MATT Smital admits his debut season with the Swindon Wildcats has been quite the learning curve as they prepare for two cup finals.

Aaron Nell’s troops were due to face Basingstoke Bison away from home on Friday evening, but due to the weather, the Autumn Cup opening leg will now take place tonight.

Last Saturday saw the Cats host their final NIHL National League South game at the Link Centre, claiming a 6-3 win over Bracknell Bees.

In that win, Nell threw Smital in at the deep end, by subbing him in for regular netminder Renny Marr with just over 10 minutes to go.

The 18-year-old revealed it wasn’t pre-planned but was thankful to Nell for giving him an opportunity to impress on the ice.

“It was good to get back on the ice and it is always though when you have had a long break, but it was good to get the opportunity,” he said.

“It wasn’t pre-meditated for me to come on. It was just how the game was going and Aaron wanted to throw me in there.

“Because I’m a young goalie, it is always good to be put into these situations so that when I am in those situations, I’m prepared.

“I think it was good coaching from Aaron. He identified that as a goalkeeper, I need to experience all aspects of the game and that is what will make me a better goalkeeper.”

As a team, Smith says the Cats have enjoyed a successful year by all accounts with the NIHL Cup and Autumn Cup finals to come.

With the chance of silverware in his first year at the club, the netminder reiterated the importance of listening to the more experienced players during the crucial part of the season.

“As a team we have had our ups and downs but generally, I think we have been very strong and we deserve to be in the position we are in,” he added.

“We are all excited to play for something. I think it is a first time for a lot of us, especially the younger players who joined this year.

“It’s good to have experienced players on the team because we, as younger players, follow their lead and take the experience on board.”