Running with the Herd – Oliviera 4×4 Challenge

We’re back! After an off season that felt like it lasted forever we were all finally back in the rink for what was, if I offer my honest opinion a great value and entertaining day of hockey.

 

Rather than go into massive detail, I’ll offer my thoughts on our opponents and a few individual Bison players for their contributions. As a few people have pointed out there’s not a great deal that can be learned as to how teams will play on the whole across the season but we got our first glimpse at some of this season’s Herd, the Bees and for some their first look at two decent ENL hockey.

 

Bracknell Bees:

 

Bracknell sent a team of all Brits which was slightly surprising. With Jasik and Smital both in the country I did expect at least one of them to ice but the Bees went au natural as it were.

 

Bees offence was very much lead by Rob Lamey who looks like he’s back to form after last season’s injury ravaged year. Most of their more potent attacks came through him and he will likely carry that on during the season.

 

Carl Graham scored an absolutely lovely blue line drive against Wightlink that just riffled into the top of the net and was greeted the fist pump that it deserved.

 

Nobody else really stood out but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Bracknell were unspectacular but effective as it was goal difference that got them into the final of the tournament. It was a shame that we didn’t see any of the imports play but the Bracknell side and their revamped British contingent gave a good account of themselves. Both goalies gave good performances

 

Bristol Pitbulls:

 

This was my first time seeing the Pitbulls in the flesh having heard lots about them. Both of Bristol’s imports Henrik Sahlin and Egidijus Bauba played as Bristol sent a relatively strong side but missing a couple of the older players. Player/coach Richie Hargreaves though did play and it was good to see a Bristol out there on the ice led by the man who brought hockey back to his home town.

 

The Pitbulls did appear to have one tactic offensively which had 2 parts:

  1. Pass the puck to Bauba
  2. Now Bauba has the puck he shall skate forward and attempt to score

 

Bauba did score a couple of nice goals but the issue with that tactic was it didn’t always work. There was a bit of secondary scoring; Steven Fisher scored a very lovely goal going 5 hole on Connor Standing and Coach Hargreaves scored a stunning goal himself but where Bristol really won people over was their sheer dogged (sorry for the pun) determination in defence.

 

Goalies Michael Crisp and John Dibble gave commendable performances in net, both making good quality saves when needed. The rest of the team just went into every game with a “never say die” attitude and it won sections of the crowd over to the point where some Bison fans are adopting the Pitbulls as their ENL team of choice.

They were also 5 seconds away from beating Bracknell which would have made them even bigger heroes than they already were in the eyes on the crowd.

They were unlucky to finish 4th really. Having missed out on the final on goal difference, Wightlink just upped their game a notch in the 3rd place playoff and pulled away but people will be keeping a closer eye on the Pitbulls. They really endeared themselves to the crowd.

 

They also had the nicest shirts of the 4 teams.

 

Wightlink Raiders

 

Last season’s ENL 1 South champions led by player/coach Jeremy Cornish entered into the spirit of fun surrounding the tournament, laughing and joking their way through the afternoon.

They also scored the first goal of the tournament when Dom Hopkins (who I swear gets bigger every time I see him despite being 31 years old) who seemed to glide past everyone and slot past his former teammate Matt Colclough in the Bison net.

 

The Raiders have a slightly different make up from last years team but one of their returning players Nathan Taylor (who I picked as someone I was looking forward to seeing in the preview) who impressed me most during the stages, making a few nice plays and contributing points wise.

Steve Gosset didn’t play but his misspelt shirt did. With Gosset’s kit accidentally left on the Island, his #12 “Gossit” jersey was leant to the Raiders’ new import Joe Rand who made his debut on British soil having flown into the country the day before and suffering from jetlag. Whilst Rand didn’t set the world alight he did show flashes as to why he could make an impact on the ENL South this season. In fact he scored the opening goal for the Raiders inside 4 minutes as they beat Bracknell Hornets the following night.

 

Liam McAllister wins the award for best goalie mask of the tournament with his KISS mask. Why? It’s KISS, that’s why!

 

It was interesting really as when Wightlink looked down and out in their game against Bracknell, they seemed to throw the “light contact” aspect out of the window a bit and things got a bit chippy. We also nearly got Cornish vs Graham which would have been excellent!

 

Their 3rd place play off with Bristol saw commanding performances from ex Phantom, Connor Pollard and ex Steeldog, Arran Strawson as they danced around the Pitbulls backline with ease.

 

I always enjoy watching the Raiders whatever the format and I intend to see them next weekend so will give people a more full run down as to what I see if I make it across for their game with Streatham Redskins.

 

The Bison

 

First things first, we won a trophy! Yes, OK, I know it means very little in the grand scheme but it’s nice to win something.

 

The one player taking a lot of the plaudits, and rightfully so, is Liam Chong who zoomed around like he had rockets on his skates. Chong looked very good out there and his link up play with Oli Bronnimann was superb. The two of them saw a fair bit of time out there with Daniel Volrab so there’s a line combo possibility.

 

Volrab himself looked pretty decent for his first outing. I think in a way this was useful for the new boy. It’s not a full game but he gets to go out, get a feel for playing in his new home rink and gets the chance to link up with some of his team mates. At one point he made a behind the back pass to Bronnimann that was so lovely it was almost criminal.

 

Jacob Heron also showed that he can go. He looks like the sort of player who will try a bit of everything. He’ll go to the net and into the corners. I think he may well endear himself to the Bison fans over the course of the season. He does look like an upgrade on Callum Best on that showing. We’ll have to wait and see.

 

Joe Miller looked very impressive. It looks like we’ll see him linking up with Moria a fair bit which suits me fine. He clearly wasn’t going full steam but if that’s what he’s like at 50/60% then the 100% version is going to be awesome for us. Manchester and Peterborough fans did wonder which version we’ll get here in Bisonland; on that showing, hopefully the good one.

 

The Bison iced two juniors; Callum Wynn was given the unenviable task of wearing #26 for the Bison. He saw some ice time in all the games and looks one for the future. Hopefully we’ll get the chance to see him in some proper games as the season progresses.

Connor Standing played the whole of the 2-2 draw with Bristol and looked great doing it. It was my first chance to see him and I can see why he’s been signed. The two goals he conceded would likely have been conceded by most of the goalies there and he got left hanging by his defence on both of them.

 

Dan Harris, aside from being the latest member of my jersey club, looked ok. I was more sold on him than others were as he made a few mistakes but I’d rather he get them out of the way now when it matters less. I think he’ll be good in that 5th defenceman slot to start the season but expect him to see a good amount of ice time. He also has a decent shot which is never a bad thing.

 

Matt Colclough looked dependable at the back all night, made the saves that needed making and only conceded 3 goals all evening. I believe I will be proved right on Matt, he’ll be a solid reserve option for the Bison.

 

Moment of the night however has to go to Bavy: With Tony Redmond added to the squad late he was wearing an unnamed #9 jersey night. Having assisted on a Moria goal, Bavy proceeds to announce the goal as “assisted by Tony Hand”. I don’t think there was a single soul in the building, Redmond included who didn’t have a chuckle at that.

 

 

So that was it. For £8 that was a great way to spend a Saturday. The real work starts here and the focus turns towards our “friends” from Surrey this coming Sunday.

 

We’ll see how we match up won’t we.

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