09:00AM, Saturday 16 October 2021
Photo: Fiona-George Smith
The TSI World Bees face off in their first NIHL National League matches this weekend, kicking things off with a road match against the Leeds Knights on Saturday before welcoming Milton Keynes Lightning to Slough on Sunday evening.
Their opponents had contrasting fortunes in the Autumn Cup, the forerunner competition to the league season, with the Knights topping the table and the Lightning finishing rock bottom.
The Bees have played both in the last few weeks, losing to the Knights but getting the better of the Lightning.
Doug Sheppard's side completed their Autumn Cup matches with a couple of high-scoring, see-saw encounters against the Telford Tigers and Basingstoke Bison.
They went into both games short-benched but bounced back from Saturday's narrow 4-3 defeat to the Tigers with a 6-4 home win over the Bison on Sunday. The return of Bayley Harewood to the ice on Sunday certainly helped, with the player - who spent Saturday with the Cardiff Devils - completing his hat-trick in the dying seconds.
He played for the Devils again in their Champions League fixture this week but will be back in the Bees camp for the trip to Leeds.
Sheppard was also particularly impressed with the performance of Jacob White-say, a 16-year-old from the Slough Jets who was drafted into the side for the game against Telford.
The strengthening of ties between the Jets and the Bees should prove to be mutually beneficial in coming seasons, and Jets players will get opportunities to further their development with the Bees in the National League.
Both of this weekend's opponents were beaten on their last Autumn Cup outings, with the Knights going down 5-4 against Peterborough Phantoms and the Sheffield Steeldogs running rampage over the Lightning in an 8-1 win.
On the eve of the new league season, Sheppard said: “We’re finished with the cup now and I’m pleased with the hockey we’ve played. We’ve picked up some victories and some moral victories as well while playing mainly short benched, but the moral victories no longer count and it’s time for us to be picking up four points each weekend.
“Leeds finished top of the Autumn Cup and will be a tough test on Saturday, but the cup has proven that every team is beatable. On Sunday we face Milton Keynes who are coming in off a tough loss. We can’t underestimate them and when we faced them in the cup, they were without Liam Stewart who’s a big figure in their team.
“We continue to monitor our injuries. The list is longer than we’d like but we’re hopeful that all are close to returning so we’ll continue to monitor their progress and make decisions closer to the weekend’s games. We’re also fortunate enough to be able to benefit from some of the Jets’ players again this weekend with them having the weekend off as well.”
The Bees visit Leeds on Saturday with a 6.30pm face-off before hosting Milton Keynes Lightning at 5pm on Sunday.
There will be displays at Windsor Racecourse and Legoland, local fireworks in Burnham and Twyford and smaller displays at schools in the Royal Borough.