Basingtoke Bison 6-4 Telford Tigers
Karpov x2 (1pp) Davies
Thompson pp Haywood
Keeping it roar: The Bison were still without Declan Balmer and Grant Rounding but welcomed back Aaron Connolly in full face guard as well as welcomed Alex Symonds into the lineup alongside Ryan Sutton who now has his own jersey. The Tigers started Tom Murdy in net and welcomed back Jason Silverthorn into the lineup which meant Vladimir Kutny sat out and Blahoslav Novak missed out thanks to his match penalty last weekend.
The teams traded chances inside the first 60 seconds that didn’t really test either keeper. At times last week against Hull the Bison had been guilty of trying to walk the puck into the net but didn’t take that approach; the Herd got the puck in tight in front of Murdy’s net and eventually Ryan Watt shovelled the puck over the line at 1:24 to give the Bison a 1-0 lead and Watt his 100th EPL goal.
The Bison kept having the better chances immediately after the goal as Greener and Karpov both went close but the Tigers started to come more and more into the game. Both Tom Murdy and Tomas Hiadlovsky were earning their keep as they made a string of good saves at their respective ends of the ice. Both attacks were looking smooth and slick in their passing but both netminders were proving equal to the task. Any shot that was coming their way some how they found a body part to get in the way; the flashiest was a shot from Phil Hill where Hiadlovsky ripped the puck from the air with his glove.
Shaun Thompson had a tap in front trickle agonisingly wide and a good chance for the Tigers denied by Hiadlovsky’s pokecheck. The period wound down with both teams trying to find the game’s second goal as the crowd were treated to some good passing, some big hits and a fantastic bit of skill from Kurt Reynolds to dispossess Joe Miller. The first period had been very eventful and had probably been one of the better periods of hockey in Basingstoke of this season so far; it had been tight and there had been chances but some good netminding at both ends had kept the score at 1-0.
Then it all went wrong for Tom Murdy.
The second period began and within a few seconds Aaron Connolly was freed into space, took the zone and smashed a shot through Murdy at 20:24. Then less than 20 seconds later it was virtually the same thing; Alan Lack set Tomas Karpov off on a run but rather than go for his customary skate in and around everyone, the Czech forward just went straight to the middle of the slot and fired. When the puck nestled into the bottom of the net at 20:40 it forced Telford coach Tom Watkins into calling the timeout. Murdy had conceded 2 goals on 2 shots in the period and his night was done as he was replaced by Sam Gospel.
15 seconds later, the Tigers had a powerplay chance when a big hit from Shaun Thompson on Martin Ondrej was called as holding. It took them just over a minute to get on the board as some very good powerplay work saw the puck cycled round to Max Birbraer at the point and his shot was tipped past Hiadlovsky by Phil Hill at 21:59. It had certainly been an eventful start to the second frame.
The goal lifted the Tigers who started to come back into the game; Hill had another chance after a period of sustained pressure when the Bison were pinned back in their own zone but Hiadlovsky was equal to the final effort.
Ryan Watt and Dale White decided to grab a hold of each other behind the play which led to both getting called for delay of the game but when Joe Miller was called for a hook in the offensive zone the Bison found themselves with a 4on3 powerplay chance and, much like Telford had on their powerplay, got some really good puck movement going though the set plays struggled to find the back of the net. It was a lucky bounce that ended up beating Gospel; Shaun Thompson fired the puck out to the front of the net and the puck rebounded off of former Bison defender Sam Zajac and over the line at 27:07 for the 4-1 Bison lead and it took less than 80 seconds for the Bison’s 5th to come. With Martin Ondrej in the box for interference Tomas Karpov took advantage of a turnover to fire past Gospel for the unassisted powerplay goal at 28:19 and a 5-1 lead to leave the Herd fans slightly in shock.
It was at this point the Bison started to find themselves in penalty trouble as they took 4 penalties in just over 2 minutes that saw the Herd face a few moments of 5on3 penalty kill time. Eventually all the pressure from the Tigers told and they managed to add their second goal as Peter Szabo got the final tap past Hiadlovsky in close at 33:22.
This goal and period on the back foot seemed to rile the Bison and captain Aaron Connolly in particular whose next shift was a proverbial house of fire. This step up in intensity paid off for the Bison as they managed to add their 6th when Kurt Reynolds’ floated shot to the net went through the traffic in front of Gospel and into the back of the net at 36:56. The second period came to an end with the Bison firmly in control of the game and the home crowd having done a total 180 degree turn from the previous week.
The Tigers needed something to give them a lift and they certainly got a good start to the third period. After the Bison had a good chance through Connolly, it was an individual effort of skill that made things a bit more interesting; Dan Davies picked up the pass, avoided the pokecheck from Hiadlovsky, dangled it around the sprawling goalie and tapped it home at 42:57 for 6-3.
The Bison again fell foul of Mr Brooks with Lack getting called for tripping and after Watt and Zajac getting called for offsetting roughing minors, Hiadlovsky got called for a rather harsh delay of the game call for taking the net off the moorings. This was followed by a boarding call on Joe Baird that incensed Hiadlovsky so much that he picked up a misconduct penalty for abuse of official. However the Bison’s penalty killing units were up to the task of keeping the Tigers are bay and keeping the score at 6-3.
Mr Brooks earned the Bronx cheer from the home fans when Phil Hill was called for holding the stick but the Bison seemed to use the powerplay more as a chance to not get scored on than making a pointed effort to score but it was time off of the clock.
The Tigers started to put more pressure on as they looked for a way back into the game and with just under 5 minutes to go got their 4th goal as Macauley Haywood made the most of some lacklustre Bison defence to walk through the zone and fire a shot past Hiadlovsky at 55:17.
The Tigers kept trying to press but they seemed to be lacking energy and urgency as the clock wound down. Gospel was taken off with 1:34 to go in the game and an interference call against Joe Greener inside the last minute gave the Tigers ample opportunity to go all out attack but it wasn’t to be and the Bison had the 6-4 and both cup victories over last season’s champions.
That’s more like it: After last week and a game that made all of us fear for our sanity, this game was equally bizarre but for a variety of different reasons. With a delayed faceoff due to issues with the Olympia then an extended first break as the ice was worked combined with 36 minutes of penalties called in the final two periods, it would have been easy for a team to lose its focus but the Bison were on point for the majority of the evening.
Whilst it’s interesting to see that Tomas Hiadlovsky knows enough English to be able to pick up an abuse of official call, the amount of penalties taken by the Herd will be concerning as are the powerplay goals given up but the overall performance on the night was superb from the Bison. The argument will always stand that they should have put more goals on the Tigers rather than reverting to DSSH (Doug Sheppard shutdown hockey) but you can’t argue about putting 6 goals from 5 different scorers past the league and cup champions at home.
Tomas Karpov got man of the match for 2 well taken goals but I have to feel it should have gone to Aaron Connolly. If anyone had any concerns about whether the Kent born forward would be OK as captain then they were thoroughly dispelled as he led from the front with a goal as well as covering every inch of the ice, timely hits and just generally an effort where he went above and beyond. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good game for Karpov and 2 goals in a game against a team that should be doing much better than it is was great but I had Connolly pegged for the beers this time out.
In net Hiadlovsky again looked very solid though he’ll want Telford’s 3rd and 4th back. The Slovak makes everything he does look really effortless and he’s becoming a very fun watch though last night we saw the first flashes of his temper that occasionally caused him issues in Edinburgh.
Stuart Mogg was moved to forward for the game which was unusual as Sheppard chose to run 4 defencemen and sparingly use JJ Pitchley and Ryan Sutton. I’m sure there was method to the madness here and it did work for the most part. Symonds looks like he hasn’t lost a step and instantly slipped back into the Bison and Sheppard’s way of doing things but why are two forwards getting minimal shifts and one of our defencemen playing forward leaving us with only 4 men on the blueline? It just seemed a strange decision.
As I said though, you can’t argue with the result; in a funk or not, this Telford team has a lot of skill and quality in it and the Bison made them comprehensively look second best for the second time in a month. The wobble of last week is hopefully out of the system and the Bison can press on towards cup semi final qualification.
A word on our opponents: A lot of people (myself included) made jokes last week about the sky falling in for the Tigers. Are things bad for them at the moment? Yes. Is there a chance for improvement? Also yes. Did it happen last night? Probably not.
The Tigers haven’t suddenly become bad over night and they clearly still have a lot of quality on that roster that still seems to be suffering without Jonathan Weaver. The passing is very good, they can break quickly, their powerplay looks really good but it just didn’t seem to click for them.
Dan Scott got man of the match but I probably would have given it to either Dan Davies or Phil Hill if we’re picking the better individual performances. If and when Telford start to improve, Hill in particular looks like he’ll be money at this level for the Tigers.
All the good points aside there is no hiding from the scoreline and what we saw. Telford looks like they were lacking direction, vigour and intensity at times. They got rocked by Murdy conceding 2 goals on 2 shots inside 40 seconds of the second period and then they didn’t really give Sam Gospel a great amount of help after that. There was the typical Tigers flurry as the game went on but it was far too little, too late for them. It sounds odd to say when you consider how dominant they were last season but they just didn’t look like they would come back and win this game.
Aside from the fact they have the resources to make the necessary changes, this Telford team will not just sit around and stagnate for long; something will eventually give. You have to wonder if they do not get a favourable result tonight against Bracknell whether the trigger will be pulled sooner rather than later.
Lowlight of the night: Mixture of penalty trouble (and at times some confusing officiating) mixed with Telford’s 4th goal.
Highlight of the night: I’m quite pleased that my sister in law’s first game of hockey was so entertaining but I’ll say Connolly’s performance and goal.
#?? Alex Symonds
Born: Caerdydd, Cymru
Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 1st October
In amongst the news of the Herd’s larger partnering up with Barracuda Networks to the point the jerseys are being reprinted was the return to the Bison blueline of Alex Symonds.
27 year old Symonds played the 2012/13 season with the Herd, scored 11 points and was named the coach’s player of the year before spending the last two seasons as part of the Swindon Wildcats. Symonds played 95 games in Wiltshire scoring 32 points in the two campaigns. 2013/14 was a career year for the Welshman as he scored 23 points from the blueline.
Born in Cardiff, Symonds was a mainstay of the Devils junior system for a number of years playing at under 16 and under 19 level with distinction. He made his senior debut for Cardiff’s ENL side in the 2004/05 season and split his time between ENL and under 19 level for a couple of years.
Symonds progressed to the Elite League line up for the Devils in 2006/07 where he made 38 appearances alongside making 10 outings for Swindon in the EPL for extra ice time. He returned to Cardiff the following year and played the entire season for the Devils scoring his first Elite League goal and earning a GB under 20 call up into the process.
For 2008/09, Symonds moved to Telford for a full season in the EPL scoring 14 points in 48 games as the Tigers missed the playoffs. He started 2009/10 with the Peterborough but after just a few games found himself back in Cardiff with the Devils where he would remain until the summer of 2011.
After a couple of solid seasons for the Devils, Symonds returned to the EPL and signed on for Slough under coach Doug Sheppard. Symonds missed just 1 game of the league and playoffs as the Jets finished the season with the playoff title. Symonds then followed Sheppard across to Basingstoke the following season.
This one is a little bit of a surprise albeit not an unpleasant one. After the end of 2014/15, the word was that Symonds had retired from the sport so to suddenly have a solid, stay at home British defenceman land in the club’s lap is rather advantageous. With an undisclosed injury to Declan Balmer keeping him out of the line-up, the Bison’s defensive options were limited. Dan Lackey is only available via his two way so it was either make him permanent or see what else was available. The fact that a defender of Symonds’ quality has been talked out of (reported) retirement to join the blueline is certainly no bad thing. During his one season stay with the Bison, Symonds was very popular very quickly because he played a style that’s always popular in Basingstoke; not a massive points scorer but a big, physical player that takes the body when appropriate and has a high work rate.
The club haven’t announced Symonds as being a temporary measure so you have to assume he’s being planned for the long haul. With it not being known how long Balmer will be out, initially Symonds comes in as 5th defenceman till he can get back up to speed and then we go from there. The temporary loss of Balmer means that “hard hitter with size” role is filled nicely for the time being. Symonds is something of a “Doug Sheppard defenceman”; we know that Sheppard likes his sides to play with a really physical edge which is what he’s going to get from a player he’s signed twice before. Symonds will not be a flashy signing and he obviously needs to get back up to speed as quick as he can but he’s an EPL quality defenceman who can slot into the lineup now to give us a decent five man rotation and, if he stays when Balmer returns, we have one of the more solid six man units in the league. You have Reynolds and Vantroba as two of the better skilled defenders in the league. Reynolds, Vantroba, Baird, Balmer, Mogg and Symonds; that’s not bad reading.
Basingstoke Bison 3-2 Hull Pirates aps
Rand Kirk pp
Greener pp Thurston
Shooutout (pirates shoot first)
Rand scores Laine miss
Karpov miss Thurston scores
Long scores Mjelleli scores
Greener saved Osman miss
Thompson miss Tait saved
Watt scores Kirk saved
The season is well and truly underway and it’s time to really get on with it.
There was a lot of talk about Manchester over the summer so it seemed time to go in depth as to what came, what went and what’s coming for the Phoenix and who better to chat to than Ben Knight, host of the Official Manchester Phoenix Podcast!
Ben talks about how the podcast came to be, the whole mess of a summer and just how good is this Deeside based Phoenix roster?
All that and all the usual news to get you set up for a weekend of hockey.
The BOTW Podcast; the news, action and views from the EPIHL and all levels above, below and in between.
Only 2 games into the EPL season, the Bison have taken the somewhat unusual step of releasing a player in the form of 18 year old Ralfs Circenis.
What have we lost?
It’s actually kind of hard to know in a wider sense. Circenis came to the Bison as a player with a lot of potential and a good record for points scoring at junior and NIHL level as well as a reputation for being a player who played with an edge about him. Ralfs had looked OK in pre-season games though was visibly still adjusting to the speed at EPL level. I personally thought that he was going to be alright with time but he got minimal shifts in the league opener against Guildford and reportedly even less on Sunday in Peterborough. It seems like we’ll never really know the answer to the question for the time being.
Where has he gone?
At the moment, nowhere but given the club’s press release saying it was for his “development” I assume an instant return to the NIHL 1 South is on the cards and the likeliest location for him will be a return to Solent Devils where he had a fine 2014/15 season.
Who replaces him?
In some ways there are a couple of people; the Bison signing Alan Lack full time was a signing that was likely going to see a reduction in Ralfs ice time anyway given his impressive entrance into the team and how he seems to be being used by Doug Sheppard. The club have also announced the two-way additions of former Bison and current Wightlink Raiders forward Danny Ingoldsby and Ryan Sutton. Those guys, when they don’t have NIHL games will add some decent depth to the Bison’s forward ranks. Sutton’s signing in particular is just reward for a decent pre-season with the club.
The press release for Ralfs’ release was short. Some people didn’t like that a great deal, wanting something more expansive but I can see why the club did it. Circenis hadn’t been with the club very long so there wasn’t any real reason to wax lyrical about such things which is fair enough. The club have also told me that the statement they released will be their only comment on the matter. At the time of publication there’s been no official comment from Circenis or his agent that I’ve been able to obtain.
This is a really hard one to initially get your head around. On the ice, Circenis didn’t really do anything wrong. He was decent if not a world beater at EPL level but he’d been in the league all of five minutes so it was a little hard to judge. In another 5 or 10 games he could have found his stride and this would have been a different conversation.
One thing we do know about Doug Sheppard is that he doesn’t really do knee jerk reactions to situations. He’s generally quite a thoughtful and considered guy so there must be more to this than the club are happy to talk about for me given how quickly this has happened. Sheppard has had the summer skates and now 6 games (4 pre-season and 2 league) to make a judgement on Circenis and just thinks that at the moment his time is better used elsewhere. With a raft of two-way signings to the club and the permanent addition of Lack, you can kind of see where they are coming from on the matter. It just feels very sudden and that’s what’s kind of unsettling. For those of you who remember Marec Dubec and how he didn’t work out in Basingstoke, we all kind of saw that coming whereas many of us hadn’t seen enough of Circenis to really gauge everything properly.
Hockey at this level has always been about comings and goings but I’ll confess that this one is a mild shock to have to do one of these so early.
All the best, Ralfs; hope you land on your feet.
Basingstoke Bison 3-2 Guildford Flames after OT
Thompson Eriksson (pretty certain it was Duggan)
Start the fire: The Bison headed into the game still without Grant Rounding and Doug Sheppard remained on the bench. Jacob Ranson remained in the line up as Invicta did not have a game and Ryan Sutton was once again in the line up after his impressive showing in the last two pre-season games. Guildford were without Rupert Quiney thanks to a shoulder injury and started Gregg Rockman.
The Bison had the better of the early chances with Shaun Thompson going close inside the first minute but the following shots lacked the same vigour. The Flames had their first good shot through Jens Eriksson.
The hosts were having the better of the play but all the early Bison chances all seemed to follow something of a similar pattern; player would have a shot, Rockman would make the initial save and the rebound just wouldn’t sit up nicely for anyone from the Herd to do anything with it. Joe Greener and Ciaran Long both missed out on assists because a mixture of Rockman’s rebound control and poor fortune didn’t go the Bison’s way.
However eventually there was a shot that Rockman had no answer to. With the Bison moving at speed Tomas Karpov fired a superb cross ice pass through the neutral zone that Shaun Thompson controlled. Thompson took a step over the blueline and blasted the puck past Rockman at 10:18 to give the Bison their first goal of the season.
The teams continued to trade chances with Lack, Long and Kristofferson all going close. The Bison were having occasional issues dealing with the Flames’ speed and got caught. The play looked offside but wasn’t called and Tom Duggan sprinted up the middle and beat Hidalovsky in the gap between pad and blocker as he went to his right at 15:00 to tie the score.
The Bison looked a bit rattled after that goal and found themselves camped in their own zone. The Flames looked to be taking the momentum of the game right up until Jez Lundin crosschecked Tomas Karpov which put the Bison onto the powerplay. The powerplay was cut short when Vantroba and Matic Kralj clashed behind the play which evened the teams up as the period ended.
Both teams were back to full strength early into the second and the chances continued to fall for both sides but it was the hosts who got the early goal. Tomas Karpov took the zone but unfortunately fanned on the shot. Doubling back around on himself, Karpov passed to Miroslav Vantroba who had pinched in and the Slovak slap passed the puck right to the top of the crease for Ryan Watt to tap home at 22:39.
From there the period became really open and end to end but it was turnover after turnover as neither side managed to really connect with the killer pass. The neutral likely enjoyed it as the actioned was fast paced but for fans of either side it was like watching a game of table tennis as the sides turned the puck over and zipped from end to end. It likely won’t make the highlights but the moment where Matic Kralj picks the pocket of Ciaran Long was first class.
There was also some of that aggression that had lingered over from the two pre-season games between the two sides with frequent cross words exchanged off the play. One such incident led to a Flames powerplay as despite Eriksson and Connolly grabbing at each other, only Connolly sat for the penalty. The Flames powerplay was of very high quality but couldn’t find a way past Hiadlovsky who made a string of fine saves.
The teams traded powerplays as the period wound down but the Bison’s powerplay certainly wasn’t firing on all cylinders as it couldn’t quite get itself into the killer positions. Both penalty killing units were both doing well.
The period ended with the Bison 2-1 up and as they’d had the better of the first two periods it seemed a fair enough scoreline at that stage.
The third period started with both keepers making saves before the Flames headed back to the powerplay thanks to a hooking call to Joe Baird as Eriksson rung a shot off of the post. The Flames powerplay was in fine working order but Hiadlovsky was turning all the shots away; Kralj, Eriksson and others were all turned aside. The best chance the Flames had didn’t go in because despite Hiadlovsky being down at full stretch, Kevin Phillips couldn’t find a way to lift the puck over the netminder’s pad.
The aggression level kept rising; Ryan Watt levelled Tom Duggan with a massive hit and a after JJ Pitchley chased down a puck that got covered by Rockman, Kralj knocked the Bison forward over the netminder. Kralj, apparently thinking this was Pitchely’s fault decided to get in his face and drew another crowd.
Jez Lundin was called for boarding shortly afterwards but the Bison powerplay just didn’t fire at all with it being an easy job for the Flames’ penalty killers. The one moment of discussion was a collision in neutral ice between Ryan Watt and Marcus Kristofferson that left the Flames import face down on the ice for a few moments before eventually getting up and off the ice under his own power.
The Flames had been controlling the period and eventually found their equaliser though it came in somewhat controversial fashion. One of the linesman waved off an icing despite Joe Baird being in no position to even attempt to make a play at the puck. The play continued and the Flames started to pepper Hiadlovsky’s net. The Slovak stopped the first and the second shot but the Bison didn’t clear and eventually Kevin Phillips tapped home at 54:53 to tie the scores.
The final minutes of regulation played out with neither side seemingly wanting to make a mistake and the buzzer sounded for the end of the 60 minutes meaning that both sides were guaranteed a point and the fans got their first look at the new 3 on 3 overtime.
Overtime began and the Bison seemed happy to let the Flames come at them which, given how the momentum had shifted in the final period didn’t seem like the greatest idea. With so much open ice and facing a team with the momentum and a lot of speed, the Bison’s initial game plan in OT seemed odd.
Then a moment of magic; Ryan Watt pressured Matic Kralj and turned the puck over and fed it towards the net. For reasons that may never become clear, Kurt Reynolds was deep inside the Flames zone. Watt’s pass was right onto Reynolds’ stick who fired over Rockman’s shoulder at 61:45.
1 down: I think many expected a closer game than we saw last Saturday in pre-season action but this one was a lot closer than many of us will have wanted. The old adage seemed true; there’s the easy way, the hard way and the Bison way. The Bison had the best of the first and the second but were on the backfoot for much of the third to the point where you wondered if the Flames would steel it before a moment of class from two players in this new overtime format did the business.
There’s still some issues to be worked out in this Bison roster; the powerplay ranged from OK to woeful at times and hopefully training will work that issue out. The other is with Hiadlovsky. The players still seem so used to how Dean Skinns played that the fact that their new netminder not only plays the puck but plays it so confidently and with purpose is almost confusing them as the Bison keep risking getting in each other’s way.
On the plus side there was a lot of character shown by the Bison to be knocked onto the back foot but find a way back. Tomas Karpov got man of the match and it was certainly an industrious performance by the Czech man who had 2 assists on the Bison’s first 2 goals. If I was choosing I would have probably given it to Ryan Watt who had his first goal in over a season, made the move that helped the Bison win and just generally put himself about well. The other option for me was Tomas Hiadlovsky. We were told that he would steal the Bison games and keep us in contests, I think we saw that tonight. At EPIHL level, he does look like he could be the business.
53 games to go and there will be a lot of twists and turns to come. There were certainly a fair few in this game but it’s one win down. The Bison are off and running.
A word on our opponents: This was a much better performance from Guildford than last weekend and they seemed to have gelled well over the last week. The result in the end was a fair enough one as both sides got something out of it but as I said above, I think Guildford only really controlled the last period and over the 60 (and a bit) minutes I think the Bison would have been hard done by to lose.
The Flames are certainly an interesting side to watch. The changes have made this side have a different focus and they seem cohesive but the thing they haven’t quite got everything working yet. They seem to be able to do it on the powerplay and get a ton of shots off but at even strength they still seem to hit the blueline and don’t really know what to do next. They have a team at the moment where 99 times out of 100, pass is the first option. They need someone to show a bit more of a killer instinct in front of goal. You assume that this will happen when things settle down a bit more.
Ben Campbell was given the man of the match and with all due respect to Ben, Jens Eriksson got robbed as for the second time in a week he was the best Flames player on the ice. He has a bit of the Greg Chambers about him at times in the sense he seems to float about then step into the play when required but he has a bit more direction and drive about his play to go with that skill level. He is really going to be dangerous for them. The other person who might have been worth the discussion was Erik Piatak who despite not registering a point was one of the best players on the ice for both sides.
As predicted, there’s a lot of potential there for the Flames but they need to show it for more than 1 period consistently and need to find more bite to their offence. That said there’s no reason to worry about that one game into the season and when they got a point from the contest.
Lowlight of the night: Flames’ 2nd goal; aside from icing should have killed the play, it was poor defence to not get that puck clear and support the netminder.
Highlight of the night: Thompson’s goal was pretty but it has to be the overtime winner. I’m still wondering how Kurt Reynolds got so far up the ice.
It’s been a month, the season starts tomorrow so it’s time to get this hockey chat train going again!
Ben Callaghan of On The Prowl and Total Sport Swindon joins us to talk about the changes at the Wildcats and to preview the new EPIHL season. There’s that plus Champions Hockey League, the new AIHL champions and some changes that are being made to the show.
The BOTW Podcast; the news, action and views from the EPIHL and all levels above, below and in between.