Building the Herd – Tomas Karpov

#44 Tomas Karpov

Position: Forward

Born: Benešov, Středočeský kraj, Česko

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 25th May

Photo copywrite to 5 Hole Photography – remember that all of Grant’s photos are available to buy at and will make great birthday presents or momentos for hockey fans. Grant is great, support Grant.

Building the Herd – Dan Davies

#47 Dan Davies

Position: Forward

Born: London, England

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 18th May

Dan Davies (left) had a productive first season in Basingstoke and has signed on for another campaign.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

Banners On The Wall took a break over the previous weekend. Some family stuff combined with the fact that the NIHL South 1 lost its marbles again led us to take a step back and wait to see if anything happened before progressing. As it seems that stuff has gone quiet, we’re in a position to properly welcome Dan Davies back to the Herd.

Soon to be 28, Davies capped an impressive first season in Basingstoke by being named the 2016/17 BOTW player of the year. Generally used as a centre for the duration of the campaign, Davies tallied 10 goals and 39 points in 50 games whilst adding 4 assists in the Bison’s 7 playoff encounters.

Davies began his hockey in London with Haringey. The London senior side were known as the Greyhounds so Davies played for the fantastically named Haringey Whippets in the under 16s leagues before moving across to Slough for the later part of his underage hockey career.

The stats then throw up something of an anomaly for Davies as no numbers exist for him on Elite Prospects between the end of 2004/05 and the 2008/09 season when he suddenly reappeared in Bracknell, splitting time between the Bees in the EPL and the Hornets in the then ENL. 25 EPL games yielded 5 goals and 8 points but his ENL numbers of 50 points in 26 games were impressive enough for Slough to come calling.

Davies moved back to The Hanger in 2009 and former junior Jet would spend 4 and a half years at the Hanger to great success as his time in Berkshire would yield 2 EPL playoff titles and one EPL cup. 240 regular season games with the Jets saw Davies chart an impressive 241 points.

The 2013/14 season has been discussed at great length on BOTW for the many player movements that happened at Slough. Davies, who was an alternate captain for the Jets at one stage during the season, was another player who moved north to join the new order in Telford, leaving just after the halfway point of the season in mid-December.

Davies and the Tigers pressed on from 2013/14 into the 2014/15 season and dominated the EPIHL, winning the league and cup at a canter before coming unstuck in the playoff semi-final against Peterborough. In the double winning season, Davies had 17 goals and 36 points in 48 games.

The 2015/16 season was something of a contrast as the Tigers faltered. Davies also had injury issues, icing in just 37 games but still managing 27 points from the season. After an empty handed season in Telford, Davies decided to return to the south and joined up with coach Doug Sheppard.

Did you know that Dan Davies got 39 points last season? I didn’t remember till I sat down and looked at the stats for him. In some ways because he falls into that archetype of “hard working hockey player”, I sometimes wonder if Dan Davies gets lost in the shuffle. It wasn’t intentional but with a family visit this weekend and the rest of the league going mad around us, even his welcome back piece got pushed slightly to one side.

However someone somewhere clearly notices his efforts. The setup for the BOTW player of the season is such that I don’t just pick my favourite player with my biases that I have on hockey players. It’s why there is a fans nominating process then I get the panel together to pick from those; to try and take out a chunk of my own influence as to who deserves the recognition and that we give a fair, well rounded result. Despite arguably not being the highest scorer or the biggest hitter or the flashiest or the fastest, Davies got the most fan nominations then the majority of 1st votes in our panel vote.

Dan Davies is a package player. He’s one of those players that Doug Sheppard likes who is able to do a bit of everything. Superb passing, a really good two way game combined with being able to both grind and score, it’s the work ethic of Davies that got the appreciation of fans wherever he’s played. Where we praised Joe Rand for not taking a shift off, we need to attribute the same quality to Davies who has played up and down the lines in the space of a season as well as taking significant first powerplay and penalty kill time in the process.

The problem is that we genuinely now don’t know what’s happening. Davies and Antonov were not paired together last year though you venture that they’ll both be on the top two lines between them with Davies maintaining his role in the centre. They’re the only two forwards and the new league format lasted a grand total of 2 weeks. Even the PIHL as a concept lasted longer than that.

Irrespective of that, we know what we’re getting from Dan Davies which is effort, energy and some decent execution. If Ciaran Long returns then I expect Davies to play alongside him but if Long is heading elsewhere then what Davies needs is that natural scorer for him to put the puck onto the stick of. Give him a Rene Jarolin style player that clicks with Davies and points will follow.

Welcome back, Dan. You are allowed to drink the beer…I mean, trophy.

Building the Herd – Ivan Antonov

#19 Ivan ‘Vanya’ Antonov

Position: Forward

Born: Москва́, Росси́йская Федера́ция

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 18th May

Vanya Antonov returns for another season in Basingstoke.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

After covering the return of the one defenceman from the Bison’s announcement, we move on to the forwards and the return to the Herd for 2017/18 of Russo-British forward, Ivan Antonov.

More commonly known as Vanya, the 20 year old came to Basingstoke with much fanfare last summer and continued his impressive senior hockey career with an 18 goal and 38 point season, regularly mesmerising audiences with his stick handling and speed.

2016/17 was Antonov’s first season away from Bracknell where he had played all of his British junior hockey. Having debuted for Bracknell’s under 16’s team, the Stingers as a 13 year old, Antonov regularly played above his age group in junior hockey. In his last season of solely playing with juniors in 2012/13, he scored 69 points in 17 games at under 16 level and 32 points in 13 games at under 18 level, combining for 49 goals across the two age groups.

On hitting 16 and becoming eligible to play senior hockey, Antonov was immediately used by both Bracknell senior sides as he made his NIHL debut with the Hornets and his EPL debut with the Bees in the same season. Vanya managed to an impressive 4 goals and 5 points in 22 games in the EPL whilst scoring 4 goals and 6 points in 7 NIHL games. His playing time at under 18s with the Drones was limited that year as Antonov only managed to appear in 9 games in which he scored 38 points. Antonov capped of 2013/14 by appearing for both GB under 18s and under 20s in the same season.

As the EPL became his bread and butter, Antonov would play one more game of under 18s in 2014/15 scoring 2 assists and that would spell the end of a fantastic junior career with 175 points in 76 games. 2014/15 saw a real coming out onto the senior stage as Vanya tallied 41 points in 43 games.

Lukas Smital gave Vanya the alternate captain’s A for 2015/16 in what was a tough year on and off the ice for the Bees. Financial issues were causing issues which saw squad building be a challenge for the Berkshire side. Alongside Smital, Antonov was a focal point of the Bees offence as he put up 65 points in 51 games before opting to move to Basingstoke.

I can’t be the only person massively surprised by this move, can I? Two new teams into the Elite League from the old EPIHL, one of whom in the same county as where Vanya Antonov attends university and he’s ended up back at Basingstoke. The majority of the Bison fanbase, including myself had assumed that Paul Dixon had one of the best young players on his way to the Elite League.

Yet, here we are and I’m sure all Bison fans are delighted. Why Antonov is back in Basingstoke could be for all manner of reasons; fitting things around university, Vanya feels he needs more seasoning before he steps up to being a full time hockey player, maybe he didn’t even get an offer from anywhere else. I don’t genuinely believe the last one is part of it but circumstances have certainly conspired in the Bison’s favour on this one.

The question with Antonov remains his size. It is quite clear that the young man is not about to suddenly grow 6 inches in height so the discussion turns to whether he will bulk up at any stage. If he bulks up too much to win some more of those physical battles, does he lose his speed and his edge over other players?

For this writer, Vanya Antonov needs to be Vanya Antonov and just play. At 20 years old and arguably 15-20 years of hockey ahead of him and given how good he already is, I don’t see the need to start radically trying to change his game. He does need to be a bit smarter with his physical battles and how he can be most effective in the corner battles but nobody signs Vanya Antonov to be a checking forward.

As one of the most naturally gifted players in the league last year, the bedding in process in Basingstoke has finished and hopefully this change of league will see Antonov press on and become a really dominant offensive force on a team that is regularly challenging for silverware. He’s got lightning speed, impressive hands, a really impressive shot and superb vision on the ice. He’s got the potential to be really special in British hockey and maybe even abroad. The fact it’s another season of him in Hampshire is a nice bonus for us along the way.

Welcome back, Vanya.

Additional: As this piece was being written, there was some upheaval as Chelmsford, Oxford and Solent all requested to withdraw from NIHL 1 South. BOTW will report as and when it gets concrete information.

Building the Herd – Dan Scott

#13 Dan Scott

Position: Defenceman

Born: Chatham, Kent

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette 18th May

(c) 5 Hole Photography

After a couple of recent departures from the Bison, Doug Sheppard has set the tone with the announcement of three returnees for the Herd for their new venture into the NIHL. The first of those that we’ll talk about is the return of Dan Scott.

25 year old Scott joined the Herd from Telford Tigers after the tumultuous period for the Shropshire club due to financial issues. Scott had been part of the Tigers side that was tearing through the EPIHL at the time, scoring 3 goals and 6 assists for 9 points in 27 games before the Kent born defenceman decided that a change of scenery was required. A long term target of Doug Sheppard, Scott was convinced to move back to the south where he replaced Jan Jarabek who was released due to a disciplinary issue. Scott became immediately popular with the fans in Basingstoke for his no nonsense, physical style of stay at home defensive play. Despite his number of games being limited by a concussion, Scott managed to tally 1 goal and 1 assist in 19 games as well as picking up 2 goals and 1 assist in 7 playoff games with the Herd.

A product of the Invicta junior system, Scott made his senior hockey debut with the Dynamos during 2006/07 tallying 3 assists in the process. In 2008, Scott moved to Northwood School in Lake Placid, New York in the USA for two years to further his hockey playing skills, during which time he made his debut with the GB under 18s and was named captain for their world championships bid in 2010.

After finishing his time in North America, Dan returned to Britain where he signed for Telford and made an immediate impact on the Tigers’ defence. His talents also saw him guest for Coventry in the Elite League during 2010/11 which saw Scott make his GB under 20s debut and led to him signing a contract with Hull Stingrays for 2011/12. His time in the East Riding was productive with 1 goal, 1 assist and 2 points with 16 penalty minutes.

After his time in Hull came to an end, Dan headed back to the south and to Slough where he would stay for the next year and a half. Under Slava Koulikov, Slough had a good 2012/13 and Dan’s 7 points that season were, at the time, a career best in senior hockey for him. 2013/14 didn’t go as well for the Jets as money issues saw a number of players leave. Scott was part of the number that were lured north to Telford due to an improved contract offer in December 2013.

We all kind of know what happened to Telford; the dominant 2014/15 campaign saw Scott pick up league and cup winners medals and whilst 2015/16 didn’t go as well for Telford, they seemed to be on the road to running the table again but the well-publicised issues in Shropshire led us to where we are today.

Dan Scott had the somewhat ignoble honour of being the first person that the EPIHL’s new policy on headshots failed. I actually remember hearing about the decision not to punish Ugnius Cizas for what was a ridiculous elbow to the head because I was walking around Copenhagen Zoo and my wife wondered why I had stopped by a monkey enclosure and was saying “they have to be taking the mick” over and over again. To not punish the Pirates forward essentially implied that Scott instigated the contact by headbutting his opponent’s elbow. Then again, not long after that the EPIHL failed so I suppose the joke was that we should have seen that coming.

Above we mentioned that Doug Sheppard had Dan Scott as a long term target. I suppose most coaches in the league would not have sniffed at signing the defenceman and Bison fans immediately picked up on why Dan is such a valuable commodity as a defender.

He’s arguably something of a cut out player. If you were making a list of what you want your ideal stay at home defenceman to be then most of Scott’s traits will be on that list; positionally sound, good hands, takes the body well, good vision for the pass to start the transition up the ice. If you’re signing a guy to sure up the back end then this is what you want.

To Scott’s credit he came to Basingstoke last year knowing a lot of the team already and he settled in well. He got the Bison’s systems down quickly and made a defence that was already the best in the league better. During the voting for the BOTW player of the year, many mentioned that had Dan been there for a season then they may have got this vote.

It’s hard to add more than we did given we only wrote a piece for Dan about 6 months ago but the reaction that he got when he was in and out of the line-up shows that added bit of quality that fell into the Bison’s lap. It happened with Ciaran Long and Michael Wales. It appears to have happened again. With a league that is going to be a real mix of players and abilities, Doug Sheppard has shown that he’s not messing about by securing what will be a top level defenceman in the Wilkinson Conference, if not the whole of NIHL 1 South.

Welcome back, Dan.

Goodnight and Good Luck – Rene Jarolin

Rene Jarolin is another of the Bison imports not returning for the venture into NIHL 1 South.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

With the departure to Tomas Hiadlovsky in the books, it’s time to say to the other player that the Bison announced wouldn’t be returning in Rene Jarolin.

What have we lost?

Since his arrival in November 2015, Jarolin has been one of the Bison’s most potent attacking threats. His partnership with Joe Greener and Ciaran Long in 2015/16 was the arguably the Bison’s most threatening forward line on the way to the title. Jarolin was deceptive, seemingly almost appearing from nowhere to make a pass or fire in which is impressive given that he’s not exactly a small guy. He wasn’t fast but seemed to make the space in one stride that others would in three or four. He reportedly can’t see that well off the ice without his glasses but could see everything and everyone on it. Despite his advancing years, Jarolin was the match of many defences and put up numbers that also saw him named to the second all star team off the back of joining the Herd a couple of months into the season.

Let us also not forget that he scores with his face.

Where has he gone?

At the moment, nowhere. Jarolin, along with Tomas Hiadlovsky, are not returning as a result of the Bison’s move to the NIHL 1 South.

Who replaces him?

At the moment, nobody but there’s nobody signed up for next season so as with Hiadlovsky there’s only rumour and conjecture.

Final thoughts:

It’s the 26th November 2015; Joe Rand has “retired” from hockey and there are two free agent import forwards lurking around the EPIHL. Frantisek Bakrlik has left Bracknell and ends up at Milton Keynes and Rene Jarolin, despite being at a point per game is released by the Lightning having scored 5 goals in 20 games. I theorised on here why Doug Sheppard made that choice at the time, why he had chosen the EIHL player who had appeared to be struggling to adjust to the EPL instead of the player who had torn the EPL apart. It seemed a bit of a gamble.

It also seems Sheppard was proven right in the end. After 5 goals in 20 games, Jarolin hit 24 in his 35 games for the Herd. His overall record in his 86 Bison regular season games was 48 goals and 107 points. For whatever reason, Jarolin seemed to work in the Bison’s systems where he didn’t work for Milton Keynes. That happens; we saw players come into the Bison’s systems and just not work like Petr Polodna or JJ Pitchley and this was just the reverse of that. Jarolin came to Hampshire and made the players around him better. He was never going to win a foot race with Tomasz Malasinski or out muscle Doug Clarkson but for some reason, he just seemed to be able to do the right thing at the right time.
Jarolin was a different figure in the Bison roster. With a team that’s generally been at the younger end of the scale, the Slovak cut a bit of a different figure. 35 years old and closer to the end of his career than the start, he was the right guy in the right place at the right time.

It’s a shame that he has to go as I believe that if the Bison manage to keep a large chunk of their defensive corps that the Herd will go down the two import forward route and Jarolin and AN Other would have been a fantastic 1-2 punch in the NIHL but it’s not to be.

There’s not much left to say than this for the last time;

Thanks, Rene.

Thanks, Pete Russell.

He scores with his face, he scores with his faaaaaace, Rene Jarolin, he scores with his face.

Goodnight and Good Luck – Tomas Hiadlovsky

After two seasons in Bison colours, Tomas Hiadlovsky waves goodbye to Basingstoke
(c) 5 Hole Photography

The Bison’s move to NIHL 1 South was always going to see some members of the Herd leave. The move to a 2 import league was always going to see players move. With Joe Rand heading back to Canada (and don’t worry, we’ve not forgotten about him), another two imports are heading on to new locations. We’ll start with the hole left in the Bison net with the departure of Tomas Hiadlovsky.

What have we lost?

For some reason, there’s been no announcement from Ice Hockey Journalists UK with regards to all-star teams for last season. I genuinely believed that Tomas Hiadlovsky would have been on one of the all-star teams but I suppose we’ll never know. For a man who clearly has a bit of a temper on the ice, Hiadlovsky was generally a cool customer in the net. In the title winning season there was this really great contrast between Jon Baston with his frantic, kinetic, almost chaotic style and Hiadlovsky who was the more orthodox in how he approached things.

The Bison have had a really good defensive corps over the last few years and had two years running with the fewest goals conceded in the league. The defenders played a massive role in that and so did Hiadlovsky. Some might argue about his save percentage possibly being higher or the odd soft goal (we’ll get to that) but you had to shoot well to beat the Slovak. The defence would let shots through because they knew that he’d save them. For every random lost puck behind the net, there were 4 or 5 breakaways that he stopped. If he’d stayed, the club’s shutout record would have surely gone.

Where has he gone?

At the moment, we don’t know. All we have is the announcement from the club that they won’t be returning.

Who replaces him?

Let the silly season begin! There are no concrete rumours as to who will start between the pipes for the Bison next season but there are options. It seems that a British netminder will be the Bison’s preferred option for the next campaign and there are some options about. The gap between the EIHL and the NIHL is now pretty vast but there will be players looking for a starting spot. The chance in focus at Bracknell could see Alex Mettam as an option. Doug Sheppard might target former Bison netminder and current Streatham number 1, Matt Colclough, a player with vast experience at this level and locally based.

The other option of course is sitting under our nose and that’s to hand the reigns to Dan Weller-Evans. Having sat behind Dean Skinns and Tomas Hiadlovsky, Dan’s had some good training as well as some experience in the NIHL. He’s always accounted himself well in EPL games when given the chance. The time might be right for DWE to step into the role that it’s known that the former Bison junior has wanted for a long time. One thing counting against Dan is that the pool of British goalies for a two import league is now quite a deep one and does he lose out to a more established British name if Doug Sheppard doesn’t want to take that chance? We’ll have to wait and see.

Final thoughts:

Stay in your net!” became the most annoying thing to me last year. I’ve even just gritted my teeth writing this. I’m not going to lie; I don’t always sit with my finger on the pulse of popular opinion and that’s fine. It’s not a big deal to have different opinions but that one always got my goat as people demanded that Tomas Hiadlovsky stop playing his natural game. There I would be, like Winnie the Pooh under his little black rain cloud as muttering to myself that why couldn’t people just let him get on with it?

Yes, he got caught out behind the net on occasions. He also still conceded fewer goals than any other goalie and had the best GAA in the league doing it. High risk, high reward and a first league title for over two decades is a fair price to pay I feel. Without a shadow of a doubt, Tomas Hiadlovsky was the best netminder we had in the EPIHL. Whether he is your favourite is another matter but performances across two years and the numbers don’t lie.

We know why this decision has been taken by Doug Sheppard. In a league with 2 imports dressed, one on the ice at a time, you cannot have an import netminder. It just isn’t feasible to operate in that way. Could the Bison have done it? Arguably yes if they’d manage to keep all of last year’s British players. However for a first season into an unknown venture, it makes sense to have the options.

I venture that Hiadlovsky could still do a job at EIHL level and wouldn’t be massively surprised if he ended up back in Scotland or at Guildford but then he might just head home. Either way, the cycle of hockey goes onwards and where many don’t get to attach their names to things, Tomas Hiadlovsky helped backstop the club to the very top.

Thanks Tomas, go well.

BOTW Extra – Richard Carpenter

For more in depth on the announcement, remember to check out our BOTW Breakdown on the structure of NIHL South for 2017/18.