When news happens, text BAZ and your photos or videos to 80360. Or contact us by email and phone.
Bison boss Sheppard wants to end season on a high
The Herd won both of their games last weekend, playing some of their best ice hockey of the season – and with just three games left until the play-offs, Sheppard said his side are hitting form at the perfect time.
“This is when you want to be hitting top form,” he said. “We are heading in the right direction so hopefully things keep going the way they have been because we seem to be in a good position.
“I am just happy that we have found some form. We want to carry on, get another couple of wins and go into the play-offs on a high. If we can do that, then we will be tough to beat.”
The Bison’s perfect weekend means they could still win the English Premier League title. Guildford Flames remain favourites, needing to claim just two points from their final four games, but Sheppard says his side will not give up until the title is beyond them.
“Guildford had a really comfortable lead but they have lost a couple of games and have a cup final to think about,” he added. “If they slip up again this weekend and we get four points, then it will all come down to the last weekend of the season.”
The title may be out of their hands but the Bison hold the key to their own destiny when it comes to securing second place and their highest finish since they returned to the English Premier League in 2009.
The Herd are currently five points ahead of third-placed Manchester Phoenix and need a further three points to be assured of second.
“Manchester are playing good hockey and I expect them to keep winning so we have to do the same because we want to finish as high as possible,” Sheppard added. “We are in a good position at the moment and if we do not get second spot then we will have slipped up and taken a step backwards.”
The Herd will be looking to pick up the points they need to claim second place this weekend, when they have home and away matches against Milton Keynes Lightning.
Milton Keynes are one of the league’s form teams, having won four of their last five to move into contention for a top-three finish – and Sheppard expects a tough weekend.
“Milton Keynes are capable of beating anyone,” he said. “I would not be surprised if they made the play-off final or even won it because they are a good team.
“They play a really strong defensive game and we will have to show the same work-rate we did last week if we are to create chances. They also have imports who are tough to handle so we will have to be aware defensively.
“We are very similar in goals for and against. Most of the matches between us have been play-off type games – low scoring and close – so I expect it to be tight.”
Saturday will see the sides meet at the Basingstoke Arena (face-off 6.30pm), with the return in Milton Keynes the following night (face-off 5.30pm).
The Bison will still be without defenceman Kurt Reynolds, while injuries to Nicky Watt and Alex Symonds appear to be worse than first thought and they will also miss out.
Forward Andy Melachrino is also a doubt. He did not play on Sunday after taking a heavy hit the night before, and Sheppard insists he will not be rushed back into action after a long spell on the sidelines.