BRACKNELL Bees stung Hull Pirates with two early blows, but ultimately saw their Final Four hopes sunk after a 6-2 defeat at the semi-final stage on Saturday, writes Dave Wright.

In front of a lively crowd at the Skydome in Coventry, the Bees took the lead on a powerplay with Josh Smith finding the net at 8.12. Tyler Vankleef and Ed Knaggs provided the assists.

Seven minutes later they doubled their advantage as Roman Malinik finished off a shorthanded counter-attack and Bracknell ended the opening period with a well-deserved lead.

That all changed in the middle stanza with Pirates fighting back. Matt Davies finally found a way past netminder Dean Skinns at 23.30 after a scramble around the net.

The Bees were then stunned by two goals from Sonny Karlsson, timed at 25.04 and 25.13, forcing coach Doug Sheppard to call a time-out in a bid to try and regroup his shell-shocked squad.

Hull had further chances as they dominated the shot count, but the score remained 3-2 in their favour after 40 minutes.

The final period saw Bracknell struggle to create meaningful opportunities and hopes of clawing their way back into contention were ended by another two quick strikes. Karlsson completed a hat-trick at 48.44 followed by Davies’ second goal of the match at 49.42.

The Bees, operating on powerplay, pulled Skinns for a six-on-four advantage in a desperate bid to save the game.

With Pirates back to full strength however, Hull’s Bobby Chamberlain forced a turnover in the neutral zone and won the race for possession to place the ball into the empty net on 57.50 to put the seal on the win.

In total, Pirates fired in 53 goal attempts, double the Bees’ amount.

Skinns was Bees’ man-of-the-match with Karlsson picking up the Hull award.

Pirates went on beat Peterborough Phantoms in the final, 5-4 in overtime.

Despite their defeat, Bracknell can look back on the season with pride.

It has been their best for years and, under coach Doug Sheppard’s astute leadership, the club are well-placed to enjoy even more success in the near future and bring some silverware to the Hive.

Next season, they will be playing in the new Division One South.

Knaggs has been named in the South One’s All-Star Team of the Season, which was organised by the National Ice Hockey League (NIHL) in association with Pro Hockey News and voted for by a panel of coaches and senior players from every team in the league. The top player was Swindon’s Chris Jones.

l STEPHANIE Sellers, an off-ice official at the Hive for 15 years, has decided to retire for family reasons.

There is plenty of hockey at the John Nike Way ice rink this coming weekend with the semi-finals and final of the NIHL Two play-offs.

On Saturday, Oxford City Stars play Chelmsford Chieftains at 3.15pm, followed at 6.45pm by Solvent Devils versus Guildford Phoenix, the team who defeated Bracknell Hornets 2-1 in the quarter-finals.

The final is on Sunday with a 5.45pm face-off.

l PLAYER-COACH Lukas Smital, the former Bees star, led Slough Jets to the NIHL Two Championship title following a 7-1 win over Widnes Wild.