Swindon Wildcats kicked off their 2018/19 season in style in front of a packed out crowd at the Better Link Centre. With new signings Sam Jones, Tyler Plews and Adam Harding all making their debuts alongside returning stars such as Max Birbraer, Sam Bullas and Chris Jones it promised to be an exciting contest on opening night.
Bracknell Bees were the opposition who, under new coach Doug Sheppard, have significantly improved over the summer months. Vanya Antonov, Roman Malinik and Dean Skinns all followed the coach from Basingstoke to join familiar names from Bracknell past and present in guys like Ryan Watt, Shaun Thompson and Scott Spearing.
The opening period was a cagey one, with the visitors scoring he opening goal of the game at 03:20 when Shaun Thompson found space through a screen to make it 0-1. The Cats, however, fought back, and at 12:02 they scored their first goal of the season. Much to the delight of the home crowd, the tones of Seven Nation Army were sang when Max Birbraer deflected a puck into the net from an Aaron Nell shot.
Into the second period and again it was the visitors who took advantage once more. At 31:10 some brilliant play from behind the net saw Scott Spearing able to tuck the puck off the back of Renny Marr’s pads and over the line to make it 1-2. Only 59s later, the powerplay for Swindon clicked as that man Max Birbraer was again on hand to tie the game up, this time the assists going to Aaron Nell and Edgars Bebris.
With one period of hockey to play, the Wildcats looked to step it up a gear once more. At 43:42 their dominance in the third returned the first goal of the period. Eddie Bebris set up Floyd Taylor whose rocket of a shot was able to beat Dean Skinns just underneath the crossbar.
At 50:28 Aaron Nell scored his first of the season thanks to another well worked powerplay move allowed the Wildcats coach space from the right wing to fire low past Dean Skinns and double the Wildcats advantage with less than 10 minutes to play.
The result was all but sealed at 54:37 where Luc Johnson was again able to break down the right and fire the puck under the arm of Skinns in the Bees goal. With the final buzzer sounding the Wildcats had secured victory on the home ice at the first attempt and kicked off the pre-season games in some style!
Man Of The Match:
Swindon Wildcats – Max Birbraer (Sponsored by Neil and Vicky Davidson)
Bracknell Bees – Joe Baird