Our visitors tomorrow night are the Bees who come to Swindon for the second time this season and the first time in 2023. The last time the Bees visited the Link Centre they unexpectedly left with all the points and the Wildcats will be out for a measure of revenge this evening.
The Bees went into the season being led by head coach Doug Sheppard who was in his 4th consecutive season, this was the 2nd season where he coached the Bees playing out of Slough following the sad demise of the Bees original rink in Bracknell. Part way through the year Sheppard stepped back from the head coach role and he was replaced by Dominik Gabaj who took on player-coaching duties.
In goal the Bees started the season with the same tandem as last year, the starter job was once more held by Adam Goss and he was backed up by Dan Weller-Evans up until shortly before Christmas 2022. After being released from Milton Keynes the Bees moved quickly to sign Matt Smital to take some of the workload from Goss as he was having to play an excessive amount of games pre-Christmas. Goss has developed from promising young goalie into fully fledged NIHL starter quality in recent seasons and on his night he’s as good as anyone in the league and in Matt Smital he has a goalie capable of pushing him to split the starts for the rest of the year.
The biggest re-signing that the Bees made this summer is getting top quality import Dominik Gabaj to commit for another year and he will have a huge weight of expectation on his shoulders this upcoming year. Supporting him is a new signing to the league, Brendan Walkom has signed with the Bees after finishing his studies while playing in the NCAA college system over in the US. Walkom has made a good start to life in the UK and is scoring at just over a point per game. An interesting fact about him, he is the son of former NHL referee Stephen Walkom.
In defence is where the Bees will really struggle this year I think, their top 2 pairing is good in the NIHL National, they have Stuart Mogg and Harvey Stead back for another year but outside of that pairing the depth is scarce. One of their other defensive players is former Wildcat Joe Baird, while he was a good defenceman in his day, he is now 42 years old and his physical style has taken its toll on his body over the years. Midway through the year the Bees took the chance to get Dan Bradley back after he left the Bristol Pitbulls after only a few games.
In the forward ranks, joining the imports is talented youngster Juha Lindgren who is currently having a real breakout year at this level, he’s currently on pace to score 81 points this year. However, outside of this, again there isn’t much scoring depth for the Bees and the rest of their forward group is made up of hardworking/grinder type players rather than skill guys who will light up the scoreboard.