This is the biggest show to date in terms of both its length and its content and it sees our usual format fly right out of the window.
Having debuted at 16 in the Elite League and having spent 10 years in the EPL with various teams, Nicky Watt was a well known player within British hockey. However just over a week ago, the news was confirmed that he had been banned for 8 years for 2 doping rule violations.
In an exclusive, sit down, face to face interview, Nicky answers the questions put to him and tells his story from that first knock on the door back in May to where he goes from here. There’s choice words for a variety of organisations, warnings for others and more beside.
The BOTW Podcast; the news and views from the EPIHL, all levels above, below and in between.
Basingstoke Bison 6-4 Milton Keynes Lightning
Greener x2 (1 dpg) Hook x3 (1 pp)
Connolly x2 Kostourek
Stormy ends: Both teams headed into the game with players missing. The Bison remained without the trio of Selby, Balmer and Karpov and the Lightning headed in missing Jordan Cownie, Ross Green, Curtis Huppe and Grant McPherson as Jordan Hedley took the start in the MK net.
The Bison had the better of the early chances as both Sheppard and Connolly both had chances to score. Play had to be stopped when Milan Kostourek went down in a heap after a coming together, the MK import skating off holding his wrist. Off of the ensuing faceoff the Bison attacked and with Mr Pickett’s arm in the air for holding on Ross Green, the Bison worked a nice move with Ciaran Long drawing the defender and feeding the puck to Joe Greener to fire home from close range at 04:47.
It didn’t take long for the home side to press home their advantage either as the relentless Bison attack yielded a second goal. Ryan Watt fed the puck to Aaron Connolly who fired a powerful wrist shot at the gap between the left arm and pad of Jordan Hedley. The GB u20 netminder got a piece of the shot but not enough as it nestled into the back of the net at 06:53 for the 2-0 Bison lead.
The Lightning were very much on the back foot, seemingly having no real answer to the sustained and trademark Bison pressure. Leigh Jamieson tried to feed Adam Carr at the backdoor but Dean Skinns was able to deflect the puck away from the MK captain.
The hosts were very much the side in the ascendency, looking dangerous even without the puck. When the Bison forced a turnover inside the Lightning zone, Watt again would find Connolly who this time fired high over the shoulder of Hedley for 3-0 at 11:37 forcing Nick Poole to call for the timeout to settle the troops.
It didn’t immediately help; Connolly again was released down the wing and his shot again took a piece of Hedley on the way past but the Bison alternate captain’s hat trick was denied by a Lightning defender on the line. However there was nothing that could be done a moment later as the Bison worked the puck to the outside and former Lightning favourite Michael Wales had his drive superbly tipped past Hedley by Greener for his second of the night at 14:56 for 4-0.
The Bison were fully in control but as the old adage goes on BOTW, never count out the Lightning who made the most of Bison error in the offensive zone. Ross Bowers and Lewis Hook led the breakout, the former fed the later and Hook got just enough on the puck for it to make it past the outstretched leg of Skinns and into the bottom corner of the net at 16:22.
The Lightning took some solace in the goal and proved more of a threat to the Bison goal as the chances evened up with the period running down. When Miroslav Vantroba was called for hooking, the Lightning set about trying to claw themselves back further into the tie, a cross ice feed from Petr Horava being poked away by Skinns with Adam Carr on the back door being the best chance.
The first ended with the Herd comfortably in front but the Lightning were always going to refuse to go quietly.
The teams traded chances at the start of the second period with Rand and Long going close for the Bison and Hook having a couple of chances for Milton Keynes. The Bison would get the first opportunity to have some sustained pressure when Petr Horava tripped Ryan Watt then when Vantroba was slashed by Lewis Christie the Bison had 50 seconds of 5on3 but couldn’t make the advantage count as they powerplay was spent trying to set up Ryan Watt for his first goal since joining the Herd. The Lightning had a powerplay chance of their own when Chinn was called for crosschecking but again, no goals were forthcoming.
Chris Wiggins had been subject to a lot of booing all night but this didn’t stop the former Bison man going about his business. A hit on Joe Greener that looked a little bit close to elbows in this writer’s opinion wasn’t called and when Wiggins clashed with Miroslav Vantroba it appeared that all hell would break loose as the two big men hacked and whacked at each other till it drew a crowd. Wiggins ended up with 2+2 roughing and Vantroba only 2 for roughing (which given he gave Wiggins a pretty stiff elbow to the face was surprising) but reports of a kick from Vantroba to Wiggins emerged after the fracas. I personally didn’t see a kick but as I’m positioned a fair distance from where the incident took place, hopefully the highlights will shed more light.
The game took on a really niggly edge; Jamieson stuck his knee out on Vantroba that saw Ryan Watt steam in and both men take penalties along with a variety of hacks and whacks off the play. Mr Pickett seemed content to let the game flow as much as possible.
The teams traded chances as the period came to a close; Long and Vantroba had the best one and seemed to take too many touches and eventually managed to miss an almost open net. Chinn was called for hooking towards the end of the period leaving Milton Keynes starting the third with the man advantage.
The Lightning started the final frame the better of the two sides as Lewis Hook again danced around the Bison defence but was denied by the left pad of Skinns but Milan Kostourek would get the Lightning within two when his shot at the narrow angle went into Skinns’ shoulder and rolled down the arm of the Bison netminder and over the line at 43:04.
Shortly after, the game took another ugly turn; a high hit from Wiggins from behind on Connolly saw no call from Mr Pickett which saw Michael Wales step in to have a few words with Wiggins and off came the gloves. With the height, reach and pretty much everything advantage it was an easy win for the Milton Keynes man who was booed into the penalty box. Wales was given the extra 2 minutes for instigating and MK found themselves on the powerplay.
The Lightning took the faceoff but eventually Greener and Long broke out shorthanded. Greener fed the puck into Long’s wheelhouse and blasted it by Hedley for 5-2 at 44:41, bringing the home crowd to their feet.
The aggressive nature of the game continued; Melachrino and Kostourek clashed then Connolly, Wales and Jamieson. Both sets of players and fans were getting riled up as it seemed very few penalties would be forthcoming.
The game was scrappy but the next goal opened the game up slightly; Adam Carr won the battle in the corner and fed Lewis Hook. The GB u20 international made the move, avoided the pokecheck of Skinns and slotted past him at 54:20 to make it 5-3.
When Stuart Mogg took what can only be described as a necessary hooking penalty to stop Blaz Emersic, it was Hook who would punish the Bison again. The Lightning powerplay worked the puck around to the youngster who blasted his hat trick goal under the arm of Skinns at 56:24 for 5-4 to leave the Bison in a tighter position than they wanted.
Milan Kostourek chased the puck into the corner and was chased down by Ciaran Long. Kostourek ended up in a head on the deck much in the same way he had in the first period. Mr Pickett held off on blowing the whistle but when it emerged that no penalty was coming, Kostourek lost his temper. The Czech forward screamed at the ref, the Bison players on the ice, off the ice and was eventually man handled away by linesman Cook and onto the MK bench before he could do any damage. The Lightning forward kept raving and eventually Lightning assistant coach Lewis Clifford was thrown out of the game for his remonstrations.
The Bison’s response to this? Some neat setup play from Reynolds to Sheppard and eventually a goal from Nicky Chinn; 6-4 Bison at 58:25 and the Bison saw out the home part of the 2014/15 season with a win and the securing of third place in the table.
Home and dry: So that was the regular season in Basingstoke and the Bison go out with a win. As I discussed with someone after the game, the Bison ended the season as they started it; a 6-4 home win in an ill tempered game with an aggressive undercurrent that the Bison scored a lot early then slightly let the visitors back into it at the end.
Joe Greener was a fair choice for man of the match given his two goals and his general all around play but it was actually a decent all round performance by the Bison. With the lack of Karpov, the scoring line of Greener-Long-Sheppard was joined by a line of Chinn, Melachrino and Wynn/Rounding so a line with speed and someone to set people up and a line of Rand, Watt and Connolly which is so gritty it would make your driveway jealous.
In the first period, the Herd could and probably should have been 5 or 6 ahead when any good move they seemed to be setting up went in. It was disappointing to see the Lightning allowed back into the game (though that’s partly down to how well MK played once the physicality of the game was raised as well) but overall, it’s a promising weekend heading into the post season with two very good wins over dangerous teams.
Whilst it would have been nice if some of the antics of both sides could have been avoided, the Bison gave as good as they got and heading into the playoffs it’s useful to know that the side feels and shows that it can’t be pushed around.
It seems the Bison playoff title defence needs to be taken seriously after 14 goals in two games. Whilst the Bison will concede goals, they’re going to score them and add Karpov back into the lineup if fit, it’s up to teams to shut that down.
A word on our opponents: Milton Keynes will be happy with the last 25 to 30 minutes. The only problem was that with a short bench they just didn’t show up for the first quarter of an hour and they got seriously burned. It’s not something they could do without one of their import forwards and one of the best up and coming players in the country.
Without Jordan Cownie, a lot of the attacking threat from the Lightning needed to come from somewhere and Lewis Hook more than stepped up with a superbly taken hat trick. Hook really is one for the future and I live in hope that an Elite League side takes a chance on him.
Blaz Emersic provided adequate support and credit to Petr Horava for playing forward and showing the quality that he has by not looking out of place.
I’m quite a fan of Jordan Hedley but unfortunately for the young man, I don’t think this was his best game. Whilst he was beaten by some good shots, I feel he will want a couple of them back.
Whilst he laid a couple of hits that I didn’t think were legal, I don’t have a whole lot of problem with what Chris Wiggins did. Again, he got booed in Basingstoke for doing what he did for Basingstoke a couple of years ago.
I had a bigger problem with Milan Kostourek; yes he took a couple of whacks (so did every player) but the temper tantrum worthy of a 13 year old was just ludicrous. When your own team mate has to pull you away, take the hint.
I don’t think MK can really argue the result and sadly in a way it was indicative of their season; they had a lot there but not quite enough across the 60 minutes.
Lowlight of the night: A bunch of stuff but at the end of the season, I’m not even in the mood to complain about the same problems again and again.
Highlight of the night: Long’s short handed goal was pretty sweet.
After the nomination process and the votes of the Bison fans (and the usual couple of Swindon fans who always vote), the Council of Badass that is the BOTW player of the year panel were given 6 finalists to choose from. After deliberations the panel is pleased, on the one year anniversary of the club winning the EPL Cup, to announce our decision and the winner of this year’s “Edjis Brahmanis Trophy”.
Banners On The Wall Player of the Year 2014/15: #7 Kurt Reynolds
Now in his 7th season with the club, Reynolds is widely regarded as arguably not only the club’s best player but also one of the best defensive players in the league. As well as being part of the club’s double winning season last year, Reynolds was a first team all star and recently added the Basingstoke Sports Personality of the Year to his collection, saying he wished to remain with the club beyond the end of his current contract in 2016 with the hope of earning a testimonial with his home town team. Reynolds is the first defender and the first British player to win this website’s award after the wins of Joe Rand in 2013 and Tomas Karpov in 2014.
The rock at the heart of the Bison defence, the panel were quick to heap praise on Reynolds with Bison superfan Nigel “Moose” Simmonds calling Reynolds “the best Brit d-man ever to wear a Bison jersey.”
Hannah Driver added “even when Kurt has a bad game, he still plays pretty well” with Jamie Walker adding that Reynolds “just doesn’t make mistakes and that’s probably the biggest compliment you can give a d-man.”
#63 Aaron Connolly
Nominated for the second year in a row, Connolly is a popular member of the Bison roster with teammates and fans alike for his work rate and being a player that wears his heart on his sleeve. Grant King, Bison official photographer thoughts were indicative of the panels as a whole, “(He) never gives up, always wants the puck and keeps everyone focussed on the bench when our backs are against the wall.”
#97 Joe Greener
Player assistant/coach Greener, a man booed out of the building when he played for Slough has worked his way into the affections of Bison fans since the start of the Sheppard era with his clutch goals and general work ethic. Panel member Jamie Walker summed up Greener; “I’d say that probably 75% of the Bison offence goes through Greener at some point…consistent, a leader and a physical presence too.”
#89 Ciaran Long
The “youngest vet in the EPL, Long is the Bison’s leading goals and points scorer at the time of writing. The 24 year old is fast becoming one of the EPL’s premier British scorers and regularly has a trick up his sleeve to earn him a reputation as something of a wizard in the shootout. Nigel Simmonds summed up Long saying “he has all the moves and isn’t afraid to try something special at times. It doesn’t always come off but when he gets it right, he lights the lamp!”
#94 Stuart Mogg
20 year old Mogg has had a very interesting season and prompted a lot of discussion amongst the panel. When presenting Mogg with the “most improved player” award at the end of last season, Doug Sheppard admitted he’d told the locally born youngster at one time that he “wasn’t good enough for the EPL” but Mogg’s efforts, especially recently saw him added into the discussion. Having started the season as forward to ending the season taking regular shifts on defence and logging a lot of penalty kill time, Mogg appears to be finding his niche as a two-way player. Hannah Driver commented that Mogg “has really raised his game this season and is proving to be a versatile player who can slot into defence, does the job on the special lines and probably gets very little credit for his efforts.”
#18 Miroslav Vantroba
The only import to make this season’s final discussions, 35 year old Vantroba is at time of writing the highest scoring import defender in the league. As the others had a line on the other players I’m left with Vantroba, who I confess is one of my personal favourites to describe. Whist the points are a nice bonus, Vantroba’s reading of the game and passing ability lend him to be the perfect man to lead the Bison’s breakout. His checking and his big shot mark him out as probably the best import defender in the EPL this campaign.
I would like to extend a massive thanks to Nigel, Hannah, Jamie and Grant (visit the site, buy a print) for being on the panel again this year; I’ve called them the Council of Badass above because that’s what they are.
Congratulations to Kurt and we’ll work on getting the most drinkable trophy in sports to him before the end of the season.
Nominations for the Banners On The Wall 2014/15 Player of the Year closed at midnight last night and we’re pleased to announce the finalists from the total nominations received:
The panel will sit down this week and you should have an announcement as to a winner this coming Thursday 12th March ahead of the final home game of the season on Sunday 15th March.
Alongside myself, the panel again will consist of:
Nigel “Moose Simmonds; Bison superfan whose streak of consecutive games attended is now at nearly 3 seasons
Grant King; official Bison photographer and the man behind 5 Hole Photography
Hannah Driver; Bison off-ice official and player for Bracknell Firebees
Jamie Walker; former Bison junior and match report writer for the Bison website.
Remember to visit 5 Hole Photography to buy a print of any of our nominees and we’ll be back with the winner later this week.
Basingstoke Bison 3-5 Swindon Wildcats
Occasion marked, lacking spark: The Wildcats headed into the game with Kenton Smith the import sitting out and OHA youngster Toms Rutkis added to the roster. The Bison were without Selby as well as Balmer and Karpov with Dean Skinns heading into the game on the brink of a bit of personal history.
That milestone came just over 2 minutes into the game after some fast paced opening exchanges; when the play stopped the announcement was made that Skinns had hit the mark of 10,000 minutes between the pipes for the Bison. The moment was greeted by a standing ovation from both sets of fans, a wave to the crowd from Skinns and the game went on.
The opening minutes saw Skinns called into action a few times as he denied Nell and Kostal on the two on one. The Herd had some good chances as well with Greener and Long combining to cause Lyle some issues but the final shot from Long went over.
The Bison were playing very high up the ice and were caught out when Grant Rounding slipped at the blueline and Floyd Taylor raced in on Skinns but the Herd goalie got a piece of the shot. When it happened again a few minutes later, he wasn’t so lucky; Aaron Nell raced away behind the defence and fired under the arm of Skinns at 08:34.
The Bison did what they normally do when they give up the first goal and set about trying to batter the opposition net but they found a Lyle in typical good form, the soon to be Wildcats player/coach flashing out the glove to deny Miroslav Vantroba.
When Ryan Watt and Tomas Kana clashed in front of the benches, Mr Pickett gave both men a roughing minor but the extra space given by 4on4 hockey played right into the strengths of the Wildcats. The Bison defence was caught all at sea and it was easy for the visitors; Nell to Höög to Richardson on the hashmarks and the Wildcats man blasted the puck over the shoulder of Skinns at 13:32 for 2-0.
The Herd were rocked and looked somewhat off of their game but kept plugging away. Mogg had a shot saved by Lyle and a shot was tipped by Melachrino that sadly went wide rather than in. This didn’t stop the Cats having chances as the Bison’s defence was again lax with Nell getting the puck in the slot unopposed but Skinns threw out the pad to deny him.
The Bison wrestled control back of the game and had the visitors under pressure in the zone but couldn’t seem to get the killer touch that would take the puck past the seemingly impregnable Lyle. The Herd kept the cycle going and Joe Greener laid the puck off to Miroslav Vantroba. Rather than sending the puck back down below the redline, the Slovak noticed a bit of space, raced towards the net and managed to stuff the puck past Lyle at 16:57 to get the hosts on the board. The goal was followed by some pushing and shoving as the Wildcats weren’t happy with Joe Greener getting too close to Lyle in the build up to the goal.
The goal put the tails of the Bison up but they couldn’t find another way past Lyle. With the period winding down, Kostal and Rand came together as the Wildcats were heading towards the net. Despite a fair amount of holding and shoving both sides including Rand being sent into the goal, only the Canadian was called and the Wildcats went into the second period with 1:55 of powerplay to work with.
The Wildcats’ powerplay has something of a reputation, even amongst its own fans for being something of a “powerkill” and being its own worst enemy but it was outdone by some excellent penalty killing from Grant Rounding and Aaron Connolly.
This put momentum firmly with the Bison and the hosts went back to trying to break down Lyle. Melachrino, Connolly and Mogg came close and Rounding went even closer as he was fed on the doorstep with only some excellent work by Lyle keeping the score at 2-1.
Lyle’s net was living something of a charmed life but the Bison were still having issues at the back as Mogg twice had issues with Höög picking his pocket but the Swede couldn’t make either chance count.
The game was tightly poised and it felt that the next goal would have a big say in the outcome of the game and what came was a moment of extreme skill. Sam Bullas took the pass from Toms Rutkis, made a move the removed Kurt Reynolds out of his shorts and fired past Skinns at 37:36. It was one of the best goals we’ve seen in Basingstoke this season.
Then the crowd blinked and it was 4-1. The Wildcats attacked, Skinns raced out for the pokecheck, missed the puck and Höög had the entire net to tap in to at 38:08 and to cap it all off, Long got rightly called for hooking moments later to give the Wildcats another powerplay that would extend across the period break. At 4-1 after 40 minutes, it seemed the Bison had a range of mountains to climb.
The Wildcats had the better of chances at the start of the third thanks to Kostal and Bullas but neither found the target and when Adam Harding was called for slashing, it gave the Bison a chance to get back into the period. The puck was worked to Ciaran Long for a blast from the hashmarks but Lyle saw the shot through traffic. The pressure was kept on and just after the powerplay expired, the Bison found a breakthrough when Connolly fed the puck across the slot to Sheppard who fired past Lyle at 45:06 to make it 2-4.
The game slowly became similar to a lot of games that the Bison trail in; full run and gun attack but wondering where a goal would come from. Lyle appeared to be having one of those games where it would take a miracle to beat him. It wasn’t really a miracle shot that beat him but they all count; Rand put the puck on the net, Lyle seemed to either not see the puck or couldn’t react quickly enough as the puck trickled slowly across the crease and Nicky Chinn was on hand to tap in at 49:54. Suddenly it was 3-4 and the Wildcats who had been cruising were on the back foot.
The Bison kept coming; Sheppard, Greener and Long kept hammering away, Rand had a shot that went wide, all the while the Wildcats occasionally hitting on the counter as Malasinski had a shot saved at the 5hole by Skinns.
The Bison called their timeout with 76 seconds to play and left Skinns off the ice. The Herd eventually got set up with the extra man inside the zone, the feed went to Greener in the slot but a superb save by Lyle kept him at bay as the Herd missed the open space at the far post. The Wildcats broke out and Kana fired into the empty net to hand the Bison their first home loss of 2015.
All things come to an end: It was a shame that in a game where the club was celebrating the personal achievements of a player that the team performance really wasn’t what it could have been. It was a textbook frustrating Bison loss; shot after shot, chance after chance but the Herd weren’t clinical enough. The defence wasn’t tight enough and against a team that stretches the play well and has great speed, the Bison’s usual game plan of playing high and pressing was exposed and the Herd didn’t play well enough to respond with goals.
Ciaran Long put a lot of effort in but ultimately I’m unsure how he got man of the match over Grant Rounding who looks like he hasn’t missed 3 months of the season, Vantroba who was the steadiest of the Herd’s defencemen or even man of the hour Skinns himself who apart from the 4th goal couldn’t do much about any of the others and made a variety of good saves when all around him seemed to be crumbling.
Ultimately it was one of those games for the Bison; all teams have them though obviously we’d have preferred them not to be having it in March and off the back of a long home winning streak. The Herd will refocus and head to Bracknell tonight with final playoff seedings still very much in play.
A word on our opponents: Congratulations to the Wildcats on the win who, as I said above, took the chances presented to them well.
Aaron Nell was given man of the match but as with the Bison’s one I’m not sure why. Sam Bullas’ wonder goal aside (and believe me, it’s pretty special), when you spend a lot of the game getting the kitchen sink thrown at you, however ineffectively, there’s no way your keeper shouldn’t be getting man of the match. Stevie Lyle’s coaching credentials will be tested next season when he takes over the coaching reigns from Ryan Aldridge but his playing was like the Lyle we’re all used to last night. The former Bison netminder made a string of impressive stops including one in the dying moments that essentially won Swindon the game when the game was on Joe Greener’s stick.
It was a good road performance from Swindon. I’m never a massive fan of the Wildcats’ style either home or away. I don’t think they play particularly attractive hockey as a team but the style is certainly effective. They took the chances they were given and made them count. You can’t ask more from a team playing on the road.
Lowlight of the night: 2 goals in 22 seconds in the second period. However good Bullas’ goal was, it was just not what we needed.
Highlight of the game: Would be easy to say Vantroba’s goal but we need to give it to the man at the back don’t we. Congratulations Dean and thank you for what you’ve done in the shirt.
We have new EPIHL league champions already so why not get one of them on the show?
Telford Tigers forward Scott McKenzie sits down with Anthony to talk about his charity efforts for Harry’s Hot Wheels, criticisms of the Tigers, concussions, Owen Bennett and much more.
We also have a mix of other news as well as the results and fixtures as the business end of the season looms large. Want the big news in British hockey? We’ve got you covered.
The BOTW Podcast; the news and views from the EPIHL, all levels above, below and in between.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time once again. March has arrived, the end of the season is looming large and that means it is time to open the nominations for the 2014/15 BOTW Player of the Year.
Tomas Karpov was the 2013/14 winner of the most drinkable prize in sports, “The Edijs Brahmanis Trophy”, joining Joe Rand who was the first winner at the end of 2012/13.
The format is the same as in previous years. You lovely people get to nominate a player of their choosing to be player of the year for whatever reason you so choose. Once a player gets at least 3 nominations they qualify for the final.
Due to me being in Austria, things are a little truncated and we’re doing things in a slightly shorter timeframe. The nominations are open as of right now and will last until 11:59pm on Sunday 8th March 2014. Everybody gets one choice, no voting for multiple players.
You can vote in a variety of ways:
- As a comment on this post
- Tweeting your selection to @84arussell on Twitter
- In person if you see me
Once that’s done and nominations close, our expert panel will put their heads together and we’ll look to announce a winner prior to the Herd’s last home game of the season on Sunday 15th March.
Will we get our first ever British winner of the award? Will Karpov retain? You need to vote to get your man into the final. Happy voting!