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INTERVIEW: Sheppard calls on defensive improvement as Bracknell Bees look to retain top spot

DOUG SHEPPARD says his side must improve defensively if they are to stay near the top of the table.

Bracknell currently occupy top spot in NIHL 1
South, but they suffered their first defeat of the campaign with a 4-2 loss at
Streatham on Sunday.

That came after four straight wins, including a
5-1 victory over Invicta Dynamos at The Hive on Saturday evening.

And Sheppard says his side must start performing
for all three periods.

“We got a quick goal against Invicta and
then I wasn’t exactly thrilled with our first period,” Bees’ head coach
told The Wokingham Paper.

“I think on Saturday we played much better
in the second and third. You want to put together a full 60 minutes.

“The previous week we got a 3-0 lead in both
games and then let them back in, so the second period was an issue.

“We need to build some consistency to our
game and plan all three periods.”

COLUMN: Doug Sheppard pens his first weekly column exclusive to The Wokingham Paper

Despite their lofty league position, Bracknell
have already conceded 13 goals from their five games.

Dean Skinns has been busy between the sticks

And given they are yet to meet big hitters
Basingstoke, Swindon or Peterborough this season, Sheppard admits that is a big
area of concern.

“We certainly need to tidy up our defensive
side of the game,” he said.

“When you only score two goals in a game,
you’ve got to be very good defensively.

“You’re going to play those games where the
puck isn’t bouncing our way and isn’t always going to go in the net as easy as
you like, so we’ve just got to make sure we’re much better and switched on
defensively.”

One man Sheppard will be hoping can help keep the
puck out of the net is new signing Niko Suoraniemi.

The 34-year-old defenceman arrived last week
having most recently played in France and with experience of British ice hockey
during a spell at Fife Flyers in 2014. He made his Bees debut in the defeat at
Streatham and is set for his home bow this weekend.

“I didn’t know him personally,”
explained Sheppard.

“I spoke to his coach in Fife at the time
and heard a lot of very good things about him.

“He played his first game and it’s very new
to him in the way we want to play. It’s good to have a full line-up.

“Now it’s just going to be a bit more of an
adjustment for him to a new league and these systems, but as a player and
person, all really positive stuff.

“We wanted to get off to a winning start
with him in his first game, but we didn’t.”

Focus now turns to two more league games this
weekend.

Bees go to Romford to face Raiders on Saturday (5.15pm) having beaten them 6-4 on the opening day of the season. They then welcome Milton Keynes Thunder to The Hive on Sunday evening (6pm).

Bees beat Romford earlier this season

“London (Raiders) are a team that we’ve
already played three times this year,” said Sheppard.

“We’ve had success against them. They went
to Peterborough and got a big win, they’ve beaten Milton Keynes heavily this
weekend, so it’s going to be a tough game going into their building.

“But we’ve done it already this year (in
pre-season).

“It’s not going to be easy, but if we
tighten up the defensive side of our game, we should be OK.”

He added: “I think overall we’re sitting in
a good position.

“4-1, we’re off to a good start.

“We weren’t going to win every game and we
suffered our first defeat. It’s going to happen.

“It’s not a time to look back, it’s how
we’re going to respond from this loss and make sure we get back to playing
winning hockey moving forward against London and Milton Keynes this
weekend.”

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