BRACKNELL Bees suffered a double blow at the hands of Basingstoke Bison last weekend following two enthralling and feisty encounters, writes Dave Wright.

They were beaten 4-3 following a penalty shoot-out on Saturday – having led 2-0 at an early stage – and 24 hours later they lost 5-4 in overtime after leading 4-3 with less than 46 seconds left of regulation time.

Losing by the odd goal is becoming something of a habit as on Wednesday last week they went down 5-4 in overtime at Peterborough Phantoms after leading 4-1, having the previous Sunday been edged out 2-1 at home by Streatham.

These narrow defeats, however, means Bees have gone four games without winning and will finish fourth in the table behind Swindon, Peterborough and Basingstoke and will need to pull something out of the fire if they are to make progress in the play-offs.

Their main concern is the number of soft goals the team is conceding and this must surely be an area that head coach Doug Sheppard will be looking to strengthen for next season.

He was left bitterly disappointed with the way his side twice let it slip against his former club yet in both games they looked to be in with a good chance of winning, once again reflecting the fine margin which exists between winning and losing.

On Saturday, Bees' opening goal from Josh Smith saw them lead going into the first break with Josh Martin doubling their advantage with a deflected shot at 25:30.

With more than half the match completed, Bracknell deserved to be ahead and against lesser teams than Basingstoke, they would probably have retained control.

But Bison then started to come at them like an angry herd.

Michal Klejna opened the hosts' account with a power-play goal at 32:01, Adam Harding equalised at 36:54 and a little over a minute later ex-Bee Danny Ingoldsby gave his side the lead going into the second break.

However, Bees bounced back with Tyler Vankleef making it 3-3 in the 49th minute.

Both sides had chances to win it in regulation time, while overtime produced only fights which led to Harding and Martin both thrown out of the game.

So it went to penalties, with Dean Skinns saving two of the first three, while only Smith found the target for Bees, so taking the shoot-out to sudden death.

Vankleef was Bees' only scorer in their four attempts, while Ashley Tait scored twice to seal the victory for Bison.

Another exciting game followed in front of a good-sized crowd at The Hive, with temperatures rising on the ice with both teams, the visitors in particular, becoming increasingly frustrated with some debatable decisions being made – or not made – by the match officials.

Zach Milton put Bees ahead with a power-play goal at 8:15, which Alex Sampford cancelled out less than two minutes later and Harding put the visitors ahead 35 seconds before the end of the opening period when they were on power play.

Vankleef, his side's man-of-the-match, restored parity on 25:40, Harding scored again with a delayed penalty goal on 31:32, only for Vankleef to make it 3-3 less than a minute later.

Bees regained the lead through Aidan Doughty at 43:41 and, with Danny Milton making some excellent saves, they looked to be heading for victory as the final minutes turned into just seconds.

There were just 42 seconds left on the clock when Tait made it 4-4 with his hat-trick goal.

In overtime, Roman Malinik was looking to build an attack when Bison's Russell Cowley won possession and the counter-attack was finished off by Harding at 61:29 to leave Bees devastated once again.

Yet Bison took the ugly route to success, accumulating a total of 130 penalty minutes over the two nights, compared to Bees' 50.

Basingstoke's four-point weekend means Swindon still need a point to win the league title and they will be aiming to do that next Saturday when they host the Bees (6.15pm face-off).

The following night (6pm) Bracknell complete their league fixtures by hosting the fifth club, Raiders.

Vanya Antonov will return for the Bees. He was back from Russia last weekend with the Great Britain Universities team, but his luggage 'missed' the flight.