With the Slough Jets opening up on the road midweek at the Wildcats the home fans had to wait til Saturday night to finally close the long summer wait and see their team skate into action for the first time in the new season.
The summer had been one of change with Peter Russell moving on and Doug Sheppard taking the reigns in addition to his playing duties. Over the summer the team was announced and some fantastic last minute signings helped to ensure the Jets would have a good team for the new season, defending the Premier Cup.
After a slow start the Hangar filled well for the first home game of the season. The Bees brought with them a sizeable crowd and the Jets blocks, certainly on the entrance side of the rink filled well. The pre-game block calls went well with some great promising noise from blocks B and C for sure. If only that was contagious across blocks A, E, F and G. Block D I think we may need to import some noisy people in to. Block D was and seems to still be our game night equivalent of the quiet carriage on a train!
Darius Pliskaukas had picked up a knock in the away game on the Wednesday and missed the home opener as did Terry Miles. In a hockey team each player is more than just the sum of his own parts, he is part of a system and a line and his absence therefore impacts not only him but his line mates also. Bees conversely were at full strength for the game while, due to missing Pliskauskas and Miles, the Jets played the game knowing that they still had more in the tank to give once the two absent players returned.
From the opening face-off it was clear the two rivals were taking the game seriously. With under 20 miles separating the two teams there’s the distance factor and for the Bees it’s an early chance to prove the hype over the summer over the much changed roster is not just hype.
Joy Tottman took charge as the allocated referee and allowed the first period to flow, with the Jets picking up 8 minutes in penalties against the Bees second. The Bees ended the period a goal ahead.
The second period saw the physicality of the game increase with the Jets again suffering the greater wrath of the officials with two players ending the period serving 10 minutes misconducts.
The third period started off and the Bees continued the tactics that had seen the Jets heavily penalised for objecting to earlier in the game. Not long into the final period eventually enough became more than enough and Joe Greener looked to send a message that these tactics won’t be tolerated against the Jets. What followed provided great entertainment as the Jets and Bees literally battled and the referee called 165 minutes of penalties in one go.
If you read the Bees match report on the game which reads more like an opinion based blog than a factual based objective match report the exact quote is “But only a few seconds later, the match turned ugly when Joe Greener attacked Carl Graham close to the Bees bench”. This might be how the Bees fans see the spark of the incident but taking off the tinted glasses will show that Joe merely sent a message that submarining is not acceptable. The quote from the Bees report slightly mis-presents the events and certainly shows a personal rather objective view.
With penalty box filled up with players from both sides Slough then showed the Bees how to play the game with three rapid fire games. This was, if you read the same report mentioned above, apparently due to the opponents being unsettled by the lesson teaching that took place but was more likely the fact that the understrengthed home team were sparked on to showing what they can do even missing a star player from the line-up.
As far as the game itself, it ended win a 1 goal advantage to take the second leg for the Bees. Am I worried by that? Not really. A full strength Bees side edged a game against a team starting missing an import and finishing depleted. The Bees played well, when they played hockey, the Jets proved there is more in the tank to call upon when the team plays back at full strength again.
My first opinion of the Bees team for this season is that it’s a great improvement over the team they’ve iced in previous seasons. Pinc and Cesky’s departures have worked out really well and enabled the Bees to build a much better team. Games over the last couple of seasons with Pinc and Cesky have been all about closing down two players and just two players, once that was done the game was in the bag. Last season’s Bees team was two imports supported by the majority of an ENL team. This year it’s all change, the departure of the two has allowed far better to come in all round and replace them.
The tactics used last night appeared to be curious to say the least. It seemed that Bracknell were happier to try and take Slough out the game than comfortable to try and compete even handed against the Jets? That certainly the way I saw it and from the middle of the second period I wondered how long it would be before lesson teaching and message sending was done.
For this new Jets team under a new Coach it’s early days. Doug Sheppard has great coaching credentials, he gave the Bison their most successful season in the EIHL and was instrumental in the successes that the Steelers have achieved in the same league. He has a successful team with some very good last minute signings to fill the void left but some other players who decided against joining the team and his Jets already have a win under their belts at full strength and a narrow 1 goal loss missing a key team member against a full strength Bees team.
All views on this blog are entirely those of the author and do not represent the views of any other party or organisation