BRACKNELL Bees have explained their decision to pull out of the National League fixture at Sheffield Steeldogs on Sunday, writes Dave Wright.

After beating Raiders 5-3 in Romford last Saturday, the players held a meeting and agreed they did not want to put themselves and their families at risk due to the worsening COVID-19 crisis.

Sheffield had played at Milton Keynes on Saturday and it is understood a number of Lightning personnel had gone into self-isolation. MK also called off their Sunday fixture at Leeds.

Speaking on behalf of his teammates, Josh Smith said: "After fulfilling our fixture at Raiders, we as a team discussed the risk being placed on us and our families.

"Playing Raiders, the risk was low. (When we heard) the news about MK, we felt the risk increased to a level we were not comfortable with.

"With Sheffield playing MK on Saturday, we as a team took the decision not to travel to Sheffield. We did not want to to put ourselves or our families in a position of uncertainty at the time.

"The league were pushing us to play, but the health of our families is more important than a hockey game."

The Bees felt ice hockey, like many other sports in the UK and the world, should have been suspended before the weekend.

The players received the support of their management team, saying it was a sensible decision and they applauded them on their honest and common sense approach.

However, Leeds Chiefs revealed the National League teams had been in close communication all week regarding the situation surrounding COVID-19, and during these discussions, the MK Lightning view was the league should follow government advice and continue to compete until they are required to cease.

A Chiefs spokesman added: "This view was shared by the other nine teams in the league and it was agreed by all the National League teams that all games this weekend would take place as planned."

Last Sunday's postponement means Bees still have three fixtures remaining – against Sheffield and this coming weekend's double date with Basingstoke Bison.

And their qualification for the play-offs remains in the balance. Their victory on Saturday saw them close the gap on eighth-placed Raiders to just one point and they have a game in hand on the Romford men.

Bees' excellent win brought an end to Raiders' run of six successive wins, three of them at Bracknell's expense.

The TSI World-sponsored side went ahead inside three minutes through Dominik Gabaj, with a powerplay goal from Roman Malinik doubling the score at 11.23.

Brandon Ayliffe struck on the powerplay for the hosts at 18.34, but James Galazzi made it 3-1 at 21.56 when his side again had a man advantage.

Aaron Connolly netted for Raiders at 32.48 before Malinik’s second goal of the match, at 38.47, left it 4-2 in Bees' favour at the end of the middle period.

Connolly scored again at 51.21 before a powerplay goal from Josh Ealey-Newman gave Bees their fifth goal with a little less than four-and-a-half minutes remaining.

In total, Bracknell had 39 shots on goal, three fewer than their hosts.

Bees are due to visit Basingstoke this coming Saturday (6.30pm) before completing their home league fixtures against Bison on Sunday (5.30pm) – but it remains to be seen if these fixtures are played.

* FORMER Bees skipper Matt Foord, who now plays for Bracknell Hornets, played the 1,000th game of his career last weekend.

Since making his debut for Slough Jets in the 1998-99 season the 38-year-old took to the ice for London Racers and Cardiff Devils before joining Bees during the 2005-06 campaign.

He moved to Swindon Wildcats in 2009 and spent two seasons with them before rejoining Bees, staying until 2018 when he switched to Invicta Dynamos. But last year he returned to The Hive as a player-coach for the Hornets.

Foord was presented with a special award to mark his 1,000th appearance last weekend when Hornets lost 6-5 in overtime away to MK Thunder.