Wildcats look to close gap with Bison ‘double-header’ weekend

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The Swindon Wildcats head into this weekend’s tricky league double header against the Basingstoke Bison boosted by their fantastic Autumn Trophy semi-final penalties win at Peterborough on Thursday night, having tied 3-3 on the night following on from last week’s 3-3 at The Better Link Centre.

With a place in the Trophy final secured, attention now returns to the league as Player/Coach  Aaron Nell’s side travel to the crumbling Planet Ice  Arena, Basingstoke on Saturday (face-off 6.30pm)  to take on the side one place above Swindon in the league who are equal on points with table toppers Peterborough.

With one area of the Arena closed off to spectators due to problems with the internal concrete structuring, the rink has proved a happy hunting ground for Swindon so far this season, with Nell’s side returning to Wiltshire victorious in their two previous visits, both in the N.I.H.L Cup, the most recent being a penalties win on December 27th after the two sides played out a 3-3 draw.

Bison, led by veteran Player/Coach Doug Sheppard, have yet to taste that winning feeling against the Cats since the start of all 2017-18 fixtures, with Swindon claiming the spoils in the two cup games held at The Link as well.

This weekend provides the perfect opportunity for Nell’s team to close the six point gap on both Bison and Phantoms, though with ‘The Herd’ boasting the meanest defence in the league, marshalled from between the pipes by ex-Wildcat Dean Skinns, the Cats have their work cut out!

Both sides are unbeaten in the new year, though whilst Swindon performed heroics on Thursday night to secure a Trophy final place, Bison have not played a competitive match since a 3-2 away win at Bracknell Bees on Sunday 7th January.

As well as netminder Skinns, Basingstoke also ice former Wildcat ‘D’ man Joe Baird, along with the dangerous Ivan Antonov and imports Tomas Karpov and Roman Malinik.

In a rare Sunday evening game at The Link, the two sides will return 24 hours later to compete once more (face-off 6.15 pm)

Wildcats captain Jan Kostal is a possible doubt for the weekend, having left the ice during the final third period of the win at Peterborough on Thursday after taking a whack to the face, resulting in a nasty cut on his left cheek.

Previewing the two games coming up, Bison skipper Aaron Connolly looked forward to the weekend; “We come into the weekend with a full roster which will need to be utilised to come out with the results we desire. Swindon are a team with a lot of depth, we have come close a couple of times but close isn’t good enough. We’re in a good position in the league right now but our feet will be firmly on the ground looking to grind out another huge 4 points in the league.

Nick Taylor