Building the Herd – Joe Rand

#86 Joe Rand

Position: Forward

Born: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 8/12/16


Building the Herd – Dan Scott

#?? Dan Scott

Position: Defence

Born: Chatham, Kent

Announced as signed: Bison website 6/12/16

Dan Scott (right) has had many battles against the Bison but the recent issues at Telford mean that the defenceman has now joined the Herd. (c) 5 Hole Photography

Dan Scott (right) has had many battles against the Bison but the recent issues at Telford mean that the defenceman has now joined the Herd.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

In what BOTW has dubbed the Bison’s wacky week, the Bison have managed to secure a defenceman following the release of Jan Jarabek as Doug Sheppard has secured the services of long term target, Dan Scott.

The 24 year old Kent born defenceman becomes the second Telford player in a week to join the Herd after the Tigers’ recent financial issues. Having signed a new three year contract with Telford in April, the club’s recent financial issues threw everything and everyone into turmoil. Scott was announced by Telford as part of a group that had agreed to stay with the current league leaders but instead refused new terms and chose to sign for Basingstoke.

Like many a Kent born player before him, Scott is a product of the junior system at Invicta making his debut for the Dynamos in 2006/07 whilst still playing under 16s hockey.

After further development in the Dynamos system, Scott headed over to Lake Placid in New York State to study and play at Northwood School, a private school with a renowned junior hockey programme and counts former NHL goalie Mike Richter and former Bison forward Liam Chong amongst its alumni.

After finishing in the US Dan returned to Britain in 2010 with Telford, playing 51 games and scoring 5 points in his debut EPL season. He also guested 6 times for the Coventry Blaze.

That performance was enough to earn Scott a full time roster spot in the EIHL as he was signed up by the Hull Stingrays for one campaign in the British top flight where he scored 2 points before heading back to the EPL and joining Slough.

2012/13 was a decent enough year for Slough and for Scott but 2013/14 was not; the Jets’ financial issues caused a litany of players to be released and a bizarre situation for Scott where he was named team captain before leaving the Jets less than a month later to join the newly owned Tigers.

Scott was named an alternate captain in 2014 and remained so until he left the Shropshire side. Along with being part of the Tigers’ double winning side in 2015, Scott played 136 regular season games in this most recent stint, scoring 29 points in that time.

Scott also captained both the GB under 18s and under 20s, winning a bronze with the later in the Division 1A worlds in the 2010/11 season.

The first thing we’ll do is indulge the conspiracy theorists because, why not? I like a good laugh. However weird the timings might look, the Bison did not release Jan Jarabek to make way for Dan Scott. Whilst British hockey is good for a bit of cloak and dagger work, this is not one of those examples. The timing is entirely coincidental. Jarabek’s undisclosed indiscretion was not conjured up. Scott’s signing was not an excuse to get rid of him. Aside from the fact that the Bison’s form with such releases of players is well known why would the Bison, with the fewest goals against in the league, benefit from releasing an offensively minded imported defenceman for a British defenceman however good with a record points total of 13 in a season?

For anyone who has watched the EPL for the last few years, they will be able to back me up on this assertion; Dan Scott is a very good stay at home defenceman. He is not the biggest or the heaviest but he certainly does have size and isn’t afraid to use it.

What the Bison have done for the moment is seemingly trade secondary offence on the back end for increased defensive security. Dan Scott is much more in the Declan Balmer and Joe Baird mould of defenders than he is the Jan Jarabek or Miroslav Vantroba mode but the Herd now stand with two options in mind.

Option 1 is the Bison go straight back out and find another import defenceman with offensive upside and get a like for like replacement.

Option 2 is you run with this 5 man all British defence and go for an import forward which is what the Bison did back in 2012/13 when Tomas Fojtik was swapped for Jaroslav Cesky. It ultimately didn’t pan out as planned for the Herd as they finished the season without a trophy but the Herd arguably need more out of their offence than has been coming at times this season. With the defence already pretty solid and having added another solid piece, do the Bison hope for that extra secondary scoring solely from Joe Miller up front or add another piece?

The one player who may well step in as a stop gap is Joe Rand. The Canadian is still living and working in the country and could well be a short term option. Also a roster with Derek Roehl and Joe Rand in it will be a ton of fun.

Meanwhile on the back end, there will be Dan Scott; picking up minimal amounts of penalty minutes. The trick with a player like Dan is if you don’t notice him then things are going well. That’s the way we’ll want it. After years of trying and being very high on his talents and whilst in unusual circumstances, Doug Sheppard has finally gotten his man.

Welcome aboard, Dan.


Goodnight and Good Luck – Jan Jarabek

The Bison’s wacky week continues as BOTW bids farewell to import defenceman, Jan Jarabek.

Jan Jarabek leaves the Bison under something of a cloud. (c) 5 Hole Photography

Jan Jarabek leaves the Bison under something of a cloud.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

What have we lost?

The Bison have lost the services of a very good import defenceman at EPL level. An early season replacement for the underwhelming Jakub Barton, Jarabek was announced on the same day as Derek Roehl and the arrival heralded an upswing for the Bison in terms of their performances.

Jarabek is a positionally solid, strong defenceman with a fair bit of offensive upside. Possessing a cannon of a shot, the Slovak had a good eye for the breakout pass and joining the rush but most importantly for a defenceman was also responsible in his own end.

Jarabek’s performance levels had been very high and consistent since joining the Herd so to see him released in any fashion is a blow to the side.

Where has he gone?

Jarabek’s release was announced late on Sunday afternoon before the Bison took to the ice against Manchester. He has been released by the club due to disciplinary reasons.

Who replaces him?

At the moment there is no direct replacement for him though the club are reportedly keeping their options open. There are slight rumours of signing up Jaroslav Sarsok, recently released by Hull but they are not strong ones.

Final thoughts:

Well this is a piece that came out of the blue isn’t it. As with most signings, irrespective of what the press release says, I generally make contact with the club in case they have anything extra that they want to say on or off the record. I was told no on both fronts rather quickly. It’s also worth noting how the press release is written; Jon Baston fell foul of the coach and his team mates but the press release was almost conciliatory. This one was short, sharp and to the point. The conclusion that can be drawn is something happened that Sheppard couldn’t or wouldn’t ignore and Jarabek has gone.

There have naturally been rumours circulating as to what that particular incident was from fighting with a team mate (unlikely) to refusing to ice at times on Saturday night due to his altercations with Doug Clarkson (more likely but certainly unusual). Ultimately we don’t know and we’re speculating so let’s get back to what we did know.

When he left, I made the point that Jakub Barton was the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. Jan Jarabek was the right man in the right place at the right time it seemed; the defence got better upon his arrival, he was his own player but offered a similar game to Miroslav Vantroba that Barton couldn’t. Ultimately it seemed that the Bison were on to something of a winner.

Now he’s gone and for reasons that will never fully be explained to us unless Jarabek goes public with them himself (for all of the club’s foibles, they don’t muck about with such things) and we’re now left examining what the plan is.

An entertaining if inconsistent title defence combined with a litany of players stepping back or being released and the Bison are now facing the prospect of announcing a 4th import defenceman of the season if they chose to get one with the announcement of the signing of Dan Scott. These are certainly head-scratching times.

All the best, Jan; it was fun while it lasted.


Building the Herd – Joe Miller

#23 Joe Miller

Position: Forward

Born: Caerdydd, Cymru

Announced as signed: Bison website, 4th December

Back once again; Joe Miller returns to Basingstoke. (c) 5 Hole Photography

Back once again; Joe Miller returns to Basingstoke.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

In what’s been a wild and wacky few days in the world of Basingstoke Bison, the Herd compounded the oddity of the recent situation by announcing the return to Hampshire of Joe Miller.

Now 31, Miller was the one of the first players to move to the new look Telford Tigers when in November 2013, it was announced that the Cardiff born forward would serve 6 weeks notice and leave Basingstoke for the side that had recently been bought by Wayne Scholes and Red Hockey Ltd.

Miller went on to have a very successful spell in Shropshire as he was part of the 2014/15 Tigers side that won the EPIHL league title at a canter and also the the EPL cup. In 137 games during this most recent spell with the Tigers, Miller registered 153 points (66 goals and 87 assists).

A product of the Cardiff junior system, Miller made his senior debut with the home town Devils in the 2001/02 season where he iced in 20 British National League games, scoring 2 goals and 3 assists. This came alongside a very productive and high scoring junior career with the amusingly named Cardiff Satans under 19 side.

Miller spent 2003/04 between Cardiff and Telford before moving to Shropshire for his first full EPL season in 2004/05 with the then named Wildfoxes. For 2005/06 the Wildfoxes became the Tigers and an impressive campaign where Miller scored 35 goals and 62 points in 44 games earned him a call from the Elite League.

In 2006/07, Miller made the move over to Manchester for his one and only full EIHL season scoring 11 points in 53 games from the Phoenix’s third line. The next season saw him return to Telford for 14 games before moving on to Peterborough late in 2007.

That Phantoms roster at the time was on to something special and the next season would be the big one as Miller would be part of the last British side to achieve a proper grand slam as they won the EPL league, cup and playoff titles with Miller scoring an astounding 88 points along the way. Miller would remain with the Phantoms until late into the 2010/11 season when he was convinced to go back to Manchester, now in the EPL as the Phoenix battled for the EPL title; a title that they would eventually win.

With the 2010/11 season at an end and with another EPL winners medal in his pocket, Miller was convinced by Steve Moria to head to Basingstoke where he was the side’s premier British forward. Retained by Doug Sheppard when he took over, Miller remained one of the league’s top scoring British forwards and remained so after his move to Telford.

However Miller’s 2016/17 had not started too well, scoring only 4 points in 16 games. When the Tigers’ financial issues hit home, Miller could not come to terms on a contract with the new owning organisation and left.

Miller’s current record stands at 535 EPIHL regular season games with 664 points (306 goals and 358 assists). He has 3 EPIHL league winners medals, two cup winners medals and one playoff winners medal. He also represented Great Britain 15 times as an underage international, scoring 3 points and earning a bronze medal with the under 18s and a gold with the under 20s.

Players move on, clubs move on; it’s the nature of the beast at this level but I think if the great Tigers return doesn’t work out as Miller hopes, that the door isn’t really fully shut for him in Basingstoke.” – Goodnight and Good Luck; Joe Miller, 2/1/14

It seems that we were not wrong.

However, here we are again; three years on from the original announcement of his impending departure and in a very different British hockey landscape since Wayne Scholes on Banners On The Wall that “every deal has to be good for the players, good for the team and good for the league and if it’s not then we don’t want to do it”. We sadly saw what the plans did to the second tier of the British game and now find the EPIHL standing on something of a precipice, however well intentioned the above statement might have been when it was made in late 2013.

One other statement that Mr Scholes made in that interview I did with him also bears repeating in this piece because I think it’s very accurate;

I look at players like Joe, he is a great leader. Joe is someone who brings a very level head, a very mature outlook on the play. You can out him on the ice and nothing phases him. He doesn’t get wound up easily, he’s a mature player who you know is going to get a knock here and a knock there and he’s not going to retaliate. He’s a guy who’s got a level head. He knows the right time to do something and the right time to walk away and I think that’s critical on a team like ours where we’ve got a team with a lot of young players who are looking to people to teach them what to do and when to do it and lead by example and that’s Joe. He is a fabulous addition to the team”.

Now obviously the situation in Basingstoke isn’t exactly the same as it was in Telford then but there are a lot of traits that are mentioned in that quote that are things that the Bison actually need at the moment. With Shaun Thompson gone, there is a place for a veteran presence who can score goals and be flexible enough to do the gritty work when required.

However it’s also worth noting that Joe Miller’s 2016/17 is mirroring the Bison’s in a lot of ways; obvious quality but not quite coming together. 4 points in 16 games is not the sort of form that you expect out of the Welshman but let’s face it, it’s been something of an odd situation that he has been playing in. Perhaps this refresh will help change both Miller and the Bison’s fortunes.

The Bison needed a player with Joe Miller’s skill set. Circumstances worked in their favour and instead of getting someone like Joe Miller, they just got the original article.

Welcome back, Joe.


Running with the Herd – Bison vs Telford Tigers 3/12/16

EPL

Basingstoke Bison 6-2 Telford Tigers

Long x3 (2pp, 1sh)       Kolena

Jarolin x3 (1pp)            Silverthorn

High 3s:

After a disappointing shutout loss in Milton Keynes the night before, the Bison needed something of a response and especially one from their top end scorers. Check and check on that front is the answer to that.

The first period was not really much to write home about, especially the Tigers goal which came off of a rebound off of Hiadlovsky that seemed to leave the defence flat footed and the Bison netminder out of position. It was an easy task for Kolena to fire into the nearly empty cage from the slot and leave Hiadlovsky and Karpov sat in a heap in the goal crease. The rest of the opening frame, bar Ciaran Long’s very pretty goal was a bit of a damp squib all in all. It wasn’t a very interesting game.

Then the game woke up a bit in the second and the Bison started to find a way to get things working and things started to pay off. Telford, a club very much in transition at the moment, didn’t seem to have the energy or the answer to what the Herd were trying to do and two players in particular.

It’s very rare (and slightly gimmicky) to name two players to be a joint man of the match but the combined performances of Ciaran Long and Rene Jarolin are certainly worthy of praise. If you go back to the title celebration photos there’s a really excellent photo of the two of them celebrating together and despite there being an age gap of about ten years, there’s that sort of unspoken link between the two of them that has paid dividends for the Bison on many occasions, especially so on a night where the Bison really needed a win. Jarolin has been doing this for a long time, he’s a quality player and it makes Milton Keynes’ usage of him all the harder to fathom. This writer also has to wonder that if Long was on another team playing like he did last night whether things would be different for him. Someone needs to send some of his recent game footage to Pete Russell because if the national team is wanting to bring players through rather than sending a team of checking line forwards to world championships then I’m not sure what more Long has to do bar setting up camp on the national team coach’s doorstep with a sign to get given a good look.

Both players took their goals particularly well, Long’s first is an absolutely superb bit of team play, but the slightly bigger story from the Herd’s perspective isn’t so much who scored the goals but when they were scored. The Bison’s powerplay unit managed four powerplay goals in total across November, two at home. The Herd managed three powerplay goals in one night against a very good Telford side is a really good sign heading into a busy Christmas and New Year period with 8 games between the Manchester game on the 4th and the away game at MK on the 2nd January, a spell that includes two games against Swindon and Guildford. The Bison have always played well when they are busy, a fact that Aaron Connolly acknowledged last season during the title run-in but with a slightly shorter bench than normal the Herd need to be able to take any and all opportunities. Yes, their opponents from last night are slightly on the back foot in more ways than one but it’s that confidence factor that the plans can work and do work against top end sides that will hopefully increase the special teams scoring rate a bit. The shorthanded effort from Long was just a very pretty bonus.

In some ways Long and Jarolin’s efforts last night and the fact that they stood out so much were somewhat symptomatic of the game. The Bison played well if not spectacularly. That might initially appear to be a negative criticism but it’s actually not, it just was what it was. In some ways having the team playing a massively high skilled game wouldn’t have worked last night. It was one of those games for the roster to put their work boots on, put their backs into the game and get the job done. Due to the fact that the team did that, it allowed two of the team’s very high skilled players to do what they do best which is score pretty goals. Hopefully this win will see the Bison start to ratchet things up as the games start coming thick and fast to the point where they come through Christmas in more of a position to mount an assault on the top of the table come the start of 2017.

A word on our opponents:

Telford Tigers are a club in flux, that’s just the fact of the matter. It seems for the moment that they are able to go forward and that’s good. However with a raft of very good players having recently left leaving them shortbenched, a bunch of newer line combinations to try and work out and just not playing very well last night’s trip to Basingstoke was not destined to go well.

That said the one player who was most noticeable for the right reasons got the man of the match beers. This game was the best that I’ve seen Corey McEwan play since the start of his senior British hockey career and the fact that he didn’t register a point shouldn’t detract from the fact that he played incredibly. He never stopped skating, never stopped trying and deserves the credit for that where others on the roster seemed to not quite get up to speed.

Jason Silverthorn and Milan Kolena both took their goals well and a set play that would see the puck worked to Sam Zajac for the shot and the hope of a Matty Davies tip certainly caused the Bison a few issues but as the cause starting to seem more and more loss, the visitors started winding down. I felt a bit sorry for Sam Gospel at times because where the team in front of him just couldn’t get up to speed to the point that he didn’t have a chance on a couple of the shots that came his way.

Then there was Doug Clarkson. His performance on opening night and last night were like night and day. Now I don’t blame there being something of a shift in attitude, there’s been a season’s worth of events in the last month in Shropshire but bar a nice pass to Jason Silverthorn for the Tigers’ second goal, I’m left scratching my head about what the game plan was for him. A senior player with a lot of experience and an import on a short benched side spent most of the night in Jan Jarabek’s pocket and the rest of it trying to goad Jarabek and Kurt Reynolds into a fight. I think we all understand that Clarkson’s role is to provide a large physical presence on the roster. He’s a decent hockey player at this level but there is literally nobody that can match his size and power for the most part but he just seemed to be off in his own world and times and if he is planning on sticking around, he needs to go back to being the Doug Clarkson we saw in September and not this.

Credit must go to Tom Watkins for his bit of class at the end and calling a timeout specifically to change the netminder and allow Ted Thompson his EPL debut. He only got just under 9 seconds of action but let’s hope it’s not the last for him. Welcome to the EPL, Ted.

Lowlight of the night: The Tigers’ first goal was just a mess at the back for the Bison

Highlight of the night: Jarolin and Long in general or as it shall now be known, Jaralong.


The BOTW Podcast – episode 45

podcast logo

It seems the EPIHL will survive after all however on the show, the EIHL took a bit of flack so what better than to give the EIHL the chance to answer back?

It answers back in the form of one of their media and communications officers, Rob McGregor. A former NIHL goalie, Rob’s been on the British hockey blogging/podcast scene a while before taking up his role with the Elite League. He and Anthony get into what the league does right, what it does wrong and even get something of an answer as to where the rulebook is in this cracking EIHL special.

Remember to subscribe to The BOTW Podcast on iTunes HERE (go on, leave us 5 stars) and make sure you let us know what you like on Twitter or the BOTW Facebook page once you’ve listened.

The BOTW Podcast; the news, action and views from the EPIHL and all levels above, below and in between.


Goodnight and Good Luck – Shaun Thompson

After a 2 point weekend and what many were considering to be a pretty good start to the season so far, the shock news came on Monday night (28/11/16) that Shaun Thompson and the Bison had parted ways.

Shaun Thompson and the Bison have mutually parted ways. (c) 5 Hole Photography

Shaun Thompson and the Bison have mutually parted ways.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

What have we lost?

In what has been a somewhat inconsistent campaign from the Bison, Shaun Thompson was one of the most consistent performers. Thompson’s role in 2016/17 has been much more of a grinding forward role than in previous campaigns elsewhere and even different from last season’s role with the Bison but he took to it with his usual amount of hard work and dedication. Where high skill players weren’t firing on all cylinders at the start of the season, it was Thompson and Matt Towalski who were by far and away the team’s best performers on a regular basis.

Thompson’s biggest strength has been, that as an experienced player, he has been able to do a bit of everything as the roster needed. He could play top line minutes or crash and bang. He could play on the powerplay or get into the corners and work the cycle. The Bison will miss someone who offers them options.

Where has he gone?

At the time of writing, nowhere but with Bracknell having released the rather lack lustre Krystof Kafan recently and the Bees budget not being one of the biggest in the league, a player like Thompson who is a known commodity and can slot in to do a job quickly might be a more attractive option for the Bees than searching out another import.

Edit: after this was posted, Shaun was announced as signing for Bracknell for the remainder of 2016/17.

Who replaces him?

At the moment, nobody is lined up or announced. There have been talks of some NIHL players training with the Bison recently but no names are immediately being touted as a direct replacement for Thompson.

Final thoughts:

With the way this release was worded, it speaks to one of two things happening;

  1. Shaun has lined up another team to sign for.
  2. The Bison and Shaun disagree about his role and are simply going in different directions.

The release doesn’t read in the same way that Barton and Poldona’s releases earlier in the season nor does it read like Lewis Turner and Alan Lack’s releases when they stepped away from hockey. This appears to be the later of the two options discussed; Doug Sheppard and Shaun Thompson appear to be in disagreement as to how he should be used and it’s been deemed best for all parties for Shaun to ply his trade elsewhere. Given his qualities, the earlier option will surely follow and he won’t be without a club for long.

This is a real shame in a lot of ways. As mentioned above, Thompson has been a really solid performer for the Bison this season. Post the additions to the roster of Jarabek and Roehl, the entire roster has gotten better but Thompson was consistently good since the start of the season.

The role he had been asked to do was a mixed one though the majority had seen him in a much more grinding focussed role as a base with him branching out into special teams and occasionally being moved up the lines. I and others thought that he was excelling at this role though it seems that Thompson doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as a grinder at this stage of his career, as is his right. British hockey not having any sort of trade system and contracts being so short term in their notice periods allows him to seek another team to try and play the sort of game he wants.

As I said above, it’s a shame really but this is one of those things that happens in any sport. Sometimes players and organisations go in a different direction. It’s nothing to be held against either party, especially as they appear to be parting on civil terms, but the parting happens and everyone moves on.

What the Bison do from here remains to be seen. They are now effectively 3 players down from the start of the season and are without Joe Baird due to injury. You have to wonder if Sheppard now has his eyes on any potential replacements. However that is for another time.

Thanks for everything Shaun and all the best wherever you end up.