ICE HOCKEY: Wildcats wary of Bison threat under boss Tait

01 January, 07:26
VETERAN coach Ashley Tait has been applauded by Swindon Wildcats boss Aaron Nell ahead of Basingstoke Bison's visit to the Link Centre on New Year's Day.

Bison director of hockey Tait has transformed the club's roster since he started his new role in May 2018.

Tait's squad currently sit fourth in the National League table - two points short of third-placed Peterborough Phantoms with a game in hand.

Previously of Coventry Blaze and Sheffield Steelers in the EIHL - two clubs Nell himself iced for - Tait's work in UK hockey's lower divisions hasn't gone unnoticed.

And with a host of former Cats players set to make another return to the Link Centre, including defenceman Ollie Stone and forward Adam Harding, Nell accepts the Hampshire side's New Year's Day visit will be no gimme.

Swindon player-coach Nell said: "Ashley Tait has done a great job since he has been there.

"Everyone left two summers ago, and he was left with very little. He seems to have created a great culture and a hockey club where people want to be.

"With all due respect to their rink, it isn't the nicest place to play hockey. But his players seem to enjoy it, and that shows the type of team he has built.

"They're doing great this season and Ashley is doing a great job.

"Basingstoke always play well at the Link Centre. When they beat us earlier this season, it was one of the best performances we have seen.

"They seem to play better here than they do at home.

"It will be a tough game, we need to make sure we're playing at the same level we have for the last few games."

Tait's extensive list of honours dates back to 1999, where he helped Great Britain win a bronze medal in the World Championship B series.

He was an EIHL champion three times and a play-off champion on two occasions - the last of those occurring with Coventry in 2015.

Away from the opposition, Nell accepts the Cats' two weekend wins over Bracknell Bees and Raiders came at a timely moment.

He said: "We needed those two wins as a group, particularly given we were short-benched on Sunday night against Raiders.

"The league table is becoming a little bit clearer, although there is still a long way to go and no doubt a few twists and turns are ahead.

"Telford are by far the favourites, and have put themselves in a fantastic position, but I do believe we have turned a corner."