EPL preview: Smital says Bees “are still fighting”

Bracknell Bees’ Player/Coach Lukas Smital hasn’t given up on qualifying for the EPL play-offs just yet, despite his team facing a tough double-header against Telford Tigers this weekend.

Victories over Peterborough Phantoms and Swindon Wildcats last weekend left the Bees seven points behind eighth-placed Sheffield Steeldogs with seven games to play.

“We are still fighting – they were good performances and it came at the right time hopefully, so we’re happy with the results,” Smital told Wokingham Today.

“There is still quite a gap between us and Sheffield, but we are going ahead in the right direction. We’ve got a tough weekend coming up but we’ve just got to keep fighting for it.

“At their place it’s tough. They’ve got such strength in depth in all areas. But it’s sport and we definitely go there to try and get a result and do what we can.

“Unfortunately these guys need four points to clinch the title, so they are going to be going for it. It’s going to be a tough one, but we are definitely going to be prepared to do our best.”

Peterborough boss Slava Koulikov believes the Phantoms’ performances over the past three seasons have earned deserved respect from teams across the league.

The EPL cup finalists host Basingstoke Bison on Sunday knowing that victory would virtually guarantee a top three finish in the league.

“It used to be a case of ourselves over-achieving and others maybe under-estimating us,” Koulikov told Peterborough Today.

“We’ve been competing at the top end of the table and for trophies for three years now, so I don’t believe anyone would take us lightly any longer.

“Everyone knows what my guys are about – the brilliant spirit they have and the way they fight for results for sixty minutes every night.

“But there is no doubt in my mind that we are still over-achieving massively. You only have to look at our roster and resources compared to the other teams in the top half of the table to realise that.

“We’ve only taken one point from our last two home games against Milton Keynes and Bracknell, and we need to get back to winning in front of our fans.

“We’re gradually getting guys back and the injury situation is starting to look a bit better.

“We need to start building momentum for the cup final and the play-offs. The target from here is simple – to win every game.”

Phil Hill thinks Swindon’s home form can propel them into the EPL play-off finals weekend at Coventry.

The Wildcats have won three in a row on home ice as they look to build momentum ahead of the end-of-season shoot-out and the experienced forward is confident they can secure their place in the final four.

“We’ve gone through a little rough patch and hopefully, going into the play-offs, that will ease up a bit and we’ll get guys back (from injury),” he told the Swindon Advertiser.

“You’ve got to all buy in, and we’ve got a team that’s doing that.

“We’re going to big rinks, which you’re going to have to do in the play-offs, and we’re getting results and we’re playing well, and we’ve got to take a lot of positives from the games we’ve been playing recently.

“You look in that locker room – we’ve got guys that have been there and done it, and we’ve got some high-end talent.

“It’s an exciting time and guys have probably been looking forward to it for a long time. It’s a different format this year.

“Teams are going to have to come to Swindon – there’s three games there – and it’s starting to become a rink where teams know they’re going to be in for a game, and they’re not going to look forward to going there – that’s the way it has to be.”

WEEKEND FIXTURES

Saturday

Guildford Flames v Hull Pirates
Swindon Wildcats v MK Lightning
Telford Tigers v Bracknell Bees

Sunday

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

(Image permission: Kevin Slyfield)

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