DOUG Sheppard will once again be the Basingstoke Bison’s player/coach next season – a move that is sure to delight fans of the club.
He will now look to build on an excellent first campaign in the English Premier League, which saw the Canadian guide the Herd to second place, their best ever finish in the EPL.
Sheppard said: “We came so close this season to the league crown, but it has still been a great year. Right now, I am still focused on this season.
“I will be working closely with Bison programme director John Neville over the closed season to recruit a team capable of winning the league.”
He added: “By working together with our loyal group of volunteers, booster club committee and Planet Ice staff, we have delivered improved crowds, laid the foundations of a successful team and are looking to build a reputation not only for winning, but also for playing entertaining, competitive hockey.”
John Neville added: “Second in the league is a great result but Doug and I won’t be satisfied until we’ve delivered a title.
“Having built a strong relationship with Doug, we are confident that we have the resources and abilities to deliver silverware to Basingstoke.
“We still have the play-offs to aim for, and it would be a fantastic end to the season if we could win the trophy for the Herd faithful.”
Turning his thoughts back to this weekend, Bison player/coach Sheppard is looking for his side to sign off their league campaign in the best possible fashion ahead of Easter’s play-off quarter-finals.
The Herd have just the one game this weekend, against the Swindon Wildcats at home on Sunday night (face-off 5.30pm).
They currently lead the series over their Wiltshire rivals 3-2, with the latest success coming earlier this month at Link Centre.
Sheppard will now be looking for his side to repeat that victory, but his team will be short staffed again as forwards Andy Melachrino and Nicky Watt, who both went off injured in the loss to Milton Keynes last Saturday, are not expected back in the line-up.
The Bison boss said: “We may have nothing to play for in terms of position, but I still want us to win the game as that will set us up nicely for the play-offs next weekend.”
Swindon boast the top two points-scorers in the league in import star Jonas Hoog and top Brit Aaron Nell and the Herd will have to keep the pair quiet if they are to win their league finale.
Sheppard added: “They have a high powered offence and I want us to keep it tight as we would do in the play-offs. “That is what I want our focus to be.”
In fact the Herd could still end up playing Swindon again in the play-offs, as, having finished second in the EPL they will face the team seventh in the table over Easter, with the first leg away on Saturday and the return at home on Easter Sunday.
At the moment, the side in seventh is the Bracknell Bees, but that could all change as they are only two points behind Swindon and both sides have two matches to play this coming weekend.
The Wildcats have a home game against Guildford before coming to Basingstoke, while Bracknell travel to Telford on Saturday before entertaining Sheffield on Sunday.
Should the two teams end up level on points Bracknell would finish sixth as they have won the series over Swindon.
Visit the website basingstokegazette.co.uk/sport for live updates from Basingstoke Arena on Sunday evening.