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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
NIHL South 1
Basingstoke Bison 5-2 Streatham IHC “Redhawks”
Antonov Paynter sh
Jackson pp Allen ps
#?? Roman Malinik
Born: Ostrava, České Slezsko, Czechia
Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 12th October
So, the trigger was pulled by Doug Sheppard and the import switch has been made. It’s a Czech for Czech swap as Jaroslav Cesky is replaced by Roman Malinik.
27 year old Malinik comes to Hampshire after starting the 2017/18 season with Polonia Bytom in the Polish league where he’s been scoring at a point per game.
Malinik is a product of the Vitkovice junior system (Vitkovice is a part of Ostrava in the same way that Brighton Hill is a part of Basingstoke) and was quickly making waves. In 2005/06 Malinik was playing with the under 18s, made the odd appearance for the under 20s and played for the Czech under 16 side. The following season as an under 17 player he was regularly between the national championship winning under 18s, under 20s as well as making his senior debut in the Extraliga and playing 12 times for the Czech under 17 side.
It was these performances that saw Malinik catch the attention of scouts overseas and major junior hockey was on the horizon. He entered the CHL import draft in 2007 and was drafted 24th overall by Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the QMJHL (a certain Tomas Karpov was drafted 16th overall by Moose Jaw). Playing alongside future NHL players like David Savard and Gabriel Bourque and future Chelmsford Chieftain Julius Sinkovic, Malinik spent two seasons in Quebec with the Drakkar scoring 43 points in his 121 games. He also earned a call up to the Czech under 20s in his second season.
With the NHL and North American hockey not being the way forward for Malinik, he returned to the Czech Republic and Vitkovice’s under 20 side for 2009/10 where he put up 50 points in 48 games as well as making a brief loan appearance for 3rd division side, Frydek-Mistek.
From there, Malinik entered the same routine as many Czech players before him and was loaned to various lower division sides. In the Czech Republic, to play for a club outside of the one where you trained as a youngster requires a “loan fee” to be paid. This is what sees so many Czech talents end up with so many loans on their hockey CVs; clubs won’t pay for a full transfer and will instead loan players from clubs in higher divisions which is a lower cost way of getting players in. The parent club also has immediate injury cover if needed. The system is also why so many players come abroad.
Malinik made some more appearances for Vitkovice’s under 20 side as well as with Frydek-Mistek but spent the better part of 2010 till 2013 in the Czech 1. Liga (their 2nd tier) with Dukla Jihlava scoring 34 points in 118 games.
After that he spent the next two seasons with Havlickuv Brod where his scoring numbers were far more impressive. Malinik scored 58 points in 94 games, being named captain in his second season. He also made a brief reappearance for Jihlava during this time.
2015/16 was Malinik’s last season in his homeland. Playing the majority of the campaign with AZ Havirov, Malinik scored a respectable 24 points in 50 games but also finally ended up back in the Vitkovice side playing 2 regular season games and 4 games in the relegation round.
Malinik decided to spread his wings and wanted to head abroad. His first stop abroad could have gone better as he agreed to join up with the Manchester Phoenix. Continually short benched and playing out of the infinitely too small rink at Blackpool, Malinik managed to still put up decent numbers with 17 goals and 30 points in 28 games. Malinik, along with all the Phoenix’s imports were released before the New Year and the Phoenix’s inevitable demise and he made his way to Poland and Polonia Bytom with whom he claimed a bronze medal at the end of the season.
Malinik started this campaign with Bytom scoring 4 goals and 4 assists in 8 games before electing to come to Basingstoke.
How would you describe yourself as a hockey player?
I’m a power forward – I like to play a high energy game but score goals too.
Interview with Nicholas Bevan (@NW2Hatter) for Manchester Phoenix match programme, October 2016
The Bison’s big struggle so far this season has been attacking production and direction going forward at times. Malinik, whom Sheppard remembers as a hard working player does have a history of being able to put points on the board.
For those of us who remember that Manchester Phoenix side before the fire went out, they were not good. The majority if not nearly all the offence went through the imports which might be why Malinik got as many points as he did. However it’s also dependant on him and his linemates being able to generate that offence. To score 30 points in any period of time with that Phoenix side is no mean achievement.
Malinik is a bigger body than Cesky and I expect him to go straight onto that line with Aaron Connolly and Josh Smith that did so well last weekend to give that line a more physical edge. Malinik also adds a different dimension to the second powerplay unit and I wonder if we see him take Cesky’s place on the left side half boards or whether he floats up to the point more for the big shot.
Malinik describing himself as a power forward could be the answer that the Bison’s attack has been looking for. The style that Doug Sheppard likes to play with the Bison has always been better with that player not afraid to drive the net. Joe Greener, Joe Rand, Derek Roehl (to a point) have all been in that import mould of people who go to the net and get in the face of the netminder. With Connolly doing it from one wing and now potentially Malinik driving from the other side, that’s a good option for the Herd as a contrast to the Karpov and Antonov combination of using their skills to remove the netminder from their shorts.
Either way, we’re certainly in for a change in the way the Bison attack. With Karpov and Antonov having seemingly found their scoring boots last weekend, the addition of a proven point scorer to the line-up can hopefully spark some more dynamic play from the Herd. We live in hope.
Welcome to Hampshire, Roman.
Thanks to Tomas Karpov for an explanation of the Czech loan system.
With changes already afoot with the Bison, coach Doug Sheppard appears to have pulled the trigger on further roster moves with the release of Jaroslav Cesky.
What have we lost?
Whilst the initial prediction from this site was that Cesky would be used as a third line veteran mentor role, he was instead used as a second line, second powerplay unit focus for the offence. The big question was could he still go and the answer, I think, for the most part was yes.
Cesky was arguably the Herd’s best player through the first few weeks of the season until the Herd suffered from their real offensive output issues. He wasn’t the fastest but he seemed to arguably be the sharpest. In the same way that people wondered about the signing of Rene Jarolin when he first came in, Cesky looked better than people expected. He was setting things up, he was scoring, he looked good.
Where has he gone?
At the moment, nowhere; it’s a straight goodbye and thanks for everything to end Cesky’s second stint. A personal feeling is that he joins up with his former coach Jeremy Cornish at Streatham but that’s pure speculation on my part.
Who replaces him?
The release says that Doug Sheppard is in the process of finalising another deal. Rumours abound as to whom but we’ll just wait until the word comes through.
Let’s get this clear right off the bat; Jaroslav Cesky hasn’t done anything wrong. I maintain that Cesky has actually played well. He’s exceeded my expectations as to what we were going to get out of the 39 year old. If we’re looking at a top 5 Bison players so far this season, I think Cesky is in that discussion.
The issue is that the Bison needed to make a change to generate more offence. Doug Sheppard wants to make the change to get more offence and with there being a wider market of available imports than free scoring British wingers at the moment and with Tomas Karpov and Vanya Antonov finding their feet together, it sadly meant that there was only one player who was going to have to make way and that’s Cesky.
2 goals and 2 assists in 9 competitive games would be an easy target to point to but that doesn’t take into context how the Bison have played and how he has been used. Of course Vanya Antonov has more goals than one of our imports when Antonov is out there with Karpov and they appear to be able to score for fun. However Sheppard thinks he can make a change to get more scoring and if we’ve learned anything from Sheppard’s years in charge of the organisation, he is not scared to make the upgrade if he can see it.
With the Bison having (sort of) swapped Dan Lackey for Sam Brooks and still being without Dan Davies due to reasons unknown, Sheppard hopefully gets the contract signed on Cesky’s replacement sooner rather than later or the Bison face being even more unsettled just a time when they’re starting to get their feet back under themselves and really need to be settled. There’s always been a plan. Whether Sheppard has earned the benefit of the doubt from you, dear reader, to be given the time to make this change to make the Bison better is your own decision.
Thanks for everything, Jaro; see you around.
NIHL 1 South
Basingstoke Bison 7-1 London Raiders
Jackson x2 (1pp) Nahlik dpg
Antonov x2 (1pp)
It’s a start:
After an improved performance in Sheffield last Sunday, this game was the perfect tonic for Bison fans who were disappointed with last weekend’s cup outing against the Bees. It’s too soon to be celebrating too much but this was exactly the sort of game that the Bison needed.
The Herd were without Stuart Mogg in addition to Dan Davies for this one but the Bison were able to roll 4 defencemen and were rarely troubled. We talked last week about the Bison lacking that bit of swagger because of a lack of confidence and, with all respect to the Raiders, this was a game to get that and it showed quickly.
The Bison realised that they could and would hold the Raiders at bay and started to press down on their opponents, a task made all the easier by some uncharacteristically effective powerplay work as they converted 3 of 4 powerplay chances in the first period.
Once the first period ended, the Bison swapped into snuffing out the game and getting out with minimal injuries and fuss, the score only reaching 7 because of the injury to Euan King seeing Raiders captain Tom Davis’ forced into going in goal and one of them was essentially an own goal. Whilst we know that’s how the Bison play, part of me feels that given such recent inconsistency I would have preferred if the Herd had tried running up the score a bit; allow players a chance to get a feel for scoring again and get more confidence heading into a tricky away game at Invicta today but once Euan King could no longer continue, that was never going to happen and that’s understandable.
Aaron Connolly took the man of the match beers for the Herd and this game saw the captain look more like Aaron Connolly again. Back to his vocal best his first goal, a particularly nice shot that went “bar dizzle” off of a lay off from Jaroslav Cesky, was just reward for a line that looked to be finding its feet but did work. Josh Smith, rewarded for his recent excellent performances with a move to the second line, was used to clear the way and that allowed Cesky and Connolly to do some damage.
Meanwhile I’d like to sit down and see what the Raiders fans thought about the continued combination of Tomas Karpov and Vanya Antonov. When at full flight and whoever their linemate, this combination must be terrifying for defences when coming at them. Karpov’s powerplay goal in particular was an example of a team that sat back too far not just being taken advantage of but made to look a bit foolish as Antonov passed around the defence then Karpov drew King out of his crease and down before firing home. It was a pretty goal and some pretty play. The other thing that came out of the first period’s vast number of powerplays was that Antonov/Karpov duo worked well with Ashley Jackson and I wonder if we see more of it.
Dean Skinns will want the one Raiders goal back but otherwise it was an assured and comfortable evening for the defence. Hopefully Mogg is not out for long as it won’t be ideal for the Bison to be running four defencemen for a lengthy period but this was an evening for them to continue their impressive performances. If nothing else, we also learned that Dan Scott will literally dance to anything. The end of season disco is going to be a riot.
A word on our opponents:
From a simple hockey perspective, the London Raiders didn’t play well enough to win this game. 12 shots across 60 minutes sees a performance from the Raiders similar to that of Invicta during their visit to Hampshire earlier in the season. London came in, made a few early pokes at the Bison to see if they could get through but then decided that they would need to sit back and break on the counter. That’s a reasonable strategy but they sat back so far at times that they were practically in the bar. They tried a bit of physicality, that didn’t work so they did their best to maintain their shape and stick to their systems. They certainly gave a good account of themselves.
Sadly the game was over as a contest by the end of the first period thanks to a raft of silly penalties that the Raiders took. When you’re making the Bison’s powerplay look effective, something’s wrong.
The Raiders were then dealt the massive blow when Euan King was forced out of the game with what the club announced as an MCL sprain following a hospital visit. The Raiders do have a backup in Zachary Grandy-Smith who didn’t travel for unknown reasons.
As captain of the Raiders, Tom Davis stepped up to the task of replacing King in net for the final part of the game. Whilst I don’t think Davis’ future hockey career lies between the pipes, that’s what a captain does; with his team’s back against the wall he stepped up, chucked on King’s gear and did what he could. His attempt at a windmill glove save was great to see if nothing else and he was unfortunate to concede one goal after Olegs Laschenko managed to deflect it off of him and over the line. He rightly got the beers for doing what he could.
Nobody really had a standout game for the Raiders but there was lots of hustle from them. Brandon Ayliffe and Tom Beesley as a forechecking pair looked very useful and Andy Munroe is still managing to put himself about. However both Nahlik and Huska were kept quiet as were the Raiders’ top end Brits and that was that in terms of them catching the Bison. They’ll chalk this up as a bad day at the office, try to figure out what they do for a netminder and go again.
Lowlight of the night: King’s injury; it’s never nice to see anyone go down injured let alone a goalie.
Highlight of the night: Karpov’s powerplay goal was a prime example of what this Bison team can do when they have a tiny bit of confidence and a bit of space.
A day late but worth it for the guest alone we think.
Anthony chats to British hockey legend and Whitley Warriors player/coach David Longstaff about the Warriors, his career, his biggest hockey regret and his football playing sons.
We also round up the results and talk about the new NIHL player of the month awards.
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.