THE Buildbase Bees got their season properly off and running with an emphatic local derby win to boost their hopes of retaining the Craven Shield.
The margin of their win on a freezing night at Brandon, coupled with Wolves' earlier defeat at Belle Vue, means that Bees should be favourites to progress as long as they can secure the right results from their clashes with the Aces.
Wolves had been expected to put up stiff opposition after their 53-37 win in Monday's reverse fixture, but the Monmore men got off to a poor start - even worse than Bees' had been in the opening match - and never really recovered.
Niels-Kristian Iversen battled hard for the visitors and Ales Dryml again displayed encouraging form, but as a one-to-seven Coventry were much stronger, and it was particularly pleasing to see the reserves showing that they are more than capable of mixing it at Elite League level as they outscored their counterparts.
Not only that, Simon Stead roared to his second straight home maximum, and Olly Allen and Billy Janniro continued their excellent starts to the season - so when top two Rory Schlein and Chris Harris iron out their early gremlins, the signs could well be even more encouraging!
A feature of matches between Elite League teams so far this season has been surprise results in Heat 1, and this match proved no exception with Olly Allen gating for a fine win and Ales Dryml cutting inside Rory Schlein on turn two for second place. Incredibly, Wolves skipper Fredrik Lindgren ran his third last place from three Heat 1s so far!
Heat 2 saw Stanislaw Burza and Andreas Messing both make terrific starts, which will be a real confidence booster for them, and they were already well on their way to a 5-1 when Christian Hefenbrock lost control and fell on the third lap, with Nicolai Klindt hitting the fence in apparent avoidance. Eventually it was Hefenbrock who re-mounted for the point, but the Bees riders were away for maximum points.
There were more problems for Wolves in a re-started Heat 3 after an initial clash between Iversen and Janniro saw the Dane go down. In the re-run, Janniro made it around Iversen off the second bend and Harris made ground from the back after a tardy getaway. The Bees skipper first cleared Kenneth Hansen, and then dived through on the inside of Iversen going into the last lap. There was no contact, but Iversen fell under the challenge and Bees had their second straight 5-1.
A stroke of fortune went the home side's way in Heat 4 because David Howe appeared set for a win over Stead only to grind to a halt on the third lap - and at the same moment, Hefenbrock took advantage of a mistake by Burza to split the Bees pairing, but even so the Coventry lead was up to 12-points.
Dryml finally got Wolves on the race winners' board by taking Heat 5, blocking off Janniro's outside run, and the visitors gained a point when Harris lost power halfway through the race which allowed Lindgren through into third spot.
But the Bees were quickly back to winning ways with Allen and Schlein holding off Howe's challenge in Heat 6, Howe getting close to passing Schlein on the last lap, and a 4-2 followed in the next as Stead and Messing led away, Iversen coming into second place on the first lap.
Dryml was the obvious call for a tactical ride in Heat 8 but he would have to do it from the outside, and in virtually a mirror image of what happened to the Bees on Monday, it was his team-mate Hefenbrock who made the start as Dryml was slow away. Allen had a good run around the outside and hit the front on turn three, and all the Wolves riders could do then was switch positions for a 5-3.
Janniro made a fast start in Heat 9 with Harris powering around Howe on the second bend to join his team-mate for a 5-1, and although Allen's winning run came to an end in Heat 10 it was still a further Coventry advantage, thanks to a strong defence of the lead by Schlein who had to chop off Iversen's attempted inside surge going into the third bend on lap two.
Stead again demonstrated his speed from the gate and was on exactly the right line to head Lindgren in a shared Heat 11, and the next also resulted in a 3-3 with Iversen finally gaining reward for his efforts as he passed a fast-starting Burza on the back straight, Harris then content to sit behind his partner ahead of Klindt.
Stead clocked the fastest time of the night in winning Heat 13 ahead of Lindgren, who gave enthusiastic chase, but it was another comfortable Bees 4-2 after Howe had been excluded for breaking the tapes.
Hefenbrock usually has at least one good race at Brandon, and he saved it for Heat 14 with a superb start from gate 3 to beat Janniro to the first bend and ensure the American was taken too wide to make it through - but with his partner Kenneth Hansen struggling, Bees were still 22-points to the good.
And the last race in many ways summed up the meeting as Janniro again made an excellent start to head the Wolves duo, and with Harris making ground from the back Lindgren suddenly got out of shape and hit the fence on turn two on the third lap. This occurred just as Harris was switching back inside Iversen for what became second place, so when the red lights came on for Lindgren referee Chris Durno had no hesitation in awarding Bees their fifth 5-1 of the night to wrap up a thoroughly convincing display.