SNL preview: Kilmarnock Thunder youngsters backed to keep progressing

Kilmarnock Thunder head coach Andy Anderson believes the club’s faith in its younger players will pay dividends as the season progresses.

Thunder have been competing in the newly-formed Stuart Robertson Cup during the early part of the campaign, beating Solway Stingrays before falling to defeats against Paisley Pirates and North Ayrshire Wild.

Anderson’s side play their fourth game in the western group this Saturday when they travel to face North Ayrshire once again and Anderson has backed his team to give a good account of themselves.

“We’re confident that we will be more competitive this season,” he said. “There’s been more interest in watching the guys play and they’ve played some good hockey in their first three games of the new cup competition.

“They’ve been scoring more freely than last season, but we’re still a good bit off the top teams in the league in terms of experience and bench size.

“However, with the juniors coming through, having the opportunity to train and get game experience through the season, hopefully those differences should look after themselves over time.

“The roster is much the same as last season with a lot of young players, but those guys gained a great deal of experience through a tough inaugural season and despite interest from elsewhere we’ve kept hold of them.

“We’ve added a few more experienced players to try and get a better balance, but we’re still looking to add a couple more defencemen before the league games start as injuries and work left us really short, highlighting the lack of depth on our blueline in the last two games.”

Kilmarnock’s lack of numbers defensively hit them hard last weekend, with North Ayrshire racking up an impressive 18-7 victory. Anderson admitted that Wild deserved to win, but he believes his team can take plenty of positives into the return fixture.

“We’re looking forward to the game on Saturday, hopefully with as close to a full team as possible,” he added. “Wild were worthy winners last week and are looking strong.

“They’ll definitely be one of the top teams this season, so we’ll try and tighten up a bit and take our chances as I think we can play a far better game than we did last Saturday.”

North Ayrshire head into the weekend full of confidence after winning their opening three matches in the group.

Wild’s only defeat this season was a narrow 5-3 reverse against Murrayfield Racers in the league at the start of September, but forward Ryan Parkin believes the team have got better since that game.

“It was a disappointing start to lose to Murrayfield as we know that wasn’t a good performance,” he said. “Since then we have been improving every week and showing the sort of form we know we’re capable of producing.

“We’ve got some tough tests coming up over the next couple of weeks, but I think we will continue to improve and hopefully be in contention as the season progresses.”

WEEKEND FIXTURES

Saturday

Aberdeen Lynx v Dundee Comets – SRC East
Kirkcaldy Kestrels v Murrayfield Racers – SRC East
North Ayrshire Wild v Kilmarnock Thunder – SRC West

Sunday

Murrayfield Racers v Aberdeen Lynx – SRC East
Solway Stingrays v Dundee Tigers – SNL

(Image permission: Al Goold Photo)