By Dan Blackham (@DanRBlackham)
THE SEASON THAT WAS
Last season was a fantastic year for all involved at the Hive and the most successful since 07/08.
Coach Doug Sheppard made the switch from M3 rivals Basingstoke Bison during the summer after four years as director of hockey operations/head coach with the Herd, bringing plenty of reinforcements with him.
There was a complete revamp of the playing staff which saw star players such as; Roman Malinik, Vanya Antonov and Josh Smith, as well as plenty of others join the Bees.
A strong, promising start to the season meant we were at the sharp end of the table for the most part. However, we couldn’t put a consistent run together heading into the playoffs.
This was the result of too many powerplays conceded in key games, including the NIHL cup semi-final against Peterborough.
The second leg of that tie culminated in some unsavoury scenes where the boys in black and gold accumulated a total of 198 penalty minutes, as well as a two game suspension for head coach Sheppard.
This left us with a depleted bench in many games and despite some heroic efforts, it certainly had a detrimental effect on our performances.
Overall, it was a season to be proud of and hopefully we can look forward to more of the same this season, and maybe even a bit of silverware.
The biggest signing during the off season was definitely extending the contract of Sheppard, who has a plan for the future of hockey at Bracknell, which the club needs after past troubles.
Many fans will just be happy that the team still exists, irrespective of results and the new league structure has caused all the NIHL National teams to make wholesale changes by trying to refine their squads to get quality over quantity, this is no different for the Bees.
The core of the squad has remained the same with the likes of Josh Smith, Edward Knaggs, Roman Malinik and Josh Martin returning for another term amongst plenty of others.
Adam Goss has signed on the dotted line to become the main man between the pipes for the 19/20 season and brings with him some Elite League experience as well as plenty for team GB in the youth ranks.
Hopefully, he can play a key part in elevating us to the next level with backup netminder, and fan-favourite, Danny Milton providing sufficient cover when called upon.
Another off-season signing is Robin Kovar, described by Sheppard as “the complete package”, he will bring plenty to the forward line in the 19/20 season.
Following a successful stint with the Blackburn Hawks last year (28 points in 15 games), fans at the Hive will be hoping he can replicate the kind of form which made him one of the top point scorers in the EPIHL between 2013 – 2017.
One to watch for the 19/20 season that many other fans won’t be too aware of is Zack Milton, the 18-year-old English U20 forward has shown flashes of real class since he made his debut last season.
His performances have also seen him get a call up from the Coventry Blaze to guest against the Nottingham Panthers during their pre-season.
Looking forward to the 19/20 season I think every team will feel they have a chance of silverware because there has been so many changes across all of the teams.
It’s difficult to try and nail down predictions this early on but, as always, I feel we have a great chance of reaching the play-offs and also a really good chance in the cup.
If we can iron out some consistency issues from last season and also improve our discipline then I see no reason why this can’t be a successful year.
Seeing teams like Hull Pirates, Telford Tigers and Sheffield Steeldogs travel down to Berkshire will hopefully bring back some larger crowds and create a buzz around the place (pun not intended, but we will go with it).
For me, there is no outright favourite this year and I’m sure there will be plenty of surprises along the way, so strap yourself in and get ready for another fantastic year of hockey.