Running with the Herd – Bison vs Slough Jets 29/1/12Posted: 30/01/2012
Basingstoke Bison 5-4 Slough Jets after penalty shots
Miller Pliskauskas x 2
Volrab Watt x 2
Bronniman; goal Davies; goal
Moria; goal Pliskauskas; saved Wall
Miller; missed Watt; saved Wall
138:22 and out: After two disappointing home defeats with no goals in just over 6 periods of hockey, I’ll admit a bit of apprehension was lurking going into this one. The game itself started pretty decently (bar some unusual penalty calling by Mr Szuchs) but neither side had much of a clear cut chance until the deadlock was broken by Darius Pliskauskas. With no Bison player close enough to close him down, the Lithuanian lasered a shot high into the top corner. Bar the slightest positional tweak there was nothing Wall could have done about it. Slough 1-0 up and the nerves were kicking in a bit. Nicky Chinn seemed to get called on every 50/50 battle he went into and ended up with 3 questionable minor penalties in the first period alone in what looked like it would be the usual chippy affair between the two sides. Then the skies opened and the sun finally shone again. With the Bison on the powerplay, Oakford put the puck on net and Joe Miller was on hand to squeeze the puck past Rockman. The monkey was off the team’s back and the first break rolled around with the scores tied at 1-1.
Slough started the 2nd period stronger thanks to 39 seconds of powerplay left over from the first and you just sensed a goal was coming. Petran got tangled up with Dan Davies and came up on the losing side of the argument. Davies gave it to Watt who walked in and found enough of a hole between Wall’s legs to make it 2-1. Having helped themselves to a very well taken goal, Slough returned the favour to the Bison a few minutes later. With the Herd on the powerplay the puck squirted to Volrab in the slot who fired at Rockman. The puck hit the Jets’ netminder in the shoulder, looped up over his head and between himself and Sam Waller couldn’t keep the puck from crossing the line and tying the game at 2 a piece. Bison kept pressing and looked like they could break through again when in the blink of an eye they were behind again. An uncharacteristic blooper from Sam Oakford on the Jets blueline allowed Watt to race into the Bison zone with the puck, he passed to Pliskauskas who one timed another superb shot past Wall, a textbook play with great execution. The play kept lurching back and forth between the two sides and was really decent entertainment. Just when the Bison needed a little spark to get the equaliser it came. Kubenko circled behind the net and having drawn the Jets defence towards him fired the puck across the goal. Redmond snuck in behind the Slough defence to one time the puck past Rockman. Scottish Machine Never Breaks. The second kept the chippy atmosphere of the first and with Mr Szuchs reluctant to call some things and not others I did wonder if things were going to potentially boil over but with the scoreline so close, both sides focussed on the task in hand.
The third period then gave us the goal of the game from Ryan Watt. One on one with Tony Redmond, he deked the Bison d man out of the continent, rounded him and fired past Wall. It was a fantastic goal, the celebration I’ll touch on in a bit.
The Bison then resorted to desperation attacking tactics as they had in previous weeks. The dump and chase came out again which caused a few people to roll their eyes but there were two differences to the previous weeks. Firstly the attacked seemed more purposeful than recent weeks, like it really was all guns blazing for the net. Secondly they’d started it a lot earlier than before; Watt’s goal was at 45:32 and the Bison went at the Jets pretty much straight away. Chances came, chances went. Chinn had time and space in front of Rockman but his shot could only find the goalie’s midriff. The damn couldn’t hold forever and eventually it cracked. Moria won the puck and managed to find Petran. The big Slovak managed to have enough time to take a step and blast the puck past a screened Rockman. No jazz hands from the big man, just a fist pump, a tap of the stick and a sigh of relief.
The Bison looked the more likely to score as time wound down and when Dan Davies flicked the puck directly out of play from his own zone, Bison started the overtime session with a man advantage but couldn’t make it count. Reynolds had a good chance saved by Rockman, Pliskauskas had a shot ring off the outside of the post but unfortunately you don’t win anything in hockey for pretty noises. 65 minutes and scores level, the Bison did at least have a point.
Shootout: First shootout at home for a while and didn’t disappoint.
1st round: Bronnimann took his usual path to the net, coming in from the keeper’s right and snapped a wrist shot that left Rockman stationary. Davies took his time, skated in on Wall and, like Watt had in regulation, found enough gap in Wall’s 5 hole to snap the puck in.
2nd round: Moria’s shootout technique has worked time and time again so saw no reason to change it. He walked in almost straight on at Rockman, deked and fired blocker side to score. Pliskauskas took a similar path to Moria but shot from further out. Wall managed to raise a bit of his shoulder into the way and puck sailed over the net, 2-1 Bison after 2 rounds.
3rd round; Miller went wide to the goalie’s right and cut in but his shot went sailing over the bar into the plexi. Watt took a long run up and sped in on Wall. If anything he got a bit too close and as he tried to make a move, Wall poked the puck off of Watt’s stick. Shootout over, fist pump from the goalie, Bison win.
Bigger than 2 points: Whilst it’s obviously nice to get the win at home over Slough, the win was a very big one psychologically for the Bison players. A 7 game winning run away from Hampshire but disappointing home form and a lack of goals on their own ice. Nicky Chinn even calls the team “Jeckel and Hyde Bison” on Twitter from time to time. Not only did the team win at home, not only did they score 4 goals in the process but they came from behind 4 times to win the game in the shootout. Slough missing players or not, that’s a big character win for this group who needed something to inject a bit of self belief that yes, they can beat anyone anywhere. Reynolds got man of the match though I felt that was as a make up for all the man of the match awards he’d not had but should have had in recent weeks. I’d have given it to Liam Chong over the 65 minutes, again just for his stellar work ethic but I don’t begrudge Reynolds getting the nod. He’s been in Beast Mode all season. Wall’s performance in general was good and it took some excellent goals to beat him. His performance in the shootout was a great reminder of how great a goalie he is in the clutch. I didn’t notice Dan Harris getting as much as I normally do which is a shame as I personally really like him as a player but Moria did shorten the bench as the game went on and into overtime.
A word on our opponents: It’s easy to go through the hypothetical scenarios of “what if Adam Calder had played” but he didn’t so we can’t really talk about it. I wasn’t overly impressed with Rockman or much of the Slough defence this time out. They didn’t play badly but they didn’t exactly leave me singing their praises. Mindy Kieras was unusually quiet and can’t have had more than one shot all evening. Perhaps that’s just how Doug Shepherd wants to use him. Darius Pliskauskas had a very good game and both his goals were brilliantly taken. He’s a threat whenever he’s on the ice and to give him the time and space he got on Slough’s first goal, you can only expect him to score.
Then we come to Ryan Watt. I’ll start with this; Ryan Watt was arguably the best player on the ice in this game. He linked up well with Pliskauskas, he was a constant threat and his second goal was arguably the finest goal we’ve seen in Basingstoke from any player this season. He was an easy choice for man of the match, only Pliskauskas was close and even then not that close. His celebration after the second goal however just showed all the things I personally dislike about him as a player. For all the talent he does some things that just leave you shaking your head. His dance and over the top celebration made him look childish rather than charismatic and reminded me instantly why I dislike watching him at times. I thought it lacked class. People will disagree with me and that’s their right, as always I never try nor desire to monopolise opinion. I’ll call it as I see it, that’s how this works on here and I’ll call any Bison player doing the same on it as well if I see it. I have no issue with Watt enjoying playing hockey. I certainly have no issue with his skills but I can’t help but wonder if he cut some of that stuff out of his game how high he could rise.
Lowlight of the night: See above.
Highlight of the night: Stephen Wall’s reaction after he poked the puck off the end of Watt’s. Happy goalie is happy!