Swindon Wildcats’ Player/Coach Aaron Nell says Saturday’s EPL clash with Sheffield Steeldogs is a ‘must-win’ fixture.
Wildcats go into the game on the back of a 3-2 win at home to Bracknell Bees last Monday and Nell admits they will need an improved performance to beat Sheffield.
“It’s a big game, there’s no doubt about that,” said Nell. “We weren’t at our best on Monday and we just about managed the two points.
“We need to put more effort in against the Steeldogs as they’re in a real purple patch at present and have only lost once in their last twelve games, so we know it’s going to be tough against them.”
Telford Tigers’ boss Tom Watkins expects a run of twelve games in four weeks to be crucial in his side’s title defence.
The reigning champions face seven home games in January, alongside five matches on the road, following a two-week break from action over the festive period.
They began that sequence with a 3-0 win at MK Lightning on New Year’s Day, before hosting Manchester Phoenix on Saturday and then travelling to Bracknell just 24 hours later.
Watkins is relishing the challenge of a busy start to 2016.
He said: “This is the key part of the season now. We’re still capable of putting a run together and I’m sure the teams above us will be wary, especially with those games in hand.
“We need to get points on the board. January is an important month and will go a long way towards seeing if we have a major say in the title or not.
“I would have liked to play some games over Christmas, but I also think having those two weeks off has been good, especially with the injuries we have.
“Hopefully, everyone will feel the benefit of that break. Playing three games in three days is very hard on the body, so we need to find a way to play through it and use the depth of our roster.
“Defensively we have improved over the last few weeks. We identified some areas where we needed to be better. Our powerplay has still been good, but our penalty kill could be better.
“They’re all key areas that make a big difference to winning an ice hockey game.”
Hull Pirates’ Player/Coach Dominic Osman says signing Jamie Chilcott (above) was “too good an opportunity to turn down.”
The 22-year-old defenseman joined Manchester Storm in the summer after Hull Stingrays folded.
Chilcott has found it difficult to combine his accountancy work with his Storm commitments and has now returned to play in Hull.
Osman said: “It’s a huge pick-up for us. Jamie’s someone I talked to in the summer, but he wanted to go to Manchester and we left him to do his thing.
“He’s a really good guy for us to have back, especially as he’s local. I don’t want to put all the pressure in the world on him to turn the team around.
“We want him to come in and maybe give us that little bit more in order to enable us to win those one-goal games or tie a match and take it into overtime.”
Chilcott made his debut on New Year’s Eve in Hull’s 6-5 shoot-out loss at Sheffield Steeldogs and will be in the line-up for Hull’s games against Bracknell and Manchester this weekend.
Basingstoke Bison v Peterborough Phantoms
Hull Pirates v Bracknell Bees
Swindon Wildcats v Sheffield Steeldogs
Telford Tigers v Manchester Phoenix
Bracknell Bees v Telford Tigers
Guildford Flames v Swindon Wildcats
Manchester Phoenix v Hull Pirates
Peterborough Phantoms v Basingstoke Bison
Sheffield Steeldogs v MK Lightning
(Image permission: Arthur Foster)