Running with the Herd – Bison vs Sheffield Steeldogs 10/12/2011

Basingstoke Bison 4-5 Sheffield Steeldogs

Moria                          Brittle x 2

Kubenko                     Calvert

Petran                        Bebris

Miller                          Payette

 

Stuck on repeat: I can’t help but feeling that I’m repeating myself for the second week in a row covering this game. I’m going to cover the fights in a bit, the goals first. A scoreless first period gave way to a fortunate bounce as Oakford shot, Bowns saved the shot put it deflected up and over him to Moria to tap in. Then Kubenko made it two with a decent shot that managed to sneak past the leg pad of Bowns. 2-0 and the recurring issue raised its head; the Bison sat back and let the opposition come at them. With Wiggins injured there seemed to be no appropriate counter to the Steeldogs physical gameplan .

Stuart Brittle got his stick to a puck to turn it past a screened Colclough and then on the powerplay a few moments later, he did pretty much the same thing. With time winding down in the second period, what happened to Bowns happened to Colclough; Brittle’s shot was stopped by Colclough but he didn’t have the puck properly covered and Ashley Calvert was on the post to poke the puck in. From 2-0 up to 3-2 down and a bad goal to give the Steeldogs the lead.

The third period sadly didn’t start much better. 3 minutes in to the period Daniel Volrab turned the puck over in the Bison zone and the eventual shot from Bebris was weak but somehow trickled through Colclough and in. Things didn’t really improve and then with another defensive lapse and the players on the ice at the time looking lost Payette ended up free at the back door to tap the puck home.

Sadly it took the Bison to be 5-2 down for them to drag themselves back into it. On the powerplay Pertan answered in his usual fashion by blasting the puck through Bowns. With time winding down and it not looking like the Bison were going to score, they somehow scored. A pile up in front of the net and Bowns floundering on the deck saw Joe Miller poke the puck into the net inside the last minute which was a just reward for the Welshman’s efforts on the night. Bison pulled Colclough in the last minute but it wasn’t to be, the frustration of the ineffectiveness on the night summed up by Petran’s 70 foot shot with a second to go that went nowhere near the net. Another home defeat and I’m left staring at the ceiling wondering how this team can beat Manchester away twice this season.

 

FIGHTS!: The first period gave us three fights of varying quality so we’ll take them in turn;

 

Wiggins vs Payette/Duncombe: Well that’s what it essentially was. Payette and Wiggins had nearly gone a few minutes before but nothing came of it. Off the faceoff Payette slashed Wiggins who punched Payette and a mele ensued. For some inexplicable reason Steve Duncombe jumped in (yep, third man in but no penalty) and when the pile started to scatter out, it resulted in Wiggins having enough space to pummel Duncombe to the point he injured his arm in the process and ended up losing his jersey and pads in the process. Win Wiggins and a win for the pharmacist who sold Duncombe some paracetamol for the headache he got.

 

Kubenko vs Calvert: Slovak Machine Never Breaks but this was a bad decision on his part. I understand that we all have our limit and when we’re pushed too far we snap but Kubenko’s a bigger loss to us than Calvert is to the Steeldogs. Clavert crosschecked Kubenko who turned around and slashed Calvert and away they went. Both threw some decent shots on each other but neither really got the upper hand. Draw is the fair verdict.

 

Bronnimann vs Gibson: For those of you who weren’t there, no it wasn’t a typo. Gibson cynically slashed Bronnimann which resulted in them yapping at each other. For some unknown reason I yelled out “don’t just talk Oli, do something about it” and he did. I should randomly yell for a winning lottery ticket more often. They threw down the gloves and helmets but the fight was a bit of a non event. Bronnimann buried his head in Gibson’s stomach as Gibson teed off on Bronnimann whilst Oli threw the odd shot towards Gibson. Win Gibson is the only real verdict but credit to Bronnimann for at least throwing down in the situation.

 

What to do in the break: Bison now don’t have a game until Boxing Day’s fixture with Peterborough so the Bison have a chance to try and fix some of their issues. There’s a lot of chat amongst fans about netminding, some of which is entirely justified but the real thing the Bison need to work on is their systems and team defence. Whatever guys are on the ice they need to know what’s going on and who is meant to be going where in attack and defence, the later being the key. Too often the defensive positioning had led to soft goals being given up such as the Steeldogs goals 4 and 5 last night.

The other big thing has to be just how the team seems to slack off when they have more than a one goal lead. Too many games, especially at home leads have slipped.

I also realise it’s very easy for me to say sitting here mulling over this in my head the day after rather than right there at the time on the ice but I can’t be the only person thinking this, home games are must wins. Everything at home should be geared towards the team that’s out there week in, week out. The crowd are on your side but for some reason the team are performing better away from home. That has to be fixed and not just from a “we need to win at home to get people through the doors” angle but because if simple team confidence. The team needs to believe they can walk onto our ice in our building confident they can win there. Moria now has time to address some of the pressing issues, lets hope he does.

 

A word on our opponents: Steeldogs are a team I dislike and yet have a small measure of respect all in one fell swoop. It’s impossible to not respect the job Andre Payette has done there. Sheffield are not the most talented group of players on the whole but they have a system that everyone has bought into and buy into for 60 minutes and overtime and every second they’re on the ice. They’ve built around their strengths (Bowns, Bowns, Ozolins and Bowns) and have gone on from there.

The reason I dislike them is amongst the game plan is they constantly cross the line. There’s an argument that there’s no morals in hockey, that you do what has to be done to win the game in front of you and there’s an argument for that but you need to be classy whilst you do it. I’ve moaned on here enough about players like the Greeners and Jez Lundin for cheapshotting people but that seems to be part of Sheffield’s gameplan. The near endless slashing and hooking and crosschecking is infuriating to watch. I’m sure Steedogs fans are pleased they’re winning games and to be fair they played a good chunk of the better hockey last night but the respect they build for themselves is hard to maintain when that’s how they play. It’s a shame all in all because that’s a team that it should be hard to dislike; fantastic netminder, determined coach, team filled with a majority of local players and that’s how they play. I can only really shake my head.

Brittle was a very good choice for man of the match, their best player by a mile and stepped up very well in the absence of the injured Ozolins. It was the sort of response you want out of your senior players.

 

Lowlight of the night: Wiggins hurting himself because we really needed his physical presence and the officiating that was just bizarre in all directions at times. Soft penalties called when obvious things weren’t, make up calls and Mr Thompson’s annoying habit of skating around with his whistle near his mouth only to not call something. Either blow the whistle sir or don’t. Do not live with it near your mouth.

 

Highlight of the night: Joe Miller in general, his work ethic was outstanding all night and was an easy choice for the beers at the end.

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