Building the Herd – Stephen Wall

#?? Stephen Wall

Position: Netminder

Born: Newcastle Upon Tyne

Announced as signed: Bison website, 19/12/2011

Inside the space of 10 minutes on Monday the Basingstoke Bison put out 2 press releases shuffling their netminding deck and picked up one of the best available free agents at EPL level with the announcement that goalie Stephen Wall had signed till the end of the current season.

Wall, started the season with EPL rivals the Peterborough Phantoms (as was detailed in their Standing in the Way piece) in what was his 5th season with the club.

The Tyneside born netminder first appeared in senior hockey with Newcastle Vipers in the BNL during the 2002/03 season before making a name for himself in Cambridgeshire with the Phantoms. 2 seasons in Berkshire with Bracknell and Slough followed before Wall headed back to Peterborough in 2007 and is now widely regarded as one of the best netminders in the EPL.

The 2008/09 season was Wall’s best to date as he backstopped the Phantoms to the only ever EPL grand slam of league, cup and playoffs playing alongside new Bison teammate Joe Miller in the process.

The Phantoms have not been able to repeat the success of that season but Wall has maintained his standing as a clutch netminder time and again, a prime example being last season’s playoff quarter final 2nd leg in Slough where Wall shut out the Jets as the Phantoms came from a two goal deficit to win in overtime to advance to the finals weekend.

Wall has appeared in 14 games for the Phantoms this season and comes to the Bison with a goals against average of 4.20 but a save percentage of .891, good considering some of the issues faced by the Phantoms this season.

Sometimes hockey has a way of surprising you. Being involved in British hockey does have a tendency to occasionally make you cynical and then out of nowhere, BOOM something happens. I like to think the signing of Joe Miller comes under that category when Moria signed arguably one of the better British forwards in recent EPL times and this is what that sort of signing is.

Stephen Wall is a player we’ve seen a fair few times here, be it for Peterborough or his 1 game guest appearance in the EIHL and people are generally agreed on 1 thing; we hated playing against him.

Whilst the stats this season are not amazing, to have that high of a goals against average couple with a half decent save percentage stats speaks of a team issue rather than Wall himself.

Whenever we’ve played Peterborough since the Bison entered the EPL in 2009 you can see it when Stephen’s having one of those games. Nothing seems to be getting past him, his positioning seems to always be perfect and even when there’s a “heart in mouth moment” the danger inevitably gets cleared. I’ve spent a good chunk of games against the Phantoms being frustrated watching the man because he’s too hard to score on.

He’s a Bison now and it’s a good signing that was needed.

I went through why I thought Dean was released yesterday so I won’t do that again, nor am I going to go into why Stephen left Peterborough. We’ve all heard rumours but that’s Stephen’s story to tell, should he wish to.

Provided he settles, Wall gives the Bison a chance to win every night with him in net. At 30 years old he’s not a spring chicken anymore but in what might sound like the obvious statement of the year, netminders are not outskaters. The mentality and the toll on their bodies are different. Wall has proven time and again that he’s a force to be reckoned with at this level and if the team band together and work together, big things can be accomplished.

It’ll also be good for Matt Colclough. People have been mentioning some errors that he’s made which I think are down to inexperience rather than poor form. The pressure is now off Matt who can train alongside Wall safe in the knowledge that Moria has faith in him to step in whenever he’s needed. The Bison’s netminding tandem is now that much stronger as a result because we have two netminders who are capable of playing 65 minutes of EPL hockey but there’s a clear distinction as to who is 1 and who is 2.

The irony won’t be lost on Wall that his 1st game as a Bison is against Peterborough, we’ve all had it circled on the calendar since Ondrej Lauko signed there. Can’t argue with a hockey game with a bit of a bite to it!

Welcome to the Herd, Stephen. No puns about walls the like though, this blog has “standards” to maintain. (Stop sniggering you lot!)

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