It was out of the blue on Sunday afternoon that the Bison announced popular import forward Joe Rand has taken the choice to step back from hockey. The club have announced that Rand remains part of the Bison roster as injury cover but has possibly played his last game for the club.
What have we lost?
I’ve long heard Rand be called a variety of things; the heartbeat, the engine, the workhorse and all of them are probably close to accurate. Rand was a versatile player who did whatever was asked of him. He played on a scoring line, he played on a checking line, he was the screen on the powerplay, he was on the penalty kill, he took penalty shots, he took faceoffs, he threw hits. If we’d needed him to then he probably would have gone in goal.
Rand is a “do anything, do everything” player who seemed to have a knack of popping up to score when he needed. He was instantly popular as a result.
Where has he gone?
A new full time contract to Real Life IHC
Who replaces him?
The club say the announcement is coming on Thursday in the Gazette. Rumours will no doubt abound but we will have a piece out on Thursday evening with thoughts and analysis.
If you had told me that the first ever Banners On The Wall player of the year was calling it time, I’d have assumed it was closer to 2020 than 2015. However as ever, real life steps in the way of hockey. It’s a shame but it’s the way it has to be.
I remember when Joe Rand first signed for the Bison; the hard working and infinitely patient Heather Jepson, secretary of the Wightlink Raiders and a woman who rarely gets enough credit worked some magic and I managed to have a chat to Joe about his joining the Herd. He was coming off of his second professional season, a campaign where he scored close to 100 points on the Isle of Wight and had been instantly popular with the fans at Ryde. The one thing that stuck with me is just how open he was. He was so relaxed about answering questions from what was, at the time, a guy who was still getting his head around the whole interviewing players lark. I was trying to expand what I did and how I did the blog so figured why not speak to the guy. I was nervous that I wouldn’t get much out of him. I need not have worried.
That signing was initially met with some trepidation. Could an ENL import step up and perform at the EPL level? Rand just went out and played, nearly sweeping the board at the end of season awards in 2013 for the club in an emphatic statement of his abilities. If you go back to that initial piece I wrote about him in the summer of 2012, I managed to grab some words from Jeremy Cornish who said Rand “plays well in all situations and never takes a shift off.” He proceeded to not take a shift off for over 3 years. His production had suffered slightly this campaign and we now know the reason for that. Even so, whilst his points were down the effort level remained constantly high.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the double season and that penalty shot;
That moment was the most stressful thing I ever remember but ultimately probably up there for the “Most Joe Rand” moment every; he kept his cool, stepped up, did his job, no over the top celebration, just a pump of the fist and got on with the job. That entire double winning roster just worked in so many ways and the memory that playoff weekend of the line of Rand, Chinn and Connolly just hammering anything that moved was a lesson for any team wishing to win on our league’s biggest stage.
I always think the test of a player in Basingstoke is sort of two fold; the first is how quickly jerseys with their name appear on them. It’s a way of telling who is popular in the moment. The other is how they are talked about years later. Now I’m not saying throw #86 on the wall, our club has been very stingy in that regard and with great reason. We’re less than 2 weeks away from putting only our 3rd number into retirement forever and its because we want that honour to mean something. However names linger and remain. I’ve been watching the Bison for 10 years and the names of the players that really connected with the fans last forever. All gave an effort but few left a lasting impact. Nobody really mentions Danny Stewart to me but loads mention Brad Cruikshank. Very few ever lovingly remember Mark Jackson or Wes Jarvis but loads remember Stephen Foster or Greg Owen or Mark Bernard and others. The English Premier Ice Hockey League may not be the highest standard that our club will ever play in but I have to seriously think that the name Joe Rand has worked its way into that list of names that will be remembered.
Thanks for everything, Joe; all the best to you, Heidi and to what’s to come. First beer’s on me.
Basingstoke Bison 3-2 Milton Keynes Lightning
Penalties (MK shoot first)
Rand scores Luomala saved
Long scores Cownie saved
Ground out: The Bison were still missing Alex Symonds through injury as well as Jacob Ranson and Ryan Sutton to their NIHL commitments but finally welcomed Grant Rounding back into the lineup for the first time since March. The Lightning were without David Clements and Jack Watkins. They welcomed new import defenceman Martti Järventie into the lineup and started Dean Skinns.
Järventie was right into the thick of the action as he shoved Joe Rand after the whistle on the first shot of the game and it would set the table for a very chippy undercurrent that would last for the remainder of the game.
The physicality kept coming as Lewis Christie levelled Joe Greener with a big hit followed by a clash between Joe Baird and Jordan Cownie that led to the Bison defenceman taking a roughing call but the Lightning’s powerplay struggled to get going and the penalty was easily killed.
Cownie’s frustrations continued to boil over shortly afterwards. The Lightning forward clashed on the wall with Shaun Thompson and just didn’t seem able to let something go. A crowd formed, everyone started pushing and shoving, Grant McPherson punched Grant Rounding in the crowd and the penalties were distributed. McPherson and Thompson both got landed with 2 minute roughing minors but Cownie’s out of character antics earned him 2+2 and gave the Bison a 4 minute powerplay that saw the Bison suffer similar struggles to the visitors. Bobby Chamberlain had a good short handed chance that was denied by a sprawling Tomas Hiadlovsky whilst Ciaran Long and Aaron Connolly had decent chances that were stopped by Skinns.
The period itself wasn’t the most high tempo of affairs and neither side really seemed to get their offences going. Both were playing really tight, controlled games which was working really well defensively but was stifling both attacks and neither side seemed to want to try and take the risk that might be necessary to get the first goal. It was going to be a case of “who blinks first?”
Järventie headed back to the box for hooking and this time the Bison’s powerplay appeared to get more going. The puck movement was much better but there was still no way past Skinns. The Lightning’s new Finnish import nearly forced Hiadlovsky into another massive howler as he pressured the netminder who had come out to play the puck but the Bison defence bailed out their netminder.
The first period sort of petered out rather than dramatically come to a conclusion; Tomas Karpov was given a bit too much space to walk into but some really good defensive work from Markku Tahtinen forced Karpov into hooking his shot wide. The first came to an end with this writer wondering what could be done to spark the game into life.
MK obliged the crowd shortly into the second period. The Lightning attack took the zone and as Vantroba tried to step into his man and missed leaving the two on one against the out of position Balmer and Blaz Emersic fed the puck into Jordan Cownie to blast past Hiadlovsky at 21:37.
This work the Bison up and out of nowhere the Bison started to swarm and the chances started to come. Joe Greener and Joe Rand came close as the Lightning were pinned back. The Herd were trying to get in Skinns’ face but the former double winner was standing firm in net only for him to then be beaten from distance. Joe Greener took the zone at speed, hit the blueline and fired high. Skinns flapped the glove at the shot but it went past him into top of the net at 25:51.
Shaun Thompson headed back to the box off of the back of a soft tripping call from Mr Pickett and the Lightning powerplay had good chances and good traffic in front of Hiadlovsky but the Slovak was seeing the puck and denied the Lightning the lead.
Despite what seemed like enough offsides to fill the hull of a cruise liner, the period was still a decent, flowing game. MK would take the initiative, Bison would take it back and it felt like a goal would come before the end of the period and eventually did.
Tomas Karpov picked up the loose puck and advanced down the wing. The Czech forward tried to hold off his man, got held, kept going, cut to the net and backhanded the puck over the shoulder of Dean Skinns to make it 2-1 at 37:52. The home crowd went from celebration to surprise as Lightning coach Pete Russell chose that moment to replace Dean Skinns with Jordan Marr in net. More on that later.
The teams saw out the remainder of the period with a couple of shots either way but the second buzzer sounded with the Bison 2-1 to the good.
The Lightning started the third period the better of the two sides. Hiadlovsky was equal to the early shots but eventually the defence would crack as a very slick move allowed the visitors to tie the scores. The passes flew across the zone to Leigh Jamieson to hammer a superb one timer into the net at 43:18.
The Bison had a chance to respond shortly afterwards when Blaz Emersic was called for tripping Karpov but the Bison powerplay again failed to fire and the visitors escaped unscathed with minimal pressure put on Marr in the Lightning goal.
The game became very tight and tense. The Lightning were being the more direct with their play whilst the Bison seemed happy to just try and ride out the pressure but did also ride their luck. None more so on the Lightning’s powerplay for another soft penalty call on Shaun Thompson when a Leigh Jamieson shot across the crease had Hiadlovsky out of position but the Lightning man at the backdoor missed the net with the shot.
Ultimately neither side could find the extra goal in regulation so the game headed to 3 on 3 overtime which spent most of its time as 4on3 powerplay time. Martti Järventie was the first to the box when he was generously given a two minute boarding call for going through Joe Greener from behind but the Bison’s problematic powerplay on the night reared its ugly head again as the Herd failed to register a shot on goal in the two minutes.
Tomas Hiadlovsky nearly got caught again by Cownie but was saved by Shaun Thompson back tracking. In the ensuing play Joe Baird found himself called for hooking that would last right through the remainder of overtime. The Lightning’s powerplay did much better than the Herd’s did but Hiadlovsky made up for his heart attack antics to make a string of good saves and the game headed to the shootout.
The first round saw Luomala headed right up the centre but was denied by the pokecheck of Hiadlovsky. Joe Rand took a similar route but managed to snap his shot through the 5 hole of Marr.
Cownie started the second round as he came in slightly to Hiadlovsky’s left but the shot was easily saved. With the game on his stick, Ciaran Long went round to Marr’s right, cut to the net and as Marr came down got his shot to beat the pad coming across to keep the undefeated home streak intact.
They all count: This win nor the game as a whole will go down as a classic in this current home winning streak for the Herd by any means. The first and the third were flat, the second was decent, the powerplay was near non-existent at times but the Bison ground out a win in the shootout. 2 points are 2 points and with this being the only game this weekend, it was vital to get them against another title challenger even if MK came away with a point.
Games like these happen. Not many players had great games all in all. It was one of those nights where there was clearly a plan and it just didn’t come off 100%. They happen, the team are only human after all but yeah, insert obligatory references about not playing well and winning here.
Joe Greener had an OK evening but for me, the Bison’s night belonged to Tomas Hiadlovsky. This was a night made for the signing of a netminder of his calibre. Yes, he gave anyone two heart attacks last night but he made save after crucial save when they were needed. He made saves when he wasn’t even seeing the puck but his anticipation meant that he was in position at the right time and then he stepped up in the shootout to put the game on our own skaters’ sticks. It’s likely his two rushes of blood to the head made people look on his night differently but they don’t remember his tape to tap passes from his own crease to the opposition’s blueline.
Games like these happen. You chalk up the two points and move on. There’s things for this team to work on ahead of Hull next week but we saw the flashes of skill that we know this team has. It can’t come good all the time but it does come good in time.
A word on our opponents: I always sleep before writing a game write up and actually this was the best thing for how Milton Keynes played last night. I think that had I written this last night I might have done them a bit of a disservice on the whole. The chance to take a step back put some of what I saw in a better perspective.
I don’t think the MK Lightning played particularly well last night, neither did the Bison but I do have to concede they probably were the better side on the night. They certainly had the better chances over the 60 minutes but did come up against a very decent goalie which didn’t help. They played well defensively on the whole but there was something lacking slightly from both sides going forward at times. Some will argue that it was quality of defending, others will argue it was a lack of creative offence; take your pick.
The goalie swap was the real talking point and that too I can see in a slightly better night. Whilst Dean Skinns only let up 2 goals on 21 shots, he had been fighting the puck at chunks and hadn’t looked comfortable making some of the saves. Bison fans as well as anyone else know what happens when Dean has games like that when something is amiss on the night and he isn’t at his best so the decision was made by Pete Russell to make the change to Jordan Marr who played alright but wasn’t massively tested by the Herd till the shootout. In the moment during the ensuing break everyone said the same thing; Russell’s just ruined the confidence of one of his goalies. Ultimately the other perspective is that Russell did the hard thing but the right thing in the moment for the team at the time.
Marko Luomala took the beers for the Lightning which I had no issue with as he was one of the better offensive players on the ice for both sides all evening. I also thought Markuu Tahtinen was quiet at times but very decent along with Jordan Cownie who seemed to be playing with a chip on his shoulder.
The new guy Martti Järventie looks the business. He was confident on the puck, his positioning was solid, he has a decent shot on him and seemed to settle right in. The only downside to the night was his hit on Joe Greener which was awful. It wasn’t intentional but it was from behind and should have been a minimum of 2+10.
Lightning fans will feel hard done by that they didn’t get 2 points from the game and I wouldn’t begrudge them that feeling but both sides deserved something from the game and they got that.
Lowlight of the night: Along with some confusing officiating, the entire first period from both teams was a dirge.
Highlight of the night: Karpov’s goal, check the highlights as the finish is amazing.
British hockey is minor league hockey. We all know the challenges it faces but what about minor league hockey in North America? What challenges does it face? One of my oldest friends in the hockey blogging scene, Scott Wasilewski aka Scotty Wazz of the Face Off Hockey Show and TheSinBin.net talks to us about the state of minor league hockey over the pond.
That, the changes at MK and all the usual fun and games as we hit another hockey weekend.
The BOTW Podcast; the news, action and views from the EPIHL and all levels above, below and in between.
Basingstoke Bison 10-2 Bracknell Bees
Lack x3 Spearing
Karpov Bendik pp
Thompson x2 (1pp)
Kapow: The Bison headed into the game still waiting for Grant Rounding to be fully fit and without an injured Alex Symonds. The Bees were without Callum Fowler and added Tom Relf to the line up whilst starting former Bison goalie, Tom Annetts.
The Bees had the first shot of the game, a blast from Frankie Bakrlik that went off the plexi and was caught by Hiadlovsky but it was the Bison who struck first as their early pressure told; Tomas Karpov fed Kurt Reynolds who out the puck on net, Ryan Watt tapped it to Alan Lack who slotted home at 02:19 to open the scoring.
The Bison were looking relatively comfortable before a mild disaster struck. Tomas Hiadlovsky is a very different goalie to what we’ve seen in our EPL tenure here in Basingstoke and is probably the most comfortable in terms of coming out and playing the puck for some time but he was caught out early in the game. As Scott Spearing raced towards the loose puck, the Bison backstop came out to play it away and fanned on the pass. Spearing, being challenged by a defender, managed to get something on the puck as it deflected off of the defender’s stick and agonisingly trickled over the line at 04:06 to even the scores.
The Bees had their tails (stingers?) up as a result but chances from Kostourek and Spearing could not find their way past Hiadlovsky. The Bison started to turn the momentum back in their favour and the line of Aaron Connolly, Joe Rand and Shaun Thompson were causing mayhem in the Bees defence. They didn’t find a way through but Tomas Karpov did. Miroslav Vantroba set the Czech forward away and he was untouchable as he went round two defenders, advanced on Annetts and slotted the puck through the netminder’s five hole at 10:15 to make it 2-1.
The hosts would add to their advantage a few minutes later as they were granted an opportunity thanks to a clipping penalty on Lewis Turner. The powerplay took a bit of time to really get going but eventually there was a way past Annetts as Joe Rand’s feed to Shaun Thompson saw the former Bees forward fire home from a narrow angle at 13:35 for 3-1.
The Bees were getting frustrated, none more so than Barklik who escaped punishment for what looked to be a charge after the whistle but soon found himself sitting for elbows as he tried to fend off a Bison player on the boards. It would prove costly.
It wasn’t a particularly good powerplay for the Bison all in all and it never really got itself set up but they were gifted some good fortune. A short came in on net and Tom Annetts made a fantastic sprawling save, appearing to have trapped the puck between his skate and the post. However no whistle came from Mr Boardman so play remained live. The first person to twig was Ryan Watt who thrust his stick towards the puck and managed to get the puck over the line at 17:14 to make the score 4-1.
Joe Baird took a hooking penalty as the buzzer sounded for the end of the first period but when play resumed, the Bees couldn’t take advantage of the man advantage. If anything the Bison came more and more into the game as Tomas Karpov and Joe Greener went close. The Bees’ best chance came from Ivan Antonov who flashed a shot over the crossbar.
The Bison added to their advantage as sheer volume of chances eventually told. Some neat work from Joe Greener got the pass off to Ciaran Long who fired past Annetts at 24:54 for 5-1.
The Bees got another powerplay opportunity when Alan Lack was called for interference but again the Bees could do little with the powerplay. Bakrlik again tried to make things happen but nobody seemed to go with him and the chances fell away.
Karpov and Lack worked to try and set each other up for the Bison’s 6th but it was the skipper who would eventually end Tom Annetts’ night in what might be described as a “typical” Connolly goal; he took the puck at speed, hit the blueline and fired. On this occasion, he made the best contact possible but fell over in the act of shooting but as the puck flew past Annetts at 29:31 to make it 6-1, Connolly landed on his backside and glided on his posterior, coming to a comfortable stop just in front of the Bees’ netminder. Annetts saw the next face off but 19 seconds later he was replaced by Alex Mettam.
This change in net saw a bit of a galvanising effort from the Bees as they sought to offer more protection to Mettam than they had Annetts. Antonov had a breakaway chance broken up by Declan Balmer.
Lewis Turner was somewhat harshly adjudged to have kneed Aaron Connolly on a hip check which gave the Bison a powerplay chance but again the special teams unit failed to settle. Bracknell’s best shorthanded chance was stopped when Bakrlik was stood up at the Bison’s blueline by Tomas Karpov.
The teams traded opportunities for the rest of the period; Bakrlik fed Smital whose shot hit the post, Ryan Sutton fanned on a shot after good work by Joe Greener and Hiadlovsky denied Smital with the stick.
It would be another late in the period powerplay for the Bees as Joe Rand was called for slashing that carried over into the final frame.
Bracknell had a couple of chances but again nothing seemed to find its way past Hiadlovsky in the Bison net, his early howler apparently having little to no effect on the Slovak’s performance in the Basingstoke goal.
Then if the game wasn’t already over it was put well and truly to bed as the hosts scored twice in 28 seconds; Tomas Karpov’s shot hit the bar and the rebound feel to Alan Lack to fire past an out of position Mettam at 43:04 and Joe Greener’s attempts to set up Ryan Sutton saw the youngster’s shot hit Mettam’s pads and sit up nicely for the veteran to slot home at 43:32. 8-1, game well out of reach and Tomas Hiadlovsky made way for Dan Weller-Evans to play his first ever league minutes on home ice.
The Bees tried to take the chance to shoot at the cold netminder but Weller-Evans made a couple of solid stops in quick succession from Smital and Bakrlik. When Joe Greener was called for slashing however, there was little he could do about the Bees’ second goal. With a ton of traffic in front of the net, Jan Bendik’s shot came through the crowd and before Weller-Evans reacted it was in the back of the net at 50:13.
The next puck to come the way of the young Bison netminder was something of a controversy. Clearly frustrated by the way the night was going when the play was called offside, he decided to hammer a shot goalwards long after the whistle had gone. This saw any outskater on ice in a Bison jersey steam towards Bakrlik and eventually something approaching a fight happened as Bakrlik and Greener got their gloves off and aggressively hugged for a few seconds. After that was broken up, Ryan Watt said something to Bakrlik which saw David Savage start jawing with Watt and eventually Watt didn’t give Savage a choice and tried punching the Bees’ defender through his face cage to the point that Savage went for the old fashioned “duck and cover”.
The Bison continued to step on the throat of their opponents; Shaun Thompson’s keen eyesight on the puck saw it loop out of the air and land in a position for him to fire past Mettam at 56:42 for 9-2.
Alan Lack was then rewarded for his good night with his hattrick as he shovelled home a puck from the top of the crease at 57:20.
As the double figures flashed across the scoreboard, that was pretty much the game done. Time wound down and the buzzer sounded to send the Bison back to the top of the table and confirmed their place in the cup semi finals.
Put to the sword: It’s been a long running joke amongst Bison fans, on here and elsewhere that the style of play that the Bison employ means that they do not put put sides to the sword, that they don’t just put the foot down and blow a side away. The last time was probably the first leg of the 2014 cup semi final against Guildford but last night definitely in this category. This was nothing short of a hammering.
There wasn’t much in the way of resistance but the Bison just kept on pressing. At times it was easier to score than to miss but after a terrible error early on, they rebounded and just didn’t stop coming. The Bees were overwhelmed as a result. The Bison used the space well but also worked well in tight. They were physical when they needed to be but also used a bit of finesse when required. It was a statement performance that was required after letting in 8 goals last Sunday.
I mentioned that Alan Lack wasn’t my choice for man of the match last week but I think he was everyone’s in this game. A hat trick, a 4 point night and generally just being a furious ball of energy in the face of all opposition made the beers a certainty. When you consider that Lack was set for a season of NIHL when pre-season started, the impact he’s had on the Bison roster has been remarkable. His points totals have naturally benefited from a Karpov and Watt shaped injection of talent around him but if the emergence of Stuart Mogg is one success story for the Bison then the addition of Lack out of nowhere is surely another.
Bar his flub that gifted Bracknell a goal, Tomas Hiadlovsky had a solid evening. His style of play, coming out and playing the puck like he does is high risk, high reward. He wasn’t phased by the error and bounced back to make some good saves. With the game put to bed, the sensible thing was to allow Dan Weller-Evans some decent time in the net and he gave a good account of himself. The powerplay goal from Jan Bendik was unfortunate but when you come in as relief and finish the game with a better save percentage than both the other side’s netminders then it’s a good night.
The Herd also continued their really good run of getting goals from across the lines. 10 goals from 7 goal scorers with 12 of 14 outskaters tallying a point last night (Balmer and Mogg failed to score). Whilst the Herd are running a slightly shorter bench than normal at the moment if they keep finding ways for people to score points, whether it be Hull tonight or anyone else, there may be trouble ahead.
A word on our opponents: It’s been tough for Bracknell as of late; issues with ice both home and away have meant training and games have been in short supply. That might explain a lack of fitness but it doesn’t explain the lack of direction or purpose in their play.
The Spearing goal was down to a fluke. The Bendik goal was a well taken bit of play, that deserves some credit as he used the traffic in front of Weller-Evans to his advantage. Bar that and a couple of other, infrequent dangerous shots there was no resistance from the Bees.
I’m not entirely sure why Scott Spearing got man of the match over Frankie Bakrlik. Now hear me out on this; Bakrlik was the best player on the ice for the Bees for me by some distance. Yes, the entire team played badly but if any decent bit of offence came from the Bees, it went through Bakrlik. He continually tried to make things happen, always looked for that pass or that move he could make. Ultimately he tried to do too much on his own and the red mist descended. There was no excuse for shooting after the whistle and he was rightly stepped to by Greener but that doesn’t detract from his quality.
Both Tom Annetts and Alex Mettam were hung out to dry by a defence that gave the Bison, a team that knowingly likes to pass the puck around, so much space through the neutral zone that they could have driven a bus through it.
Both Smital and Kostourek were nearly invisible for the majority of the game and the lack of Callum Fowler meant they really lacked any sort of gritty penetration in the Bison zone. Ivan Antonov is clearly a talented player but didn’t have the strength to muscle past a vey physical defence.
I’d normally say “chalk this up to a bad night at the office” but shipping 7 goals away in Sheffield including 5 in the last period last Sunday and being totally outclassed on this night by a title challenging team, there needs to be a bit of a rethink in Bracknell as to how they approach games. How Lukas Smital does that remains to be seen but they need to find a way to do that and fast.
Lowlight of the night: Bees’ first goal for obvious reasons
Highlight of the night: If we’re picking individual moments then Karpov’s goal is an absolute beauty but let’s thrown Lack’s hat trick in as well; a just reward for his efforts.
Basingstoke Bison 5-0 Sheffield Steeldogs
Karpov x2 (1pp)
All hoof, no paws: The Bison looked to continue the excellent run of home form with pretty much the same team as in recent weeks. Grant Rounding edged closer to his comeback on the bench and Ryan Sutton remained in the line-up. The Steeldogs added Charlie Thompson and Thomas Barry to the squad and started Dalibor Sedlar.
The Bison were on top early and were nearly on the scoresheet straight away when Stuart Mogg’s floated dump in took a wicked bounce and Sedlar had to scramble to stop the puck going into the net. The trend continued and soon the Bison’s physical play earned them the first goal of the night. Alan Lack steamrolled into Lee Haywood and hit him so hard that he nearly put him back into the Steeldogs bench. As the visiting players moved towards the incident on the boards Tomas Karpov picked up the puck, skated into the zone and proceeded to backhand a shot past the visiting netminder at 02:03 to put the hosts ahead.
That hit from Lack sparked what would be a really physical undercurrent to the game. Craig Elliott seemed keen to get in on the action and his hit on Tomas Karpov drew a crowd. The home side (and I confess this writer as well) thought the hit was a crosscheck but Mr Thompson was unmoved, only stopping play when a crowd formed.
However the official would use his whistle to send Stanislav Lascek to the box when the Steeldogs forward slashed Miroslav Vantroba’s stick from his hands. The Bison powerplay didn’t start brilliantly as it took a while to set itself up but when it did, it paid dividends. Ryan Watt’s sterling work on defence and then to gain the zone helped set up the play. He laid it off to Ciaran Long, slap pass to Joe Greener and one time pass into Karpov at the top of the crease for 2-0 at 06:33.
The game became scrappy for a short while as neither team seemed to be able to string their passes together with any great consistency but chances still fell for both sides as Aaron Connolly had a shot that got through Sedlar but went wide and Alan Lack was sprung behind the Steeldogs defence but his shot was at Sedlar. Arnoldas Bosas had a good chance where he shot wide, picked up the rebound but failed to secure the wrap around goal.
The Herd had set themselves up like they had regularly done so in their home games this term as they had the chances and the possession but found themselves a man down when Declan Balmer’s massive hit along the boards was called for checking to the head earning the Bison man an extended sit down thanks to the 2+10 penalty. It was a good powerplay from the visitors who had some good chances but Tomas Hiadlovsky, never one to shy away from poking the puck off an opponent’s stick, was busy in net shooing away any came that came near.
Hiadlovsky was called into action again shortly afterwards when some neat play by the visitors sent Craig Elliott away in between the defenders but his advance to the net was stopped by Hiadlovsky himself as the Bison’s netminder came racing out of the net and dived on the puck sending Elliott and the backtracking Ryan Watt sailing through the air in an attempt to avoid him.
The first period wound down but another hit on Tomas Karpov that wasn’t called caused a crowd to form at the buzzer and some hugging and grabbing rather than any actual fighting. It also saw Tim Smith skate off holding his wrist and Steve Duncombe bite and pull Dan Weller-Evans’ blocker off of his hand with his teeth. It was shaping up to be an odd night.
The Herd’s dominance of the game was carrying on into the second period as more and more chances fell their way through Connolly and Karpov. The Steeldogs had a brief period of pressure as Lubomir Korhon and Lascek went close and they were given a powerplay opportunity when Ryan Watt’s hit on Lascek was called as boarding. This was greeted with derision from the Steeldogs bench as they felt it should have been more. More bodies worked their way into the box as Korhon and Joe Greener (who had been niggling at each other all evening) clashed off the puck to the point that Mr Thompson ordered them to take a seat. The puck was getting moved around but it was a case of close but no cigar; everything was set up for Bosas to fire a blast but Watt sped out of the box and got enough of his stick on the puck to cause the shot to trickle harmlessly wide.
The Bison had their powerplay opportunity shortly afterwards when Liam Charnock was called for tripping but the real story came after the powerplay ended when Craig Elliott and Alan Lack’s acquaintance over the course of the evening boiled over and we got a short but entertaining fight. Lack probably edged it but it was a good even tilt.
The fight seemed to spark the hosts more than the visitors; Greener, Karpov and Connolly had chances, the later set up by Joe Rand from his knees but it was Ciaran Long who would add to the Bison’s goal tally when a turnover saw Stuart Mogg feed Greener who fed Long and his somewhat scuffed shot found its way past Sedlar at 35:14 for 3-0.
Callum Pattison’s presence was welcomed into the game and it was a short lived affair; after a clean hit from Declan Balmer he slashes the back of Balmer’s legs which got him 2 minutes. Then, after the Herd couldn’t take advantage on the powerplay, came out and took a whack at Ciaran Long which earned him a misconduct penalty.
There was a brief scare for the visitors as a puck in the air saw a crowd of players jump for the puck and Sedlar was sent crashing down in a heap but the Steeldogs netminder was up and OK. The second period finished with more chatting and coming together but the Bison firmly in command.
The Bison started the third well but so did the visitors. Coach Greg Wood had seemingly put a bit of a rocket up the backside of his players and the first few minutes of the final period saw the Steeldogs play with much more purpose and direction than they had in the first 40 minutes. The best chance fell to Bosas as he and Lascek sprung a 2on1. Bosas went it alone and Hiadlovsky was equal to the chance.
However the Bison wrestled back control of the game and soon the game resembled the previous two periods. Joe Rand had a couple of chances and Tomas Karpov went close but it was the Czech man who would help provide the 4th goal. Karpov and Lack advanced up one wing and in a move that resembled the Bison’s 2nd goal the puck went across to Ryan Watt, came quickly back into the centre and Alan Lack put the puck past Sedlar at 50:07 for 4-0.
The teams traded penalties as Vantroba went for slashing and Bosas for crosschecking but neither side could add a goal. The visitors kept piling the pressure on as they looked to break Hiadlovsky’s shutout attempt but couldn’t find a way past the Slovak.
Another late penalty for Callum Pattison for tripping game the Bison a powerplay inside the final 2 minutes and the Herd took advantage. Ryan Watt put the puck to Joe Greener in stride and he fired home past Sedlar at 59:16 and the Steeldogs netminder hurled his stick across the ice in frustration as his opposite number celebrated his first shutout of the season.
No mercy: For a while I’ve said a feature of the Bison’s game has been to shut down rather than put teams to the sword as it were. Whilst we were never going to see a repeat of Telford’s 13 goal performance against Sheffield, this was the Bison putting a team to the sword whilst sticking to their game plan. They played physically but not overly so. They created chances without continuously trying to walk the puck into the net. They defended sensibly and collectively whilst allowing Hiadlovsky to play his game and ultimately making his first EPL shutout a comparatively easy affair whilst putting their boot on the throat of the opposition. It was an excellent team performance.
The man of the match announcement however caused me some confusion. Man of the match announcements are much of a muchness and people will pick who they want. I also really like Alan Lack; his goal was well taken and sections of the crowd were prepared to give him a medal for fighting Craig Elliott. That said, for me Tomas Karpov was the best player on the ice for both sides by some distance last night. The Czech forward went 2+2 in a 5-0 win, constantly terrified the defence, was physical when he needed to be and generally just bossed the game.
Tomas Hiadlovsky’s first EPL shutout was one of his easier outings of the season but not an untroubled one. There were saves to be made but ultimately his defence did him a solid so the shots he did see were ones that he could deal with. It was a really good performance by the entire blueline corps.
Ryan Watt made a string of good plays as well as Joe Rand who whilst missing a couple of good chances had a really solid defensive game, making timely sticklifts all over the ice.
If the report feels a bit one sided in terms of the action, that’s because the game really was like that. The Bison were on top from the first minute and rather than getting caught up in their opponents’ game plan as they sometimes do, they got the lead then handily finished them off.
A word on our opponents: If Steeldogs fans were hoping for this game to be a big reaction after their 13-3 defeat then they were to be sorely disappointed. Second best from the start, until the third period they never really seemed to get an awful lot going. Heading forwards they occasionally flashed the odd dangerous shot the way of the Bison net but never got any really sustained pressure on net. My dislike of shotcounts is known but 13 shots across the game is not going to win you hockey games unless you are really efficient and clinical. Sadly for their travelling fans, the Steeldogs were neither. It was not a good night.
I’ve seen a couple of general thoughts from fans; 1. Korhon was bad and Sedlar was good and 2. Korhon was good and Sedlar was bad and I fall into the later category. Sedlar was hung out to dry but I don’t think he had a good game. He looked shaky most of the night and some occasional good moments didn’t leave me feeling massively confident in him. Whilst none of the Steeldogs outskaters had a particularly good game, Korhon tried to make things happen whilst those around him seemed more interested in not getting hammered.
The start of the new era didn’t go as planned. A game against Bracknell on home ice tonight will hopefully yield better results for them.
Lowlight of the night: Not much to choose from so will say the lack of calls on 2 bad hits on Karpov in the first.
Highlight of the night: Karpov’s second goal which was just pretty.
It’s a solo handed podcast this week but that doesn’t mean that we can’t cover all the big stories in the league this week. We cover the ownership situations in Hull and Sheffield following the changes this week, we discuss rink infrastructure in the light of Bracknell’s recent run of cancelled games, someone REALLY likes Craig Thurston of Hull and we look at the best links on the internet this week;
Joe Lewis scores a wonder goal for Heilbronn – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5n5_Awbk6v0&feature=youtu.be&t=2m47s
IIHF Officiating Standard 2015 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBn7J6Ji4vA&feature=youtu.be
Jack Watkins’ loses his locks for Little Princess Trust – https://www.justgiving.com/jackwatkins93
The BOTW Podcast; the news, action and views from the EPIHL and all levels above, below and in between.
Basingstoke Bison 4-1 Manchester Phoenix
Hit the north: The Bison welcomed Alan Lack back to the line-up after his absence last weekend and Ryan Sutton remained in the line up. Grant Rounding’s time on the sidelines is not quite up yet but is expected back by the end of November. The Phoenix were at full strength, welcoming Mark Thomas back from injury and starting Stephen Fone in net.
It was the aforementioned Thomas who was involved in the early action as he and Joe Greener decided to go old school with the gloves and helmets coming off just 90 seconds into the tie. There was a lot of swinging but not much connecting, Greener edging the fight as he landed the only shot of consequence in the bout and scoring the take down. The honours were even penalty wise as Mr Brooks gave both men 2+2 for roughing. (Insert my usual rant for a fighting major penalty here)
The Herd were the ones having the better of the possession and the chances early on as Ciaran Long, Miroslav Vantroba and Joe Rand all had chances. Long in particular was causing the Phoenix a variety of problems with his shooting as the visitors’ defence was stretched.
The Phoenix, seemingly aware of what they were going to face seemed happy to sit back and use their speed to try and hit on the counter. Their early forays forward saw a familiar pattern; weather the storm of the Bison attack, the wingers break out at speed and get the puck on net. James Archer and Jacob Corson-Heron had the better chances but the puck kept finding its way into the gut or the glove of Tomas Hiadlovsky.
Whilst the Bison were getting the lion’s share of the chances and Hiadlovsky was making the necessary saves, he was very nearly caught out midway through the period. As the Slovak went behind the net to play the puck, he got caught by the Phoenix forecheck. As he scrambled to get back into the net it seemed that the Phoenix would tap into the empty net but Vantroba’s quick thinking and stick work spared his countryman’s blushes.
The hosts kept having chances and making the bigger plays. Joe Rand’s wrap around chance couldn’t find its way past Fone, Alex Symonds levelled Gareth O’Flaherty with a textbook hipcheck, Tomas Karpov went close after some good work by Ryan Watt to force the turnover.
However it was the Phoenix who struck first against the run of play. With the Herd’s defence being stretched, some neat passing saw Robin Kovar find James Archer. The Phoenix alternate captain used the defender as a screen and saw just enough of the top corner of the net to fire home at 16:38.
This goal buoyed the visitors and they had a few more substantive chances as Mark Thomas and Stanislav Gron both went close as the period wound down but there was no more scoring before the first buzzer. The Herd were playing well enough but found themselves behind as the Phoenix’s “hold and counter attack” game plan seemed to be doing the business.
If the Herd had been unlucky not to score in the first period, it was a move out of training that saw them on the scoreboard early in the second; the Herd sprung the 3on2 and with Joe Greener driving up the middle to cause havoc in the defence, Stuart Mogg held the puck then fed it into the wheelhouse of Aaron Connolly who hammered his shot past Fone at 21:03 to level the score.
That goal could have opened the game up a bit but instead it appeared to have almost the opposite effect. The play from both sides became patchy with turnovers in all directions but the teams were still getting shots on net. A smart Phoenix passing play set up Gron in front of the net before he was cleared out by Vantroba whilst at the other end the Herd had chances through Lack, Vantroba and Ryan Watt’s deflection of an Alex Symonds slap pass.
The game had been a physical affair but after the early fisticuffs there wasn’t a penalty called until just after the half hour mark when Mogg was called for slashing. It was an unusual call given much more obvious things in both directions had seen Mr Brooks not use the whistle. The Bison killed off that powerplay then were a man down shortly afterwards in equally confusing circumstances when a few players collided at the blueline which saw Aaron Connolly called for hooking. However the powerplay saw no way through for the Phoenix and it was Fone’s turn to get caught behind his net as Ciaran Long’s hard forecheck caused a panic at the back for the Phoenix but the pass to the front of the net missed Greener and went out of the zone.
A crosschecking call against Mark Thomas gave the Bison a late powerplay chance of their own late in the period. Tomas Karpov came closest to breaking the tie but Stephen Fone had his eye in and stood firm in the visitor’s net making sure the second period ended with the score still at 1-1.
The Phoenix started the final frame the better of the two sides. The Bison seemed to be copying the visitors’ more chaotic defensive style but Hiadlovsky made stop after stop including a couple that he wasn’t even sure that he’d made as he turned away Gron, Satek and Boothroyd.
The Bison needed something to settle them down and it came in a moment of skill from one of their senior players. Ciaran Long passed to Joe Greener in the Herd’s zone and Greener set off down the ice. Greener took the neutral zone and hit the blueline drawing Phoenix players to him in a classic bit of power forward play. At just the right moment in front of Fone,Greener passed to Stuart Mogg for the tap in at 46:07.
Both defences continued to scramble as the teams continued to attack and it was the Phoenix who were given a golden chance to get level, After another confusing slashing call against Mogg, Symonds was called for crosschecking which gave the visiting Phoenix 1:11 of 5on3 powerplay time. The Bison penalty killers knuckled down and some of the most chaotic defending gave way to really structured and solid penalty killing. This, along with some more top quality netminding from Hiadlovsky, saw the Herd kill both penalties with moderate ease.
Joe Baird and James Archer were given matching slashing minors after a disagreement to make it 4on4 hockey and the hosts took advantage. After making the second goal, it was Greener’s turn to get his name on the scoresheet as he took the feed from Alex Symonds, drew open the wickets of Fone and slotted through the open 5hole at 53:49 for the 3-1 Bison lead.
Rather than immediately go down the shutdown hockey route, the game continued with its free flowing way with the ever present physical game that the Herd usually employ.
Rather than grinding however, it was a moment of skill from Tomas Karpov that capped off :the scoring; the Czech forward with a laser of a shot shortside over the shoulder of Fone at 57:24.
The teams played out the remaining 2 and a bit minutes with relative calm, the Bison spending much of the time trying to set up Ryan Sutton but ultimately the game’s result was decided and the Herd’s home winning streak added another notch.
No fear of flight: There were moments during this game which had my heart in my mouth a bit but overall it was a comfortable win for the Herd over the course of the 60 minutes. The first period was something of a Bison archetype as they had chances and possession galore but got stung and found themselves a goal down. However the Bison had played well enough where it wasn’t really a concern. The goal that you felt was coming came and against a team high on effort but short on bodies, the deeper bench and quality told. There were periods where the Herd tried to play the Phoenix’s game and some of the copying of the rather frantic defensive style gave everyone a bit of a panic but ultimately I don’t think anyone being honest with themselves will disagree that the hosts were the better team in this contest.
Stuart Mogg got man of the match for a 1+1 performance that has been in line with his recent run of excellent form. Mogg was certainly in the discussion last night but for me I’d have gone in one of two ways.
One was Joe Greener; having scored the first Geordie Howe hattrick that we’ve seen in Basingstoke for some time, it was one of the best games I’ve seen Greener play. I’ve maintained that he’s one of the best power forwards in the league and he played that role to perfection on this night. His goal was taken very well but his length of the ice dash to set up Mogg’s goal was the crowning point of the night.
The other was Tomas Hiadlovsky; whilst I’m aware goalies are not massive fans of getting man of the match awards, this was a good night for the Bison’s backstop. The defence and the netminder now seem to be comfortable with how the other plays which helped but Hiadlovsky made a string of fine saves that he intended and had good enough positioning and awareness to be in the right place at the right time to allow himself to make a few stops he knew nothing about. Arguments about import netminders aside, I’ve been aware of some fans of other teams who’d said Hiadlovsky wasn’t worth the import slot. I’d kindly direct them to the highlights of this game and advise them to pipe down. It was a superb performance.
The roster played with direction and purpose against a side that will trip teams up this season. Whilst it’s not exactly the Phoenix of old (more on that in a bit), it’s a team with quality and the Bison put them to the sword handily. It was two points solidly earned.
A word on our opponents: It goes without saying that this season will be a tough one for the Phoenix. I missed the earlier game this season so this was my first chance to see the roster playing out of what I jokingly call “West Manchester”. Having spoken to friends, what I saw seems to be the story of the season; there’s a lot of heart and hustle but not enough bodies and not enough quality.
With all due respect to Ben Russell, I’m not sure how he got man of the match when the defence as a unit was relatively poor bar Luke Boothroyd who seemed to play close to 35-40 minutes of the tie. Apart from the every present Phoenix captain, the only other players who came close were Stanislav Gron who looks a class above EPL level whilst playing similar minutes to Boothroyd and who I would have chosen, Stephen Fone. I’m not Fone’s biggest advocate and it might sound strange to think the goalie was man of the match when his side lost 4-1 but without him it could have been a lot worse. Through 40 minutes he looked fantastic and then everyone got so tired around him including himself that the resistance broke.
That may sound like I’m being overly harsh to Manchester and maybe I am but maybe I’ve been spoiled by the quality of previous meetings. The game was entertaining and the Phoenix are entertaining to watch with some very good players but the struggles that are affecting the Phoenix saw this be one of the easier wins against one of my favourite teams to watch.
Lowlight of the night: Whilst the officiating was confusing at times, I’ll say the copying of the Phoenix’s madcap defending.
Highlight of the night: Bison’s 2nd goal, superb work by Greener.