The BOTW Podcast – episode 67

Hey you, you want hockey chat? Then hockey chat you shall get.

Streatham forward and journalist, Jacob Ranson joins the podcast to take his hockey travels, coming home and his life covering local sport.

There’s that as well as all the other big news to keep you company on your way to the rink.

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 Telford Tigers 06/01/2018

National Cup Group D

Basingstoke Bison 5-3 Telford Tigers

Scott                             Jones

Davies x2 (1pp)            Plant

Mogg                            McKenzie

Connolly

20/40:

Hockey is a game of three periods, football a game of two halves but this game was very much a tale of two for the Bison. The first period was pretty poor from the Herd; passes astray, nearly constantly on the back foot and they just generally looked horrible lost. However in the break Ashley Skinns or someone, because again no Doug Sheppard this week for the second week out of the last three, kicked the Herd in the posterior region and we saw what we’re more used to from the Bison. They put the pressure on, got the passing going and stuck to the basics well which saw them claw themselves back into the game. In the third period it was a very good showing and whilst they did get a bit fortunate on one goal they ended up pressing home their advantage, got the breathing room of the two goal lead and closed the game out.

Where the Herd went behind late against Peterborough, they couldn’t come back. The Bison’s poor early play in this game got themselves into a hole early but for a while they didn’t really look like coming back and it was frightening. Nobody looked like they’d ever tried passing a hockey puck for a while and yes, we know the ice in Basingstoke isn’t exactly polar quality but it wasn’t good.

Then the light switch came on in everyone’s heads. Beating a decent Telford side is good enough but the really nice bit about this comeback is that it wasn’t one player putting the team on their back and dragging everyone with them but the entire team kicked into gear.

Dean Skinns will want the Tigers’ first goal back but he got his eye in and looked better as the game went on. An Elliot Dewey-less defence who looked shaky in the first period started shutting everything down and giving Skinns a bit of better service and the forwards went back to basics and it worked really well. Shooting and trying for rebounds, beating a slower moving Tigers defence to the puck on the dump and chase and when the visitors did get the puck, working hard on the boards and winning the puck back.

Joe Baird got man of the match for the second home game in a row which is fair enough, he had a solid game. As we said above this was a real team effort though it’s worth highlighting a couple of performances that would have well been worthy of the beers as well.

Stuart Mogg was the Bison’s best player in a poor first period and carried that forward into the rest of the game making numerous timely defensive plays against a very strong Tigers attack. His goal, the eventual game winning goal, owed more to good fortune than anything else but his efforts on this night deserved a goal and he got it by virtue of a misplayed pass that he dumped on net off a backhand hit and hope. They all count, Moggy.

Roman Malinik’s play on the boards and in the corners in recent weeks has been superb and it’s given confidence to his line mates and others to be a bit more fearless on the boards.

The other performance I found interesting was that of Paul Petts. With the Bison’s linematching seeing him on the ice a lot with the Tigers’ top line, he was given a role and he stuck to it. Petts has had an up and down season form wise but he spent a good chunk of this game trying to get under the skin of Jason Silverthorn and it worked. He didn’t completely keep him silent but he certainly did a good job of neutralising the impact of the Tigers’ captain for long stretches.

Yes it was a dead rubber cup game but it was a game played in the context of the game after it. The league game against Bracknell is important for the Bison’s league title aspirations so to get a really good, “come from behind” win under their belts was important. The Bison can’t afford to only play for 40 minutes against good sides but good sides find ways out of the mire. It was an encouraging sign.

A word on our opponents:

Telford Tigers as an all team might be the most skilled outfit we’ve seen in Basingstoke this season. Make no mistake, they’re a good team and I wouldn’t be betting against them for the NIHL 1 North title or National Cup.

On this night, it might be hard to wonder on first glance how the Tigers lost this game after how the first period went. The Tigers seemed to be able to skate where they wanted and do what they want. Then in the second it was more even and the Tigers seemed to tire in the third and didn’t really have an answer even after they switched up the lines to focus their attacking output.

Scott McKenzie is the current NIHL 1 North player of the month and it’s easy to see why he won that accolade as well as the man of the match on this night for the visitors. Where Jason Silverthorn was a bit quiet (see above), McKenzie is so full of confidence at the moment that in full flight he was a handful for the Herd to stop. His partnership with Jack Watkins was certainly an effective one and a likely favourite for fans of hockey flow.

Denis Bell continues to look like a real netminding prospect for the future as he made a string of good saves. The gamesheet says he was changed out for Jonah Armstrong in the third period but if he was then it wasn’t announced and I genuinely didn’t notice the change.

There’s not tons to really say about the Tigers here. They played well in a decent open game but ran out of gas at the end. The Tigers will be cross that they didn’t put the foot onto the Bison’s throat when they had the chance and a second loss in a row after their OT loss to Solway will not go down well with Tom Watkins.

Lowlight of the night: The first period was pretty poor

Highlight of the night: Has to be Mogg’s goal, not even he knows how he scored


The BOTW Podcast – episode 66

2017 has ended. 12 months done and we’re at the halfway point of the 2017/18 season so it’s time to look back.

Anthony covers all the recent NIHL goings on as well as some other hockey news but then it’s time to get serious with the State of Hockey 2017 Address where the BOTW Podcast looks back at a few things. No swear words but some strong words about where British hockey finds itself.

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 Peterborough Phantoms 30/12/2017

NIHL 1 South

Basingstoke Bison 1-2 Peterborough Phantoms

Antonov pp                   Billing pp

                                     J Ferrara

Chance lost:

This result should be tough to take for the Basingstoke Bison. This was a big game, potentially part of a title deciding series between the Herd and the Peterborough Phantoms. They led, they outplayed the opposition but they were not clinical enough, they got stung and lost.

The loss itself is not the end of the world; the Bison have a chance to undo this individual loss on New Year’s Day but the nature of how they lost is the problem here. It was a very Bison loss because it had the hallmarks of the Herd’s weaknesses being exposed by a team that didn’t have an answer to their speed or transition through the neutral zone but did have an answer to their ineffective powerplay and to overthink on the puck.

The Bison didn’t have a good first minutes but otherwise made the more of the running in the game. Even after Glenn Billing’s powerplay goal (which Dean Skinns insisted the net was off the moorings, it was too close to call for me) the Bison didn’t go back into their shell and kept pressing. It was nice to see them hit a setback but keep pushing on.

Then there was that one lapse, that one goal to make it 2-1 and all the old clichés of Bison play came out leaving them looking like they couldn’t score.

Hindsight allowing us to look back on this game sees all the facets of what make the Bison so fun and so frustrating to watch all in one go. Going forward they can dance around teams like they aren’t there but the shots are low percentage chances or the chance has died off because, to borrow the old adage, everyone wants to set the table and nobody wants to finish their dinner. The powerplay ranged from terrific to dire with no middle ground. It’s classic Bison where there’s praise and frustration in equal measure.

Whilst watching Joe Baird week in, week out for so long has given us an appreciation of the defenceman as well as the fact that he’s had a very good season so far, there was only one man who should have had the beers last night for the hosts. Roman Malinik was an absolute machine on this night. The Phantoms did not have much of an answer for the Czech forward on this night whether in open ice or on the boards. If there was anyone who tried to put the team on his back and carry them on this night, it was Malinik. I regularly don’t agree with whoever picks the man of the match but this one seemed easy to me.

The Bison have one option and one option only here; take the frustration from this, bundle it up and throw it back at Peterborough on home ice. If the Bison win that game in regulation then they take back first place. They put the Phantoms on the back foot for long swathes of this game but they have to find their killer instinct, that clinical edge and put the Phantoms to the sword.

A word on our opponents:

I’ve been very critical over the last couple of years about the Peterborough Phantoms. How they play is effective but I pay my money to watch hockey and they’ve not been entertaining when I’ve seen them. However they do deserve credit here because this game was a very entertaining encounter.

There was however a separation here. Despite scoring two goals, the majority of the Phantoms forwards didn’t seem to do much on this night. They offered little in the way of penetration going forwards and didn’t have a ton of answers to their Bison counterparts. The one forward who did anything of real value was Glenn Billing. It was no surprise that he was involved in both goals as he seemed to be to the Phantoms on this night what Malinik was to the Bison.

On the other hand this might be one of the best performances from a defensive unit I’ve seen on Basingstoke ice in some time. Yes, the plaudits went to Euan King for his 37 saves and his man of the match award which many of us won’t argue but as a defensive unit they did more than just soak up loads of pressure. It was the positioning, it was the active stick play, it was the timing of when they did things as well as King making big saves like the one he made on Josh Smith. This is what will win teams championships. I can and will call them dull to watch if that’s what I believe them to be but defence wins championships. Their forwards misfired on this night so why did they win? They won because their defence did their job and that allowed the forwards to capitalise on the mistakes made by the opposition.

The Phantoms won’t win every game in this fashion. They do need their forwards to turn up and do the business but if this run of defensive form continues and they win every game 2-1, they’ll still be winners come the end.

Lowlight of the night: The Bison throwing it away

Highlight of the night: There was actually quite a lot; the 4 person officiating that did really well, the overall quality of this top of the table clash but I will actually say it’s a toss up between Malinik’s performance and the Phantoms defence as I applauded both a load of times.


Running with the Herd – Bison vs Swindon Wildcats 27/12/17

National Cup Group D

Basingstoke Bison 3-4 Swindon Wildcats after penalty shots

Smith x2                       Birbraer

Scott pp                        F. Taylor

                                     Nell

Penalty shots (Swindon shoot first):

Smith saved                Bebris goal

Antonov goal               Nell goal

                                    Kostal goal

That was a thing that we did:

Despite having been effectively done with the competition a while ago, the Bison’s National Cup campaign was mathematically done the night before with the loss in Swindon and finally completed here.

The Herd were without Tomas Karpov and Kurt Reynolds took the warm up but sat out the game. Certainly the loss of Karpov seemed to hurt the Bison as they seemed creatively mute at times. Certainly I think over the course of the entire 65 minutes that the Bison were second best on this evening. They were losing the board battles and the ones in open ice. They struggled at times to connect passes and just seemed to be confused as to their direction at times. Being as the game was a dead rubber anyway, I don’t think anyone was expecting a barnstormer but the whole affair was a bit flat from the Herd at times compared to the Wildcats who did still have something to play for.

However the Bison also deserve some credit for showing some of a trait that they arguably don’t get enough credit for which is their resiliency. When being outplayed, the Bison are very rarely blown away. To borrow something of a hockey cliché, they put on their hard hats and went to work. Struggling with the speed and of the Wildcats, they decided to try and grit it out. At 2-1 off of a soft goal that Dean Skinns won’t be happy with, the Bison could have capitulated. Instead they bored down and dug in. They made it into the third and thanks to some ill-disciplined choices from the visitors got themselves level before a lovely bit of Antonov skill set up Josh Smith for his second of the night.

The goal that sent the game to overtime was one of those moments that just happen in hockey. As Edgers Bebris was trying to feed a pass to Aaron Nell it deflected off of the stick of Roman Malinik. Nell took a swing and it hit the sweet spot and went in. If there’s no deflection then perhaps the pass doesn’t connect or the shot goes into the back netting or whatever. Those are the margins in which all sport operates.

As for the shootout, stood on the line as I was I don’t think the puck crossed the line. Wildcats’ social media manager Ben Callaghan was stood with me and says it was. You can make of that what you will but for me Skinns had the puck trapped on the line. Whilst we don’t like to point the finger at the officials on here too much, I also respect his knowledge of the rules and all he does for the sport but the giving of the goal, an act that influenced the outcome of the game, compounded a confusing performance from Mr Evans whose game management style continues to perplex me.

Paul Petts got man of the match for an industrious performance but I’m slightly confused how Josh Smith didn’t get it on the night. I don’t agree that the man of the match should always go to someone just for scoring but Smith was the most effective Bison player of the night along with Malinik and Smith took both of his goals very well.

The only other part of this that bares mentioning in my opinion is why, in a dead rubber cup game with an important league game against Peterborough on Saturday, did Dan Weller-Evans not start this game? Dean Skinns is the number 1 netminder, he made a number of good saves but for this writer it made little sense for him to see time in this game. Why risk your number one when you don’t have to and can give your backup some needed game time into the bargain?

The Bison’s chance at one trophy is officially done and their poor early season form made sure of that well before this. They still have a chance at two and two key players down they made a really good fist of this game. There are positives to take from this.

A word on our opponents:

I don’t think any of us can argue Swindon winning the game. The Wildcats were the better side over the duration. They looked better knowing that they had something to play for as 1 point meant they would win the group. That extra impetus on the game clearly made the difference for them.

The Wildcats will be cross that they let the Bison back into the game late on when they should have closed that out. Really, when they had the Bison on the back foot in the first they should have pressed on harder but didn’t and it cost them. However this Swindon side appear to have a real depth to them that previous Wildcats sides have not had. Whilst they got caught towards the end of the game, they play an entertaining and effective brand of hockey that I find attractive to watch. Their speed in transition alone is frightening to watch and the addition of Edgars Bebris will only aid this once he settles in.

Stephen Whitfield was solid but I also disagreed with the man of the match for the visitors. I’d have given the beers to Floyd Taylor who has come on very well since the last time I’d seen him. His goal was well taken and whilst this was a very good all round performance by the entire Wildcats roster on the night, for me there was Taylor who stood out by how much he had improved or Matt Smital who made some very good saves. Smital the younger is not the finished product yet but we’re starting to see the glimmers of the potential many felt he had that I think that didn’t see at Bracknell. There’s a confidence there that is growing.

Some Phantoms fans have said that they think that the title race in the league is a two horse race between the Bison and the Phantoms. Whilst the Cats are 8 points back of the Bison and 7 of the Phantoms, if Wildcats win the games they have against the two sides then they are very much in it. I don’t believe in jinxes or the like so me saying this doesn’t mean anything but the Wildcats have a league, National and Autumn Cup treble very much within their power. Do not write them off yet.

Lowlight of the night: How flat the game was. Dead rubbers are not fun.

Highlight of the night: Aside from the Swindon fans chanting for Dan Weller-Evans, Josh Smith’s second goal was really nice.


Running with the Herd – Bison vs Bracknell Bees 23/12/17

NIHL 1 South

Basingstoke Bison 6-4 Bracknell Bees

Karpov                          Bakrlik x2 (1pp)

Connolly x2 (1pp)         J. Ealey-Newman

Smith pp                       C. Thompson

Scott pp

Antonov

Working for the reward:

Recent history saw the Basingstoke Bison and the Bracknell Bees at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of results and expectation. The loss to history of the EPIHL has, arguably, seen Bracknell benefit more than some as the Bees were suddenly more competitive than they were before. This is a good thing for the Basingstoke Bison and this game shows that. In the EPL days, our nearest rivals rarely challenged us. They’re back to a bit of prominence now and that’s a good thing for both clubs. The atmosphere in this game was one befitting a local derby that these games between the two sides have lacked for a few years. Whilst the Bison made something of a meal of this encounter, I hope we can have a similar Christmas time fixture next year with the Bees that engenders such emotions again.

The Bison were good value for the win on the basis of the 60 minutes but the first ten minutes of the second period will have given Doug Sheppard some pause for thought. The Bison uncharacteristically switched off and defensive errors that have been few and far between crept into their game. The Bees second goal was an example of this as Stuart Mogg and Joe Baird, two players who have had excellent seasons on the blueline, seemed to have a combined wobble that left Dean Skinns all at sea and allowed Josh Ealey-Newman a simple tap in. The game overall was not one that Dean Skinns will be happy with as he will arguably want all of the goals back (4 goals on 17 shots makes for terrible reading) but the sizeable wobble by those in front of him meant that a side who were cruising at 2-0 were suddenly 3-2 down and then at 4-4 when they appeared to be moments away from putting the visitors away.

However the Bison also deserve credit for their response to their mistakes. Doug Sheppard isn’t a coach that shouts and rants but seems to give them all a look and they realise that they need to do something about the hole they dug themselves into. They did it away at Streatham and they managed it on this night.

Having already scored one very good goal, Aaron Connolly led from the front and his second was off of another superb move from the captain. Muscling his way into the centre of the ice, he managed to hold off two or three Bees players before sliding the puck through the 5 hole of Alex Mettam to give the Bison back the lead.

The other player who responded well was Roman Malinik. Directly off of the faceoff from Bakrlik’s goal that gave the Bees the lead, the Czech forward charged down the ice, drew the penalty and then quarterbacked the powerplay that allowed the Bison to draw level through Josh Smith before setting Connolly away for his goal.

The combination of Smith, Vanya Antonov and Tomas Karpov caused problems all night and helped put the game to bed on the powerplay where Dan Scott scored and then combined to put the game to bed on Antonov’s goal. Karpov’s late misconduct penalty caused some confusion, appearing to get it for directing Scott Spearing to the scoreboard after the Bees’ player/coach had crosschecked the Bison import in the aftermath of the goal.

Elsewhere, the good form of Ryan Sutton continued and Hallam Wilson always seems to look that one step away from really lighting up the scoreboard. Whilst the defence did have its wobble, Dan Scott’s shot for what turned out to be the game winner was a lovely strike.

Teams having wobbles in games happens but the Herd need to be vigilant because they see the sort of hole they can end up in if they do switch off. Where they are fortunate is that they have the talent within the roster to pull themselves out of that hole.

The Herd have hit Christmas and are top of the league table and in the semi-finals of one of the cup competitions. Whilst the season has had some up and down elements, the Bison are clearly not looking to fade away as 2018 approaches.

A word on our opponents:

On reflection, the Bracknell Bees made more of a game of this then I think I’d given them credit for in the moment. You don’t score four goals by magic and Scott Spearing deserves credit for getting this team to play for him and play a style, that whilst it has an edge to it, is certainly direct. Yes, the Bees major offensive strategy appeared to be “give the puck to Frankie Bakrlik and wait for him to do something amazing”, there’s something to be said for the supporting cast as well.

Without Shaun Thompson in the line up others needed to step up. Carl Thompson, Tom Avery, Callum Best and Josh Martin put themselves about with ferocity and intensity. People made things happen. The Bison made mistakes and the Bees capitalised on them. When the puck was in the air near the net and the Bison defence were flat footed, Carl Thompson wasn’t.

I think the issue for the Bees was that where they were solid, they needed someone alongside Bakrlik. He scored twice, two good goals but without Shaun Thompson and Alex Barker uncharacteristically quiet there was that extra inch that the Bees needed in the death that they just didn’t have. I wonder if in this new structure if the Bees aren’t one or two players away from a title winning side. Whether they manage to add those players before the deadline and make a rush to the title or the playoffs remains to be seen but for all the jokes we make about Scott Spearing the player, Scott Spearing the coach appears to have a bit of nous for how to coach at this level.

Lowlight of the night: Bees 2nd goal, avoidable on all levels

Highlight of the night: Connolly’s first goal was pretty, really pretty


The BOTW Podcast – episode 65

Ho ho ho, it’s our pre-Christmas show. We’re back with some festive cheer and a great interview guest.

Beloved by fans across the country during his playing days, Pasi Raitanen joins Anthony to chat about his career and his thoughts on how things are in British hockey at the moment.

We also cover the big bits of news before Santa brings you your presents.

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.