NIHL South 1 Playoff Quarter Finals
Basingstoke Bison 6-0 Invicta Dynamos
Karpov x2 (1pp)
People talk about the mental change between regular season in hockey and the playoffs. It’s a much different dynamic in British hockey where the regular season takes so much more of a prominent role than in other countries but make no mistake, hockey players are hard wired to understand the concept and when the playoffs begins, things do change. The fact that the Basingstoke Bison had beaten the Invicta Dyanmos the weekend before on their title charge meant next to nothing and the reset button had been hit.
However the Bison took this potential banana skin in their stride. The opposition came in looking to stifle the Herd, clog the passing lanes and hit on the break; not a revolutionary tactic but one that has caused issues. What the Bison managed to do was stay patient, wait for the gaps to appear and then press home their skill advantage and put themselves in a very favourable position heading into the second leg in Kent.
The first period was exactly what the visitors wanted it to be and they worked their game plan to perfection. The problem was they tired out and once Stuart Mogg’s shot found it’s way into the top of the net, a game which had been one way traffic in terms of the chances took on the similar feel of the week before. Regular season or second season, the Dynamos didn’t have a 60 minute answer for the Herd’s pace or skill and Damian King could only stop so many shots.
People might have wondered why it took so long for the Bison to score given they scored 10 against them the week before but many seemed to forget that it’s literally a different game. BOTW has long wondered why the Bison under Doug Sheppard didn’t run the score up on teams to improve things like goal difference or to make a statement. They did that last week because they had to. Last night they didn’t need to and didn’t. They got themselves a result that puts them in a position to achieve their goal; make the next round.
Kurt Reynolds got man of the match which was fair enough given his goal though any of the five defencemen would have been worthy of the beers given how they managed to nullify the Dynamos’ attack. Limiting a side to 9 shots is impressive at the best of times but coupled with doing it at the start of the playoffs and contributing two off the 6 goals, the blueliners certainly did the business on this night.
Once the Herd had found their breakthrough, they started to seem much more comfortable and it freed up not just the Karpovs and Connollys but the lower end guys to try things. Whilst he didn’t score, Grant Rounding was playing with an added creativity that we’ve not seen for a while. Paul Petts’ grinding was creating chances and Hallam Wilson continues to have an eye for goal even if you do wonder how many men he will try to skate through.
Tomas Karpov’s two goals were utter laser shots that King had no chance with, the same as Roman Malinik’s strike which if he’d hit any sweeter would have gone through the net and hit the back wall. Ryan Sutton was given a very literal birthday gift; the puck deflecting off of the glove of King and landing on the end of his stick for the tap in.
The Bison had a job to do on this night and they did it. It wasn’t pretty at points but it was job done, or at least half done. Nothing is over until it is over.
A word on our opponents:
Credit has to go to the Invicta Dynamos and coach Kevin Parrish; they learned from the previous week. They learned that giving the Bison space on home ice is a bad idea and from the outset tried to clog the passing lanes, quickly collapse in front of Damian King and just generally get in the way. When the sides headed into the first period at 0-0, the visitors were looking handy if not deadly on the break.
The problems for Invicta were twofold; the first was that their game plan was fine for twenty minutes but they didn’t have the legs to last for 60 minutes doing the same thing. That happens; it’s been a long season and teams tire. The bigger issue was that they got zero attacking penetration going forward. This was Dean Skinns’ 6th shutout of the season and on the lowest number of shots that he’s faced to get one. 9 shots in a playoff game, even if you’re at a point where the objective is to not get thumped, is poor given some of the attacking power that they have.
Damian King got the beers for making sure that the game didn’t end up as another cricket score, an all the more impressive performance given that he didn’t take the warm-up. Mason and Brandon Webster continued to put themselves about and got noticed. Credit has to go to the Websters for skating that hard for 60 minutes and pinballing around like there’s no tomorrow in what was a lost cause. I won’t deny that Mason is one of my favourite players to watch and his running battle with Joe Baird was one of my highlights of the evening.
Can the Dynamos come back from a 6 goal deficit at home? I would say that it’s incredibly unlikely. In their 5 meetings with the Herd this season the Kent side have come close at home but have struggled to find a way to get at the Herd. A close game will not help Invicta this evening, they need to blow the game open and blow it open early. The form book does not read in their favour however the reigning playoff champions will not give up their crown without having some say.
Lowlight of the night: The first period was obviously planned from Invicta’s standpoint but it wasn’t an entertaining watch.
Highlight of the night: Malinik’s goal, if only for that moment of realisation from Elliott Dewey, “I could shoot or let this massive Czech lad steaming in do it instead. Hmm…I’ll take the assist.”
The regular season has ended in NIHL 1 North and South with Sheffield and Basingstoke taking the spoils so here comes the second season.
ProHockeyNews.com’s David Carr joins Anthony to talk about the playoffs in the south whilst Craig Simpson, EIHA Media Officer joins the show to talk about the playoffs in the north to make sure that you are in the know.
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.
With the regular season at an end it is time to return to a BOTW tradition. The nomination process by Herd fans and the odd interested other yielded 6 candidates. As the Basingstoke Bison celebrate the NIHL South 1 title, we announce a winner for the most drinkable prize in sports, the “Edjis Brahmanis Trophy”.
Banners On The Wall Player of the Year 2017/18: #63 Aaron Connolly
After taking the award in 2015/16 Connolly becomes the first two time winner of the award after unanimously being chosen by the panel to take the honour. 24 year old Connolly, arguably the Bison’s most popular player due to his never say die style of play has now captained the Bison to their 2nd league tile in three seasons whilst firing himself into the top 10 scorers in NIHL South 1.
Player of the Year panel member and Bison superfan Nigel Simmonds summed up Aaron by saying, “There aren’t enough words that can sum up how much Aaron brings to this team. (He’s) an Inspirational leader, the heartbeat of the team, he’s our Captain Fantastic!
He’s regularly on the scoresheet & comes up with some very, crucially timed goals.”
#24 Vanya Antonov
Russo-Brit Antonov had another excellent season for the Bison which culminated in him finishing 3rd in the scorers’ chart in NIHL 1 South as well as being one of the best passers of the puck in the country at this level. Award judge, off ice official and Bison Ladies’ defender Hannah Driver said “he almost seems to have Inspector Gadget’s stick by the way that despite his small stature he can seemingly extend his reach in order to get to the puck and change direction when it looks impossible.”
#34 Roman Malinik
The Bison didn’t start the season brilliantly but after Czech forward Malinik joined from Polish side Polonia Bytom, the Herd seemed to find their man and find another gear. The power forward that the Herd had missed since the departure of Joe Greener, players rarely seem to easily remove Malinik from the puck. Award judge and club photographer Grant King said “watching him in full flight is a thing to behold! having spent a couple of our road trips shooting in the corners I am amazed how strong he is on the puck.”
#13 Dan Scott
“He is hardworking, fast, consistent and fierce. Strong on and off the puck, gives his forwards room to move and another player who can make superb passes up the rink” was Hannah Driver’s summary of Dan Scott’s play and it’s hard to argue with it. Scott was one of the most influential presences in the Bison line up and it was always clear when he missed games.
#16 Ryan Sutton
To say this year has been a revelation from the former Bison junior would be an understatement. After spending a year in Canada, Sutton came back to Basingstoke and many felt that he would be a bit part player. With the departure of Ashley Jackson leaving a hole to be filled, Sutton stepped up and filled it with hard work and timely goals like his one away at London Raiders that proved the difference in crucial games.
#93 Dan Weller-Evans
Every year some Swindon fans always add what they consider to be something of a joke addition to proceedings. This year they (and 1 Bison fan) voted for the Bison’s backup netminder who has taken to being cheered by the Wildcats faithful. Despite not playing loads of games this season, Weller-Evans won his first ever competitive start for the Bison away at Invicta as well as making other key appearances in the season and finishing with a 90% save percentage. Award judge Jamie Walker summarised Dan’s contribution by saying “you can’t underestimate the value of having a backup with a great attitude to the team concept.”
Panel special mention:
#15 Joe Baird
In the panel’s discussions one player who didn’t make the nomination criteria was selected for special mention for their on ice quality. A veteran of the British game, 2017/18 has been Joe Baird’s best season on the ice in recent memory and has been an ever present rock and calming presence when required. As one of the judges said “he loves the game and he loves this team.”
A massive thank you must go once again to Hannah Driver, Grant King, Nigel Simmonds and Jamie Walker for being part of the judging panel once again as well as a thank you to everyone who nominated their favourite player. Congratulations go to Aaron as the award’s first ever two time winner and we’ll look to get his trophy to him before the end of the season.
NIHL 1 South
Basingstoke Bison 10-1 Invicta Dynamos
Connolly x2 Osman
This is going to be a slightly different piece. The Bison/Dynamos game will get the bulk of it but we need to look at the weekend’s league games in context alongside that so we’ll do Saturday then Sunday in one go.
After a bit of a lack lustre end to Friday’s game, the nerves were in full effect for the paying crowd on Saturday night. By the time the game ended, it seemed impossible to tell if people were more nervous or excited.
Winning a game of hockey is, in theory, an easy thing to do on any given day. The trick comes from not just winning but winning when it counts. The Basingstoke Bison headed into Saturday’s league game knowing that they need to score and score a lot against a side that could be a potential banana skin and would not want to lie down. However the Dynamos were not given a choice as to the outcome of this game. They were simply run over.
The first 14 and a bit minutes of the game were frustrating and did feel like the Bison of old as they peppered the net of Damien King but didn’t seem to be able to find a way through. When the damn finally broke off of an Aaron Connolly shot where he drove to the middle and shot back across himself into the bottom corner, the relief was palpable. What nobody was prepared for was what came next.
2-0 up after the first period was no more than the Herd deserved but the second period of this game was definitely the most complete period of the season and arguably that I’ve ever seen a Bison team play. It felt like that the Herd could score on every attack, only being held at bay by King doing his utmost to try and keep the score down. By the time King was swapped out for John Dibble, the game was more than done but the Bison’s continued pressure told and it paid off for them as a result.
Dan Davies going 3+3 on the night made him an easy enough choice for man of the match. Whilst he didn’t dance his way around 4 players and shoot between his legs to score any of the goals he made himself be in the right place at the right time to put all of them in. As we said above; timing is everything.
Aaron Connolly and Tomas Karpov scored twice at opposite ends of the night but were both incredibly effective in taking their goals. Connolly’s second in particular was a very well taken shot, spotting the gap up high and putting the puck there. Whilst the game itself was long dead, Karpov’s two goals helped press home the all important goal difference factor that was going to prove crucial.
It was the cliché of an all round team performance. Dean Skinns was rarely tested but made the saves when they needed to be made. The one defensive lapse led to the one goal for the visitors but otherwise it was an exemplary defensive display.
Up front the numbers do tell the story. A goal every 6 minutes of game time and a really solid performance from the new look third line of Sutton, Petts and Wilson which limited the attacking chances of the Dynamos.
The crowd, buoyed by news during the man of the match announcements of Streatham equalising in Peterborough sensed something big was on the horizon. They weren’t wrong.
A word on our opponents:
I’m going to be honest here; this has been a tough section to write. In a lot of ways, the Invicta Dynamos didn’t do an awful lot wrong. They had an obvious game plan which was to try and clog the passing lanes and limit the scoring chances but sometimes that just doesn’t work. Boy, did it not work.
It serves no purpose sitting here slating the Dynamos. Locked into 8th position and against a team with superior attacking firepower and they just got swept aside. The fact these two sides will now meet in the first round of the playoffs means nothing in a lot of ways. Doug Sheppard, Kevin Parrish and every player on both sides will tell you that playoff hockey is a different animal entirely.
What went well for the visitors on this night?
Mason Webster is starting to carve himself out a niche as one of the better grit players in the league. Webster always showed promise when he earned his spot with Peterborough but seems to be developing along the lines of Nathan Salem and Alan Lack which will only stand in him good stead. All teams need that kind of a player. His younger brother Brandon seems to be cut from a similar cloth.
The other player who made a couple of really standout plays was Tom Ralph. Always a capable defenceman, on a night to forget for the Kent side, it was Ralph who made a couple of really smart heads-up plays that stopped a couple of really good attacking chances for the Herd.
Parrish will regroup his players this week and try again. There will be a different mentality and a different atmosphere. Invicta are the current South 1 playoff champions. If they go down, they will go down (figuratively) fighting.
Lowlight of the night: The Invicta goal, though credit where it’s due, it was a well worked goal.
Highlight of the night: I’ll say Ryan Sutton sending the water bottle to water bottle Heaven and whoever scored Streatham’s fourth goal.
I had people congratulating me on the title on Saturday night. I point blank refused to even acknowledge them. Whatever I thought or could predict, it wasn’t done. In hockey, it’s never done till it’s done. Jeremy Cornish seemed all too delighted to point that out to Peterborough.
I was in something of a frustrating situation of being in Cardiff but not able to go, a family commitment at the 6 Nations game between Wales and Italy and the small person at home meant that I had to head home immediately after the rugby.
Following any game via social media is agony at the best of times but I’m not sure I took a breath until somewhere after Roman Malinik made it 3-1 in the second period and I scared the woman sat opposite me by punching the air.
This site will go deeper into the league title win and what it means once the season ends fully after playoff weekend but the sight of the players heading off the bench towards Dean Skinns was an indicator of a couple of things. It’s another championship for guys like Tomas Karpov, Kurt Renynolds and Aaron Connolly and a first for Paul Petts and Hallam Wilson but it’s a sign of just how far this organisation has come and can continue to go if allowed to. However right now?
Yeah, that’ll do.
NIHL Autumn Cup Final 1st Leg
Basingstoke Bison 1-3 Swindon Wildcats
Antonov SH Whitfield
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Swindon fans who always try to rig the vote with their comedy selection; lend me your ears!
The final weekend of the Basingstoke Bison’s first season in the NIHL is on the horizon and as such today, we open the nominations for the 2017/18 BOTW Player of the Year.
As for the last few year, the BOTW Player of the Year award goes to the Bison player deemed “the best” by whatever metric you decide that means.
As of tonight (Monday 5th March 2018) nominations for the award will be open. You pick the ONE Bison player that you think is deserving of the title “player of the year”. You can choose them for any reason you see fit. Every fan gets one vote only.
You can vote in a variety of ways:
- As a comment on this post
- Tweeting your selection to @BannersOTW on Twitter
The player has to have played in a competitive fixture for the Bison in the 2017/18 season so pre-season does not count but any player who has played but has been released is eligible. You do not have to be a Bison fan to vote. Players that receive 3 votes are eligible for the final round.
Nominations close at midnight Saturday 10th March (so after the Autumn Cup final first leg against Swindon).
After nominations close, the BOTW Expert Panel convene once again to pick from those eligible. The winner chosen by the panel is named the BOTW Player of the Year and wins the most drinkable trophy in sports, the “Edijs Brahmanis Trophy” which will be awarded once the panel makes its decision with a view to the winner being presented with the trophy after the first playoff game.
Who joins the ranks of Joe Rand, Tomas Karpov, Kurt Reynolds, Aaron Connolly and Dan Davies? Have your say so your player makes the panel’s discussion. You have till midnight on Saturday, have at it!
NIHL 1 South
Basingstoke Bison 4-0 Swindon Wildcats
This result has different connotations for both sides and this result is very much a case of perspective. It’s easy to frame it in two very different directions. We’ll take a look at what Wildcats fans make of it in a bit but for the Bison this was an important win for a couple of really obvious reasons.
It is naturally important to send a message to Swindon ahead of Friday’s Autumn Cup Final 1st leg. Bison edged the 5 on 5 play with Ryan Sutton’s goal, contained Swindon’s speedy transitional game that they play on the road and the special teams were outstanding at both ends of the ice. 3 powerplay goals and a clean slate of penalty kills combined with some decent short handed chances sends the message to Aaron Nell that the Wildcats will be punished if they do not maintain their discipline over these two games.
The other big message was to the Peterborough Phantoms. To their credit, the Phantoms have matched the Bison at every turn in terms of results but the Herd have turned around and kept pace as well. The Bison struggled last weekend in Romford and headed into a tough game against a Swindon side that are arguably the most skilful in the league. Peterborough blew the London Raiders away last night and have the more comfortable run -in as the season reaches its climax but the Bison sent the message that if the Phantoms want the league title then they will need to go through the Bison to get it. All signs point to the game in Peterborough on the 4th March as the Herd took the 3rd placed side in the league and double cup finalists and closed the game out with relative ease. The Herd’s game in hand against Bracknell will determine just how close this race will actually be.
Despite not having nearly as many shots as they normally do in a game (and there was a reason for that), it was a really solid defensive display from the Bison on this night and the 26 shot shutout for Dean Skinns saw him more than worthy of the man of the match beers. The Herd’s defensive corps, still minus Dan Scott, did a really good job at forcing low percentage shots out of the Wildcats and the chances that the visitors did make for themselves were handily dispatched by Skinns. There was an element of fortune on at least one of the saves but it just seemed to be one of those nights for Skinns; Nell had a good chance that missed the net by a distance and scrambles in front were either cleared by the defence or in the one case, Skinns literally sat on the puck. Some might say that Dean Skinns was lucky but you have to be good to be lucky.
It was another one of those classic “all team all-in” performances from the Herd. Roman Malinik continued to boss his way through games and his use of his size to create space is almost a joy to watch at times. Rather than adding tons of flashy tools to his arsenal, Ryan Sutton seems to have perfected the “shoot far side, under the arm” shot as he scored another very good goal from the same shot as he did last Sunday. Tomas Karpov and Vanya Antonov seem to be able to create chances out of nothing as well as their own mistakes at times and everyone on the special teams made everything click. Dan Davies and Grant Rounding were on the scoresheet but it was excellent and patient powerplay work that allowed both to be in the right place at the right time to score those goals.
Very rarely will I mention it in these writings because these are meant to be reviews of the game that has taken place. However context is king. On its own this result is a very good one where the Herd’s sometimes inefficient powerplay unit really hit its stride to the point they chased one of the league’s better netminders from the net. In the grand scheme of the league season, it’s almost even more important. The Basingstoke Bison have placed themselves into the easiest and also most dangerous of situations. Just like two years ago, the mathematics are becoming more and more simple. All they have to do is win.
A word on our opponents:
It would be really easy to be down on this result if you were a Swindon fan; a 4-0 defeat can be hard to paint a positive coat on. Their starting netminder chased after conceding 3 goals on 5 shots in the second, a usually free scoring attack nullified and a woeful performance on the powerplay and penalty kill doesn’t make for fun reading.
However if context was key above then it is also key for the visitors. With a cup final game against the same opponents in the same building less than a week away, the decision to pull Renny Marr at 3-0 down was very sensible. There was no reason for Swindon to subject their starter to any further punishment. Marr is their starter, he will no doubt be the keeper that Aaron Nell’s side ride into the playoffs and in that situation he needed saving from himself. Getting minimal help from his defence and clearly getting frustrated it was a case of make the change and save face or watch the Scotsman further lose his cool and potentially make things worse for Friday. Instead they’ll chalk it up to a bad night at the office and go again.
That’s not to say that the Wildcats gave up however the game was summed up by one interaction I had. I took the chance to watch a chunk of the game with some Swindon supporting friends and one person nearby at one stage yelled out “why is nothing falling for us?” I quipped back that sometimes you’re the man and sometimes you’re the goat. On this night, the Wildcats were the goat. Nothing went right; the 50/50 pucks bounced the Bison’s way, they scored on nearly every powerplay and just generally had things work out for them. It happens in hockey. I don’t believe in luck but sometimes these things happen and the best side in the world doesn’t win because of them. The problem for Swindon is that they’ve arguably had too many of these games across this season and that’s what’s seen them fall away from the league title race as a result.
Chris Jones got the beers though I would have given them to Sam Godfrey. Whilst Godfrey is usually a player you shouldn’t be noticing given his style, he made a number of very good defensive plays and saved a couple of goals on his own which is what made him stand out positively on this night.
The league title challenge is over for the Wildcats but their eyes were probably on other prizes anyway. I said to Ben Callaghan, the Wildcats social media guy, that results like this one but their wins earlier in the season were why the Wildcats are a cup side and not a league side. Suppose we’re really about to find out.
Lowlight of the night: Too many penalties conceded by the Herd. Whilst the PK units worked well, they can’t give sides that many chances that early in the game.
Highlight of the night: Bison’s 3rd goal was very well taken and saw Marr chased. It effectively ended the game.