THIS weekend looks set to serve up a couple of Christmas crackers for Basingstoke Bison, with big crowds expected at both games.

A large contingent of Herd fans will make the short trip to Bracknell, to see their side face the Bees on Saturday (face-off 6pm).

The following night there is another local derby game, against the Guildford Flames at the Basingstoke Arena, with the action getting under way at 5.30pm.

The Herd will be hoping to bounce back to winning ways, having drawn a rare blank from the last weekend’s games at Milton Keynes and Sheffield.

Bison player/coach Doug Sheppard said: “We played a good game in Milton Keynes, but a couple of mistakes cost us.

“In Sheffield, we came out flat in the first period and then matched them for the rest of the game, but were unable to get back on equal terms.

He added: “We are in a losing rut at the moment and we have to find a way to get out of it.”

On paper, a trip to the Hive to face basement dwellers Bracknell looks like the ideal opportunity to get that much needed win.

However, the Bison were stung on their first visit to Berkshire this season, when the home side’s player/coach Lukas Smital scored the game winner late on.

Bracknell’s leading goal scorer missed the Bees last outing, a 7-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester a fortnight ago, but he is expected to be back in the line-up, along with former Bison Scott Spearing.

They will also welcome back their top British goal scorer Ivan Antonov and Harvey Stead from Great Britain under-20 duty. The Herd will also have their young GB internationals, Cameron Wynn and Declan Balmer back for the game.

However, Matt Selby will be out due to injury and captain Nicky Chinn is suspended after being dismissed on a match penalty in Sunday’s loss in Sheffield, so the Herd will have to reshuffle their forward lines.

Defenceman Ricky Skene has also finished his month-long spell with the Bison.

Looking ahead to Saturday’s game at Bracknell, which is sure to be a super charged local derby against the Bison’s oldest rivals, Sheppard said: “Going into Bracknell is never easy and there are no easy games in this league.

“We have to make sure we stick to our systems and if we do this we should get the win.”

Meanwhile, for Sunday’s clash, Guildford have changed two of their imports since their last visit to Basingstoke.

Canadians Owen Fussey and Curtis Huppe have been replaced by Slovaks Roman Trvdon and Vladimir Kutzy.

Guildford lost 4-1 at runaway leaders Telford Tigers last Sunday, but only iced three imports, Branislav Kvetan, Jozef Kohut and Tvrdon.

Kutzy will be back in the line-up for the trip to Basingstoke, while Swede Marcus Kristoffersson is expected to sit out due to injury.

Sheppard said: “We know all about Guildford, but I think we have to focus on what we can do.

“We are looking for four points to take us into Christmas on a high.”