The time has finally come after a long summer of waiting and this weekend the TSI World Bees will take on the Swindon Wildcats in their first set of preseason fixtures over the course of 2 weeks. On Saturday, the Bees will make the trip to the Link Centre for the first time since February then on Sunday, the Swindon Wildcats will make the trip down to the Slough Ice Arena for the first time since the closing game of the 2022/23 season in April to end the first weekend of games.
Over the off-season both teams have made some drastic changes to both of their rosters with both sides bringing in more players in attempts to boost their gameplay and all round experience on the team. The Wildcats saw the loss of Floyd Taylor, Loris Taylor, Ben Nethersell and Dean Skinns but through all these players leaving it gave Head Coach Aaron Nell the opportunity to bring in new talents while at the same time be able to bring some familiar faces back to the Link Centre.
From the Peterborough Phantoms, Aaron was able to recruit Forward Glenn Billing, who played a massive role within the Phantoms roster and had the “A”. Luc Johnson also made the decision to make the move from the Phantoms to the Wildcats but is no stranger to the Wildcats fans as he was last part of their roster in the 2019/20 season but as a Forward and this season will return to the Link Centre as a Defensemen. Gaël was forced to make a move to a new team after the Basingstoke Bison being unable to participate in the league for this season, and chose to join Aaron Nell’s side for the upcoming season. From the Bristol Pitbull’s, 2 familiar faces return to the line-up for the Wildcats fans as Josh Shaw and Tyler Perre both made the decision to return to the Wildcats line-up for first time for Tyler since the 2019/20 season whereas Josh Shaw only had a brief spell at the Pitbull’s for 1 season. The Wildcats did experience a little hiccup over the off-season due to the signing of defensemen Reece Kelly as he had originally signed for the Swindon Wildcats quite early on the announcement was made but due to an offer being made by the Elite League side the Glasgow Clan, Reece took the opportunity to play for the Clan in the upcoming season leaving the Wildcats to fill his space.
The improvements to the Wildcats roster leaves us to wonder how all these players gel on the ice and also question who will be their one to watch over the season ahead. Gaël-Mukeba Lubwele will definitely be one of the ones to watch for the Wildcats over the course of the weekend after gathering a total of 76 points, 36 goals and 40 assists, while he was previously signed at the Basingstoke Bison last season but it is also worth keeping an eye out for Luc Johnson as it will be interesting to see how he will fill into the Swindon roster after being away for the Link Centre for a few years and how he will perform as a defenseman for the Wildcats this time around.
This weekend for the Bees however will be a fresh start with a new and improved roster due to a few new faces joining the Bees over the summer. From the Basingstoke Bison Brendan Baird, Josh Kelly, Liam Morris, Edgar Landsberg, Aiden Doughty and Marcel Balaz joined the TSI World as well as the additions of Sam Cooper, Oliver Knaggs and Vanya Antonov. Having these players added to the roster will add more depth and boost the team when it comes to pushing for a playoff spot.
The Bees return to the Slough Ice Arena on Sunday with face-off at 5pm.