The BOTW Podcast – episode 63

When podcasts collide…or talk hockey and stuff.  Dan Green and Sam Oakford both had decent careers in British hockey and both called time at the end of last season.  This season, as well as doing other bits, they’ve come together to start the Players View Podcast.  Dan and Sam talk to Anthony about their careers, why they called time, stuff in British hockey at the moment and generally make fun of each other.

There’s also the news and a great competition from our partners, Victory Hockey UK.

Remember to subscribe to The BOTW Podcast on iTunes HERE (go on, leave us 5 stars) and make sure you let us know what you like on Twitter or the BOTW Facebook page once you’ve listened.

The BOTW Podcast in association with Victory Hockey UK; the news, action and views from the NIHL and all levels above, below and in between.

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Running with the Herd – Bison vs Swindon Wildcats 11/11/17

NIHL National Cup Group D

Basingstoke Bison 1-3 Swindon Wildcats

Scott pp                       Jones pp

                                    Kelsall pp

                                   Birbraer

The perfect storm

Having skimmed through some thoughts from people this morning, there’s a real mix of feeling from the Bison fans about this game. Some think that a shortbenched side playing with two and a half forward lines and 4 defenders did the best they could against a decent side with a deep bench. Others thought that the Bison underperformed, misfired and played badly. Whilst BOTW will be accused of fence sitting because we always try to see both sides of the argument, there are elements of truth in both arguments.

The Bison were shortbenched and it did show. The side looked tired from the start of the game and this game did not help the forwards as in terms of shooting they seemed short of ideas. Ninety nine times out of one hundred, a Vanya Antonov breakaway one on none with the netminder does not result in the Russo-Brit shooting lamely at his pads. The Bison’s lack of depth and energy saw them employ few tactics that could harm the Wildcats over the distance. The top line of Antonov, Davies and Karpov fell into the trick of trying to do too much and overthinking on the puck. When they did shoot, it was like the logo on Renny Marr’s chest had a gravitational pull.

However it also has to be said that the Bison did not play well in this game. They put in the effort. That is undeniable and it showed on the faces of the players especially after Floyd Taylor’s major penalty gave the Bison a late lifeline but over the course of the 60 minutes they were second best and there’s no shame in saying that. When you’re beaten, you’re beaten.

The Herd had a poor first twenty minutes and whilst were arguably unlucky to be 3-0 down after the first period, they were because of their own mistakes. Dean Skinns cheated across and gave Chris Jones too much of a gap to aim at for the first, the defence broke down and gave Jordan Kelsall too much space and the same happened for Max Birbraer’s goal as well. Since the Bison rebounded from their early season poor form it has been the defence that has performed well as a unit that has been the backbone of the Bison’s recovery. Unfortunately that twenty minute lapse cost the Herd dearly.

Yes, the Herd were tired but having put themselves in a hole they made themselves easy to play against. They were short of ideas going forward and the tricks that had worked the last few weeks just seem to fail them on this night. They rightly got at least one goal but it was a case of too little too late, even if it did make for an exciting finish to the game.

The Bison can write the poor play down to a bad day at the office. It happens to all teams; Swindon lost to Streatham and Marr was pulled from the net in that game. The Bison can win hockey games and have the tactics, ability and energy to do that on their day. The real issue for me is the later one; the Bison need to get some extra bodies on the bench. Doug Sheppard cannot legislate for injuries and hopefully all the players out of the line-up return to action as soon as possible but they have to get bodies onto the bench as this roster will not challenge with 11 or 12 skaters icing in games.

Some argue that toughness is an issue and that a Chris Wiggins or someone to protect players and that phantom appearance at the end of the bench that one game has left people clamouring for an announcement. At this stage and irrespective of how well the Bison believe they are when they are busy, they need depth. Depth was the marker of the best Bison sides of the last couple of seasons. They do not have it now. It needs addressing as a matter of importance.

A word on our opponents:

Sometimes you don’t have to run roughshod over a side to beat them, you just have to be clinical. The Swindon Wildcats were clinical in the first and then simply said to the Bison, “you have to score, come at us and try to score.” The visitors then had the rather straightforward task of frustrating a tired side by clogging the neutral zone and limiting their space to operate.

Some have said that the scoreline flatters the Wildcats over the course of the game. 3-0 certainly flattered them after twenty minutes but a 3-1 win over the course of 60 minutes is probably fair on reflection. They struck then shut the game down; the Bison were effectively beaten by their own game.

Renny Marr got the man of the match which is fair enough for letting up 1 goal on 35 shots but how ruthlessly he was tested by those shots is up for debate. You could argue it goes to Chris Jones or Max Birbrear for the quality of their goals but this was a good all round performance by the Wildcats. They came in with a strategy, got a good early lead then adapted around it. They were fortunate; I don’t think the second Wildcats goal should have counted given that Vanya Antonov was rugby tackled to the ice in the build up but that’s hockey and those bounces go your way one day and don’t the next. The Wildcats go up the ice, get the bounce and it’s 2-0 on the powerplay to them rather than being 1-0 and at even strength.

Are Swindon the best team we’ve seen so far? I personally think Telford’s performance here was better but it’s no doubt that Swindon are firmly in the frame for the NIHL 1 South title. However this was the cup where the Herd haven’t been great. The league is a different animal.

What Swindon are however is incredibly cohesive. It’s a deep roster, even without the injured Toms Rutkis and the age old jokes about Swindon overplaying their top line despite having loads of players is at an end. The imports are used well, there’s good scoring depth across the lines. In our pre-season preview of Swindon, I said that if the Wildcats don’t win a trophy this season then it will be an abject failure. I think that even more so now.

Lowlight of the night: The entire first period

Highlight of the night: This might turn a few heads but the continued decent performances of Ryan Sutton. He’s not setting the world alight but he’s being asked to do a job and he’s doing it with minimal fuss or issue.


Running with the Herd – Bison vs Milton Keynes Thunder 04/11/2017

NIHL 1 South

Basingstoke Bison 7-2 Milton Keynes Thunder

Karpov                         Carlon

Antonov pp                  O’Flaherty

Malinik

Connolly ps

Evans

Rounding

Davies

This, repeat this:

Certainly in terms of home games in 2017/18, this was the best all round game that we’ve seen and the best performance from the Bison. It did help that the opposition played a style that really suited them but also came at them a bit and the Bison under Doug Sheppard have always done better against teams that come at them rather than teams that sit back and wait on the counter.

The Bison knew that they didn’t have the larger bench and with so many injured guys meaning the Herd ran with 3 lines and 4 defencemen. The question during warm-up was what sort of a game the Herd would play as a result. Would there be any energy conservation ahead of the game with Telford? The answer was not really and they troubled the Thunder with their speed down all channels all evening and the visitors couldn’t handle the speed of the Bison’s transitional play through the neutral zone at times.

Roman Malinik had his best game in Bison colours so far in this performance; scoring a goal, assisting on another and generally looking more of an attacking threat. Malinik is much more of a playmaker than I think any of us realised and he’s found a way to work with Aaron Connolly and (last night) with Grant Rounding which made them a really potent attacking threat. The fact that Malinik was given the beers was not a huge surprise. He also took his goal well, being on the spot and using his size to not get moved out of the way and pot one of many rebounds that came the Bison’s way.  Credit goes to Connolly as well for channelling his inner Ciaran Long on his penalty shot.

The return of Dan Davies to the side has also seen the return of a more natural first line of the Kent born forward with Tomas Karpov and Vanya Antonov. The Thunder had no answer for the speed or the skill of this line at times. It did suffer from Karpov and Antonov trying to do too much on their own on occasion but seeing the three of them able to move with virtual impunity at times was great fun. The line has balance, all players are constantly looking to distribute the puck and make attacking plays, all players aren’t afraid to backcheck and work in their own end. Hopefully the line is kept together.

We’d also be loathe not to mention the makeshift third line which did the exact job it needed to do. Ryan Sutton, Hallam Wilson and Oscar Evans didn’t look out of place and weren’t used sparingly in this game (the short bench meant they couldn’t afford to) and more than did their part. Some shrewd line matching at times by Sheppard at the start of the game eventually gave way to more of a regular rotation for them and it paid dividends for Evans who converted Wilson’s pass brilliantly for his first goal for the Herd. Evans had looked dangerous in his previous outings and this was just reward for being prepared to get stuck in.

Dean Skinns will want both of the Thunder’s goals back; first getting caught behind the net and not being able to settle for the shot from Carlon and then getting beaten with a “hit and hope” shot from Gareth O’Flaherty on the half boards. Skinns did make some good saves but the story again was this smaller four man defensive unit (still without Stuart Mogg) running a solid rotation and, whilst not being perfect and getting beaten on occasions, knowing how their keeper works and limiting the shots that he faced. Now they’ve got some confidence, it’s pressing on from here.

The recent scare at Streatham has seen the Bison wake up slightly to the fact that they can’t really take these games lightly, especially after Swindon’s loss to the Redhawks and Peterborough’s loss to London. The Bison are now the only unbeaten side in NIHL 1 South. They head into cup action for the next two games but head to MK next Sunday. The Bison players talk about keeping the train rolling. They need to do that through these cup games into their return to league action.

Swindon and Telford will be a much tougher task and the question still lingers as to what, if any replacements Doug Sheppard will be drafting in. He pulled the trigger on some changes but with a rotating line of injuries, the Bison head into some tough games with a short bench. They’ve always been a better side when busy. Will they be too busy? We’re going to find out.

A word on our opponents:

Aside from having the nicest jerseys so far, the MK Thunder are the best NIHL South 1 side that we’ve seen so far in Basingstoke. Some will say that this opinion is tempered by the fact there’s lots of ex-EPL players in the side and that’s what we’re used to here but the Thunder came into Basingstoke and did what no other classic NIHL side has really tried to do; go at the Bison.

In our pre-season preview we mentioned that the Thunder would play physical and skilful hockey and we did get measures of both. Rather than sit back and hope, the Thunder tried to play their game, impose their systems and maintain their structures. They were outplayed over the course of the 60 minutes but did what the other sides have failed to do in Basingstoke and that’s look a bit more settled and trouble the Herd more.

Tom Carlon was a justified man of the match and his partnership with Gareth O’Flaherty was certainly a potent one for the Thunder on this night. Teams either carve chances out to score or capitalise on mistakes. The Thunder did the later and their most threatening players were the ones who scored.

That’s not the say there weren’t other good performance in the Thunder roster. Rio Grinell-Parke has been much talked about and with good reason on what we saw last night. Jamie Line and Ross Bowers together look to have lost neither a step not their sight to make a good play. Despite the defence shipping 7 goals, I was impressed with my first viewing of Oliver Lord who looked very assured.

The Thunder had the physical edge but they just didn’t seem to be able to deal with the speed. This coupled with a bad night for Tom Annetts whose rebound control seemed to have deserted him on his old stomping ground made for a bad evening for the visitors. Josh Crane looked decent enough in relief but is not the finished article yet. There’s promise there.

The Thunder look like they could challenge in the playoffs and they will sneak wins against the ex-EPL sides, I’m sure of that on this viewing. However this was not that night.

Lowlight of the night: The Thunder’s second goal was a really bad goal to give up.

Highlight of the night: 7 goals from 7 goalscorers and a great first Bison goal from Oscar Evans will do it for me.


The BOTW Podcast – episode 62

Yes we round up the news, scores and tables quickly but this show is something different.

When a DM pops into the BOTW twitter account, it starts a conversation. A conversation leads to questions, questions need answering.

The BOTW Podcast presents “The Concerned Player”

Remember to subscribe to The BOTW Podcast on iTunes HERE (go on, leave us 5 stars) and make sure you let us know what you like on Twitter or the BOTW Facebook page once you’ve listened.

The BOTW Podcast in association with Victory Hockey UK; the news, action and views from the NIHL and all levels above, below and in between.


Running with the Herd – Bison vs Cardiff Fire 28/10/2017

NIHL 1 South

Basingstoke Bison 5-1 Cardiff Fire

Karpov x3                     Christian

Sutton

Davies

No embers:

Paul Petts (white) battles in front of former Junior Bison team mate, Jordan Lawday (left, in goal) in the Bison’s win over Cardiff Fire.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

Ever since the Bison joined the NIHL, people have been complaining about the quality of games, that they aren’t competitive. As a rule, I’ve disagreed with them because I genuinely believe that’s not true. The game away at Streatham proved clearly that if the Bison don’t give the effort then they won’t simply win against the NIHL Classic sides by talent alone, however the issue with this game against the Cardiff Fire was that it was, sadly, pretty close to not being competitive.

The other “however” is a simple hockey truth; you can only beat what is put in front of you and whilst it would have been nice to run the score up a bit for the fans, this game served a couple of purposes and the Bison made it out with minimal injury issues and a ton of upside.

Tomas Karpov took the man of the match for his very well taken goals and that’s fair enough on the balance of the 60 minutes of action but there are other important factors to focus on here.

Dan Weller-Evans will be kicking himself to have let up one goal on 7 shots (indeed, he is beating himself up judging by his social media) but look at the upsides to what came of this weekend as a whole; Weller-Evans played 120 minutes of hockey, conceded only 3 goals and his defence performed admirably around him and with him. He’s given Dean Skinns a vital rest ahead of a tough weekend coming up as well as getting really solid game time that will stand him in good stead should he be called upon at short notice due to injuries. That’s what you want from your back-up netminder.

Dan Davies skated for the first time in nearly two months in game situations and whilst looking a bit off the pace, didn’t look out of place with it. The Bison have massively missed the balance that a two-way player like Davies brings to the line-up and for him to return ahead of some tough fixtures is a really good sign for Doug Sheppard. I’m not sure whether Davies fully works with Connolly and Malinik as a line combination but this wasn’t the game to make such decisions.

Oscar Evans looked beyond promising. Where occasionally players have come in from the juniors and looked energetic if tentative in their initial forays in a Bison shirt, Evans got stuck in from the get go, creating opportunities for himself as well as not being scared to go to the net and came close on occasion to scoring.

Ryan Sutton and Josh Smith continued recent runs of good form as well as promising performances from Paul Petts (till he got hurt) and Hallam Wilson. Wilson would finally break his goalscoring duck on Sunday in Cardiff but looked promising on Saturday as well.

All in all this was a professional performance from the Bison where second gear was firmly not needed. When you consider the Bison won 12-2 the following night with 11 outskaters, the attitude was on point this weekend. After the narrow win over Streatham it was reported that Doug Sheppard read the riot act to the Bison about how they approached these games. The Herd have a 4 point weekend, the message was received it seems.

A word on our opponents:

In some ways it’s hard to know what to say; Mark Cuddihy is a good coach, the Fire are a good group of guys and deserve a lot of credit for deciding to take on the upper echelons of the NIHL but this was not good.

A squad of 14 (12+2 netminders) travelled from a much larger squad and quite simply, they couldn’t compete. Yes, the Fire scored a goal but they just weren’t at the races. There were few chances created and 7 shots in 60 minutes speaks to that.

It wasn’t for lack of trying. I ask that you don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say here; the Fire aren’t good enough but they gave it their all in trying. The issue in some ways was that they worked very hard but not very smart. The prime example would be Jackson Price; the lad clearly has an engine to rival a good family car for its longevity and he skated his heart out for the short but to what end? It was the clear difference between players like Chinn, Buglass and Stratford who did more with less. It’s all well and good skating through the wall for the team but just skating doesn’t do much else. The Fire at times didn’t even really seem to be attempting to go at the Bison but just not get scored on. It didn’t work.

The bright spots of the tie for the Welsh side were Dave Christian’s goal, a neat pass that caught Dan Weller-Evans looking the wrong way after an attempted pokecheck, and Jordan Lawday. The former Bison junior has come back to Britain after his time in the US and looks very good. The fact that it wasn’t a cricket score at the end of this game was down to Lawday making an array of very good saves and came into his home rink with something of a point to make. How much facing 50 shots a game will do for the youngster remains to be seen but it worked for Kevin Reiter.

Bar a minor miracle, the Cardiff Fire are going to be relegated at the end of this season. I’m saying that in October because we don’t go into sugar coating things here. The Fire have conceded 93 goals in 11 games which works out to roughly 8.5 goals a game. Cardiff want to keep making strides and trying to progress as best as they can so they can take this from the game. The Fire won the second period; they scored the only goal and therefore won their first period of the season. It’s a victory, albeit a small one. It seems like a season for the Fire where they need to celebrate all of those.

Lowlight of the night: The Fire’s goal; hurray for the visitors for a reward but it sucks for DWE’s stat line.

Highlight of the night: Yes, Karpov scored a hattrick but I’ll say the performance of Oscar Evans. Hopefully we get a chance to see more of the young man.


The BOTW Podcast – episode 61

The new era of the NIHL is about two months old, so how is it going?

Anthony and Dave Carr, formally of Streatham, Oxford, Haringey and others and now of ProHockeyNews.com bash their heads together to discuss how they think things are going.

Remember to subscribe to The BOTW Podcast on iTunes HERE (go on, leave us 5 stars) and make sure you let us know what you like on Twitter or the BOTW Facebook page once you’ve listened.

The BOTW Podcast in association with Victory Hockey UK; the news, action and views from the NIHL and all levels above, below and in between.


Goodnight and Good Luck – Ashley Jackson

The wheels of change continue to turn in Hampshire as Doug Sheppard tinkers with the Bison roster. The latest change sees the departure from Basingstoke of Ashley Jackson.

Ashley Jackson has left the Bison by mutual consent.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

What have we lost?

Aside from the fact that the Bison have just released a two sport athlete, former Olympian (and the fact I’m even typing that sentence is pretty crazy), Jackson proved versatile member of the Bison roster. He played across the lines, which we’ll get to in a bit, as well as playing both sides of special teams. The Bison has always been role players and everymen and Jackson proved to be one of the everymen who asked to and could do a bit of everything. Why it’s not worked it going to go below.

Where has he gone?

At the moment, nowhere as he’s been released with immediate effect by mutual agreement. In terms of where he goes, the Invicta Dynamos become instant favourites given that Jackson is Kent based but other NIHL Classic teams like Streatham and London Raiders might also be in the mix.

*Editor’s note* just after publication, Jackson was announced as having signed for the Invicta Dynamos.

Who replaces him?

Well, tomorrow is Thursday so maybe we’ll find out.

Final thoughts:

With the new structure and the Bison’s move to NIHL 1 South, this move seemed like a win/win. Jackson, a first team all-star in the league last season put on a roster with some of the big names that the Bison were bringing with them from the old EPL seemed to be an ideal sort of signing for this new look Herd side or at least one that the fans could be excited about. Jackson had even put out a statement saying he was focussing on ice hockey this season to put fears of him possibly going to Hockey League India in early 2018 aside. However for whatever reason,despite clearly being a decent hockey player, despite clearly trying every game and despite having 5 points in 4 league games, it’s not worked. Why?

One thing that we’ve seen in recent weeks was that on special teams Jackson had been really prevalent on the powerplay with Vayna Antonov and Tomas Karpov but he’d slipped down the lines in five on five play. For whatever reason, Jackson just didn’t seem to have the impact desired at even strength. Scoring points when the team have the man advantage is great but teams need their top 6 forwards to be scoring when everyone is on the ice.

Under Doug Sheppard the Bison have played really system based hockey and it hasn’t worked very well for some players. I don’t think it’s worked for Ashley Jackson. At Invicta last season he had much more of a free reign to go out and played. Alongside Adam Rehak last year Jackson could go out and yes, there was a structure to what the Dynamos did last season but Sheppard asks his players to play a really structured game and for whatever reason a superb athlete like Jackson’s game on the ice doesn’t fit with that.

With all the recent changes Doug Sheppard has clearly come to the conclusion that he didn’t quite get the recruitment right. That’s fine given that he’s clearly making moves to alter that but I am rather hopeful that this move has been made now because a replacement for Jackson is ready to be announced. For a team that felt it was getting roughed up, they let Dan Lackey go to the Buffalo and haven’t really replaced the physicality he added. If Jackson was meant to provide secondary scoring and play a role that he’s not filled, that can’t go unfilled. Josh Smith has stepped onto the second line and done a fantastic job but there’s also now a hole on the first powerplay unit to be filled and Dan Davies and Grant Rounding still listed as injured. I’m all for making changes but the Herd can’t run that shortbenched for long if they intend to still challenge. There are some good players still unsigned from the summer, a few who deliberately haven’t signed because of the changes to the league structure who hopefully Sheppard has convinced to come in.

When we get down to brass tacks the Bison are starting to pick up some steam then make this move that whilst understandable in context seems to have come at an odd time. There feels like there’s been something of a revolving door of changes recently at a time the roster needs to be getting settled and pushing on. With only one game this coming weekend, perhaps Sheppard sees this as the time to pull the trigger and play with a shorter bench for the shortest possible number of games. The coach still deserves the benefit of the doubt given the recent run of better form but if there is no announced replacement soon then Jackson’s release will look very strange.

Such is hockey; things work or they don’t. There are shades of grey between those two positions and I’m sure that some will feel this move is overdue or premature. Here at BOTW, we see both sides of the coin as always but know that Jackson will fit and work somewhere in this league. It just wasn’t here.

Thanks for everything, Ashley and all the best.