THE Basingstoke Bison have added even more firepower to their line-up with the return of hard-hitting forward Nicky Watt ahead of their crunch game with the Manchester Phoenix on Saturday.
The 26-year-old will add another dimension to the Herd offence with his no-nonsense approach to the game.
He may have been born in Irvine, Scotland, but the forward, who lives in Brighton Hill, played all his junior hockey in Basingstoke and played for the Bison in the Elite League.
Watt returns to Basingstoke from Swindon and will once again link up with free-scoring import Jaroslav Cesky.
The pair have played together for three of the past four years – the first two in Bracknell where Bison’s new signing was their top-scoring Brit.
Watt, who is excited to be back with the Herd, said: “It was a tough decision leaving Swindon and the fans were really great to me, but I can’t wait to make my debut for the Bison on Saturday.
“I am a local lad and really want to help the Bison win some silverware this season.”
Talking about the latest signing, Bison player/coach Doug Sheppard said: “He will add the grit we are missing in the line-up.
“He is a player who plays with his heart on his sleeve and brings a lot of energy, which others can feed off.
“He is returning to his home town team and gives us more depth down the middle as he is another centreman.”
Watt will certainly add some extra spice to the showdown with Manchester on Saturday night (face-off 6.30pm).
Everything is on the line in this game as both sides know victory would send them top of the English Premier League. The Herd have beaten the Phoenix four times this season and would love to complete a clean sweep of home wins over the visitors, who are third in the table – a point behind them.
The Bison have also enjoyed a great run of home form which has seen them beaten just once in their last 13 games at the Basingstoke Arena, and another big crowd is expected for the Phoenix clash.
Looking ahead to the game, Bison boss Sheppard said: “At home, we have done really well, and have been helped by our great support.
“We have had a lot of success against Manchester, but they are an extremely hard- working team with some very good players.
“Stevie Lyle has been our best player against Manchester, and I am sure he will step up to the plate again on Saturday.”
On Sunday night (face-off 6pm), the Bison travel to Bracknell, looking to keep their title push going.
The previous two games at the Hive have been close affairs, with the home side winning the first 3-2 but losing the last encounter 3-1.
Since then, the Bees have swapped defencemen as Pavel Strycek has replaced former Herd man Marcel Petran.
Last weekend, they enjoyed a double success over a Swindon Wildcats line-up that included Watt, who picked up the man-of-the-match award in Sunday’s loss in Bracknell.
The Bees will be buzzing and hoping to close the gap further on sixth-placed Swindon in what is their only game of the weekend.
Looking forward to another derby day battle, Sheppard said: “Bracknell are dangerous in their own rink, especially (Lukas) Smital and (Martin) Masa. They will turn us over if we fail to turn up.”