Cox confident Bracknell Bees can end Phoenix hoodoo this weekendBy Lewis Rudd
January 24, 2013
Gareth Cox insists his Bracknell Bees squad will travel to bogey side Manchester Phoenix this weekend full of confidence and team spirit following the impressive victory over high-flying Basingstoke Bison on Sunday.
Yet to record a victory over the Phoenix this season, the title-contenders have become a bit of a nemesis for the Bees this campaign, having picked up wins in all three EPIHL fixtures between the two sides in the 2012/13 season.
However, Bracknell go into the double header weekend with their North West rivals in fine form having recorded their third league win on the spin after the 5-1 success over previous table-toppers Basingstoke at the Hive on Sunday night.
Lukas Smital, Martin Masa, Scott Spearing, Shaun Thompson and Pavel Strycek were all on target as the hosts extended their unbeaten run in some style.
But speaking after the game, Cox’s thoughts immediately turned to this weekend’s back-to-back contests with the Phoenix, which begins with a trip to Altincham Ice Rink this Saturday (7pm).
He said: “It is going to be a tough weekend. Manchester Phoenix are always a bit of a bogey side for us, but we go into that with good morale, good team spirit and a little bit of confidence, which is the right way to go into things, which is good.”
Bracknell also make the lengthy trip north in goalscoring mood, having amassed an impressive 16 goals during the recent victories over Swindon Wildcats and the Bison.
While at the other end of the rink, Bees have conceded just seven goals during this time, something which Cox puts down to the fine work shown by Carl Ambler between the pipes.
During Sunday’s victory, the netminder dealt with a total of 40 shots, finishing the fixture with a save percentage of 97.73 per cent, with Joe Rand’s unassisted goal in the second period the only blotch on an otherwise memorable night on the ice.
“He was fantastic,” said Cox.
“In the first and second periods he made some good saves for us, but when you are back-stopped by goal tenders like that – and Tom Annetts has also performed like that for us this season – it helps.
“He made some key saves at key times for us and it does give the guys confidence and we roll from there really.”
The defensive line was also singled out for praise by the coach following some improved performances in recent weeks, although Cox does believe there are still a few areas the squad needs to continue working on.
He said: “There was a few giveaways and the final pass isn’t quite there at times and we allowed them (the Bison) too many shots on goal in the first and second periods.
“But yes, we are looking stronger, we are not losing guys any more and we are looking a lot stronger in the front.
“But Manchester will be the real test for us.
“All three lines are clicking at the moment and working well, and the goals are being scored across the squad, which is nice. Pavel (Strycek) also got his first goal for the club too, so we are pleased for him about that.”
Bracknell are expected to go into the weekend’s fixtures with a clean bill of health – something which Cox believes is vital if the Bees are to end their league hoodoo against the Phoenix.
“They are very good offensively and have a lot of depth and play at such speed,” commented the coach.
“But we have new lines and formations and everything is working for us, so hopefully we can cause a surprise at their place and come back here on Sunday.”
The return fixture with the Phoenix takes place at the Hive on Sunday night, with a 6pm face-off.