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Sheppard wants to spoil Guildford's party
The Flames will clinch the league if they are able to beat the Bison this Saturday (face-off 6.30pm) – but Sheppard does not want to be left watching another team celebrate on his home ice.
“Guildford have the chance to clinch the league on our ice and we do not want to allow that to happen,” he said. “It does not really matter who it is, we would feel the same way – but the fact it’s our local rivals means we are even more determined not to let it happen.
“It looks like Guildford will win the league but there is no way we want to lose at home. So far, each team has won their home games. We will look to make sure that continues and expect to get a result.”
Beating the Flames on Saturday is unlikely to prevent the Surrey side from claiming the title – but it could give the Bison a psychological edge ahead of a potential play-off final match-up.
“We know we are good enough at full-strength to beat anyone,” Sheppard added. “If we could beat Guildford on Saturday, then it might give us a bit of extra edge and attitude if we were to come up against them in the play-offs.”
The Herd complete their weekend with a trip to the Swindon Wildcats on Sunday (face-off 6pm), a match that could turn out to be vital as the Bison look to secure second spot in the table.
Basingstoke are currently five points clear of third-placed Manchester Phoenix – but the northern side have a game in hand and are in fantastic form at the moment, meaning the Bison cannot afford many more slip-ups.
“We really want that second seed for the play-offs to put ourselves in the best position possible to make the last four,” Sheppard added. “We need to win this weekend. We remain in a good position. It’s just a case of getting more players healthy and returning to winning ways.
"We have got some tough teams to play down the stretch, with Guildford on Saturday and then two games against Milton Keynes and Swindon, teams who are looking strong going into the play-offs. It’s a good run and should set us up nicely to be on top form for the play-offs.”
Sheppard is hoping to welcome two players back into the line-up this weekend. Defender Alex Symonds is expected to be fit, while forward Andy Melachrino, who has been missing for the last two months, could also return.
Sheppard said: “Andy has been out for eight weeks and is a big guy for us. He is so fast and creates a lot of problems so to have him back would be a huge boost.”
Nicky Watt looks set to sit out a second weekend, but it is hoped that he will be fit for next week’s double header against Milton Keynes Lightning, while defenceman Kurt Reynolds is edging closer to a return.