British Ice Hockey

EPL preview: Tigers’ youngsters must earn their spot

Telford Tigers’ boss Tom Watkins will continue to give youth a chance to play this season – but he insisted any new additions must earn a spot with the EPL leaders.

Telford round off their pre-Christmas programme with the visit of Hull Pirates to Shropshire on Saturday, before a trip to face Peterborough Phantoms the following day.

Watkins has promoted a string of promising youngsters to the EPL squad in recent weeks, as he grapples with the loss of senior players to others teams and an injury to Jonathan Weaver.

He said: “I’m not a fan of just giving away opportunities to play. It helps to have bodies, but the kids have got to earn it and know what it takes to play EPL hockey and win.

“It’s easy to go out and play the game, because there are many different things that go into that. But winning is paramount in sport and in life in general, you’ve got to have that competitive edge.

“They have to bring that to the table. It starts at practice, and it must be maintained at practice, before you’re going to even get a look-in from anyone.

“There is so much we can do, and so much we can’t do, so I think now we’ve got add some young depth and get to the other side of the New Year and probably re-evaluate then.

“It’s only three games away, but it’s still a couple of weeks. We’ll come back with a fresh approach, hopefully clear up a few injuries and niggles that have been here long term.

“The key thing right now is staying healthy over the next couple of weeks, to give ourselves an opportunity.”

Basingstoke Bison face a weekend double-header against Bracknell Bees looking for an improvement in form after losing their last two games.

Defeats against Manchester Phoenix and Guildford Flames have left Bison fifth in the table and Head Coach Doug Sheppard is desperate to see his team find some consistency.

“We want to get a run going into Christmas, but Bracknell are a tough team to beat,” said Sheppard.

“They’ve improved since we last played them, so it’s going to be a tough weekend. We’ve had a good record at home and after last week’s loss we’ll be looking to get back to winning ways.”

Swindon Wildcats are another team aiming to turn things around after winning just once in their last five games.

The Wildcats travel to MK Lightning and Hull Pirates this weekend needing to collect some points if they’re to stay in touch with the top half of the table.

Forward Max Birbraer said: “We’ve got two hard games this weekend, so things don’t get any easier for us at all.

“We did quite well when we went there recently and we’re going to try and duplicate what we did that day on Saturday night.

“We’ve had some indifferent results of late, but we’re all up for this weekend and we’re all going to try our hardest to pick up some points.”

WEEKEND FIXTURES

Saturday

Basingstoke Bison v Bracknell Bees
Guildford Flames v Peterborough Phantoms
MK Lightning v Swindon Wildcats
Sheffield Steeldogs v Manchester Phoenix
Telford Tigers v Hull Pirates

Sunday

Bracknell Bees v Basingstoke Bison
Hull Pirates v Swindon Wildcats
Peterborough Phantoms v Telford Tigers
Sheffield Steeldogs v Guildford Flames

(Image permission: Steve Brodie)

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