TWO wins against strong opposition without conceding a goal left Bracknell Bees flying high this week, writes Dave Wright.

The NIHL South One table-toppers triumphed 1-0 at Streatham on Saturday before defeating Basingstoke Bison 2-0 at The Hive 24 hours later.

Delighted head coach Doug Sheppard described it as a “fantastic weekend,” adding: “Not conceding goals takes some doing in tough games like these.”

On both days, his men had to dig deep, showing outstanding defensive qualities in particular with their netminder producing match-winning displays.

Danny Milton kept the Redhawks at bay in South West London, while Dean Skinns performed superbly against his former club Bison, with the pair being rewarded with their side’s man-of-the-match award on each occasion.

“We saw great net-tending by both goalies. It was a job well done,” commented Sheppard.

“Tough games like these are generally low scoring, so if you are going to win them, your goalie’s got to be your best player most nights.”

Former Bison coach Sheppard was also quick to praise the rest of his team after seeing them sharpen up in all positions following two successive home defeats which had seen them ship nine goals.

He told the News: “We won a lot of battles, worked extremely hard and found the way to win, which is not always easy.

“To play two teams like that and come away with four points is a great job from the guys, so well done to them.”

If there was one area where the Bees could have done better it was their shooting.

Against Streatham, they managed to hit the target from 41 shots, with 22 coming in the second period. The goal came just 39 seconds after the first break, with Roman Malinik finishing off a chance created by Vanya Anthonov.

Bees had a let-off in the 48th minute when Streatham’s Adam Wood found the back of the net, but his effort was disallowed with his side being penalised for having too many men on the ice.

On Sunday, it also took Bracknell until the second period to open their account.

In a game of high intensity, Bees broke Bison’s resistance in the 27th minute through Brendan Baird, his first goal of the season, with Malinik providing the assist.

But netminder Alex Mettam, facing his old club, was in outstanding form for Bison and, with Skinns having an equally good game at the opposite end of the rink, this thrilling encounter stayed in the balance right up to the last minute.

Mettam was withdrawn for an extra skater, and Malinik took advantage by slotting the puck into an empty net from Bees’ defensive zone with 24 seconds left on the clock.

The game, however, did not end there with the players on both sides clearly intent on providing some late ‘entertainment’ in front of The Hive’s biggest crowd of the season.

A fight broke out between Bees’ James Galazzi and Bison’s Adam Jones, there were also roughing and boarding offences, as well as misconduct penalties. In all, an astonishing 54 penalty minutes were totted up in the last half-minute.

That took the match total to 80, evenly split between the sides.

Somewhat bizarrely, Jones was named his team’s player-of-the-match, although his early departure to the locker room for checking-to-the-head and roughing offences meant he was not on the ice to receive his prize.

Admittedly, Jones had put in a decent shift during the game, but Mettam was by far his side’s stand-out player.

Over the weekend, Bees gave a debut to new signing David Millner, a 26-year-old Swede who can play both in centre and defence. He is currently studying at university in London and living in Uxbridge.

Sheppard commented: “He didn’t play last year, so he’s got to knock off a bit of rust, but I thought he did a good job over the weekend.”

Josh Smith remains sidelined through injury and will probably miss Bees’ only fixture this coming weekend, which is away to bottom club Invicta Dynamos on Sunday (5.15pm face-off).

The Gillingham-based side have lost all 11 league matches so far, conceding 71 goals in the process, including nine at home to Peterborough last Sunday.

Sheppard said: “You can’t take anyone lightly in this league, but we will be professional and hopefully take care of the business.”