Bracknell Bees were beaten home and away by local rivals Swindon Wildcats in their opening challenge matches last weekend, writes Dave Wright.

But new coach Doug Sheppard was left far from despondent as his new-look squad had only a few hours of training last week and knows they will need time to gel.

Bees lost 5-2 on the Swindon ice on Saturday after twice taking the lead, first through Shaun Thompson and then Scott Spearing.

Max Birbraer pulled the scores level on both occasions, but the hosts dominated the third period, with Floyd Taylor making it 3-2 before strikes from player-coach Aaron Nell and Luc Johnson completed the Cats’ victory.

In Sunday’s return at The Hive, the opening 20 minutes remained goalless, but there were two goals apiece in the middle period with Thompson and Josh Smith netting for the Bees, while Birbraer and Edgars Debris scored the visitors.

Spearing and Aidan Doughty twice put Bees ahead in the third period, only to see Swindon’s Sam Jones and Chris Jones bring the score level at 4-4 to force overtime, which saw Sam Bullas snatch victory in the third minute.

Thompson was voted Bees’ man of the match.

Reflecting on his first weekend in charge of the Bees, Sheppard told the News: “We played much better on Sunday.

“On Saturday, we played a really good solid 30 minutes, but then we were not so so good.

“We have got a lot of new faces, they need to gel together while we will also be trying out different combinations.

“Penalty minutes certainly cost us they (Swindon) were very good in the power play.

“It wasn’t something we had worked on as we had only two hours of training last week.”

Sheppard added: “I saw a very good improvement throughout the weekend, it was a much better complete performance on Sunday.

“Our fans got behind us which I am sure our guys fed off as well.

“Swindon are a very talented team. They were good on the power play, and that was certainly the difference in both games.”

Bees, captained by new signing Joe Baird, gave a debut to Karel Richter, a 27-year-old Czech who joined the club last week. This is his first taste of England hockey.

He has filled the vacancy in the squad left by Tomas Karpov, who signed in June after following Sheppard from Basingstoke.

But Karpov, who has been one of the league’s top performers for a number of seasons, was recently offered the role of CEO of a company in Czechoslovakia.

“We will miss him as he was an excellent player and a good leader, certainly a guy to tough to replace,” said Sheppard.

“But we have plenty of characters who can lead and as a team, we will be fine.”

Sheppard is continuing to work hard in trying to the Bees a more successful and profitable club, on and off the ice.

There have been improvements at The Hive as Sheppard look to attract more spectators, with getting schools involved with the incentive of match tickets.

More sponsors are also coming on board, while long-time partners Berkshire Cycles have become the new main team sponsor.

Bees continue their build-up to the new campaign this weekend with a double header against Romford Raiders – away on Saturday (5.15pm face-off) and home on Sunday at 6pm.