in the offence. The Bees have tried to fill the gap left by Cesky and Pinc with luring former Bees Lukas Smital and Martin Masa back to the Hive from Guildford.
There was some controversy surrounding Smital’s leaving Guildford and coming back to the Hive but we won’t touch on that here. A combination of Smital on the right and Masa in the centre leading the attack on the top line with my guess being Rob Lamey joining them on the left wing should give defences a headache. Lamey, who is hopefully back to full fitness after last season where he started so well with Guildford but after a mystery ailment only 21 times but was still over a point per game. That line has the potential do some serious damage with 3 forwards who care capable of 60-70 point seasons and higher when firing on all cylinders.
Peter Jasik off the back of a 62 point season on the Bees second line will likely be back there this season and adding Shaun Thompson into the mix, back at the Hive for the umpteenth time gives some important secondary scoring. James Galazzi after an impressive début season at EPL level might also be relied on more for his scoring this season after posting 35 points last season. If he can keep around the same numbers this season he will see himself very much in demand come the 2012-13 season.
Depending on whether we see either Scott Spearing or Brad Watchorn drop back to be a defenceman (more likely in Spearing’s case I’d wager) will see a third line with a great amount of grit and Watchorn, an MMA fighter outside of hockey will not be afraid to drop the gloves with…anyone willing/crazy enough to try. Alex Barker, Matt Foord and Michael Bowman will be sent out to try and not concede goals as to be honest that’s a line to shrug shoulders at in terms of their offensive threat.
Once again it’ll be hard to ignore the Bracknell top line over the course of the season and I have no doubt that a great deal of the offensive output will go through Smital, Masa, Lamey and Jasik.
Sadly the defensive doesn’t look that strong despite the improvements made (unless Louskins is the second coming of Niklas Lidstrom) and the Ambler/Annetts goalie tandem only works if Annetts can recover any modicum of confidence he has in the 2009/10 season otherwise Ambler will be shouldering a lot of the workload and that might not be the best of ideas.
I don’t think the Bees will be troubling the top of the table with this side but they’ve gone from a side that finished 9 points away from the playoffs to serious contenders for anywhere as high as 6th. They’ll sneak wins against the better sides here and there but I think Bees fans will just be happy to see a side that competes week in, week out again.