Running with the Herd – Bison vs Swindon Wildcats 4/2/12

Basingstoke Bison 5-4 Swindon Wildcats

Redmond                    Cesky

Petran                        Melichar

Volrab                         Nell x 2

Chinn

Heron

 

Making a meal but finishing it: Being optimistic in British hockey is like following a fly around your living room as you try to catch it; you’ll get close many times but more it’ll fly away a lot before you catch it. After last week’s win over Slough the atmosphere was noticeably cheerier in the rink. Brass monkeys cold but everyone seemed in good spirits. Then 1:39 into the game after 1:30 of Bison pressure, an error behind the Herd’s net saw the puck squirt to Jaroslav Cesky at the top of the crease to fire past Stephen Wall. The period seesawed back and forth with Mr Pickett in the armbands seeming happy to let the game flow with a variety of callable penalties left untouched. With Whitfield all over his man on the end of the Bison powerplay, the home fans screamed for a call that never came. Cesky flicked the puck to Jan Melichar fresh out of the box who skated in unmarked on Stephen Wall, pulled the Bison goalie down and fired high. 2-0 and the Bison hadn’t even been playing that badly but 2 giant lapses in concentration and they were behind 2 goals at the break.

At the start of the second period however, the Bison switched from Hyde to Jeckel and went right after the Wildcats and it paid off. After another solid period of pressure forced a faceoff, Moria won the puck at the face off back to Tony Redmond. As the forwards rushed to the net to provide traffic, Redmond fired high and the puck made its way past Skinns. The Bison tried keep the pressure on but neither side seemed to be able to stem the tide of turnovers that dogged the second period. Mr Pickett found his whistle a bit more in the second but his focus seemed to be on letting the game flow. The downside was that the players didn’t seem to know where they stood on some of the calls. At the half way mark of the game however he had an easy decision as Jonas Höög slashed Kurt Reynolds in plain sight putting the Bison on the powerplay. With about 15 seconds left in the powerplay Miller found Moria who circled behind the net, he passed it back to Petran at the point, KABOOM and goal. Then two minutes later after Reynolds was slashed again, this time so hard by Cesky that Reynolds’ stick broke in half, Bison thought they’d taken the lead after the puck appeared to be crossing the line but a Wildcats defender took the net off. Then a few seconds later they did take the lead. Oakford shot to the net, Moria took another shot that got blocked then Volrab managed to bundle the puck over the line. At this point Mr Pickett decided that he’d called enough penalties on the Wildcats and Bison ended the second period 2 men down. With Bison already on the PK Petran dove to block a shot to which Michael Pinc responded by taking a whack at Petran on the floor. Volrab steamed in to protect his teammate and found himself having a sit down with no call on Pinc.

It didn’t take long for the Wildcats to equalise in the third period. With a penalty on Liam Chong expiring the Wildcats managed to work the puck back to Aaron Nell at the point who fired through traffic past Wall. Not the ideal goal to give up but with the way it was timed it meant Bison returned to full strength. The game by this point was getting very chippy with a variety of hooks, holds and slashes in all directions that weren’t getting called. Then out of nowhere Swindon took the zone, Ryan Aldridge shot at Wall with the rebound flying straight up in the air. With no Bison player around him Nell skated in to whack the puck out of the air past Wall and Swindon had the lead back despite not doing much to earn it. The Bison’s response 5 minutes later was about as bizarre. With the Herd pushing forward for the equaliser, Nicky Chinn skated into the zone with the puck. With other players joining him waiting for the pass, Chinn appeared to be skating with the intention of skating behind the net. Instead he seemed to find the smallest of holes at Skinns’ near post and managed to put the puck into the hole to equalise. It was a bad goal for Skinns to give up and he’ll want it back. The game continued to be chippy and when Pinc and Wiggins collided at the boards and started chatting it looked like the powder keg could go off. Pinc squared up to Wiggins then backed down, then squared up again. This happened for about 20 seconds before Wiggins got fed up, dropped his gloves and punched Pinc in the face and proceeded to try and force feed the Czech centre his behind. Other players jumped in to try and protect him, mainly Shane Moore but Wiggins realised that Pinc wasn’t going to come anywhere near him again. Both Wiggins and Pinc got 2+2 for roughing (again EIHA, why not just have a fighting major penalty?) but the Wildcats import got an extra 10 minute misconduct, possibly for back chat. With time ticking on (the 3rd period didn’t start until nearly 8:20pm which is very late) and Bavy announcing the rink would close at 10 due to the worsening weather, the Bison 3rd line decided that they’d send everyone home happy, albeit thanks to a fortunate bounce. Heron and Chong sped into the zone (quelle surprise there) Heron dangled and managed to get a shot of sorts away but it looked weak due to pressure from his marker. It somehow found a way through Dean Skinns and over the line. That seemed to knock the stuffing out of Swindon to some degree and they didn’t look like they were going to find an equaliser. Time ran down and the Bison managed to snuff out all Wildcats attacks for another win in front of the home fans despite having made it hard for themselves.

 

Beast Mode; Daniel Volrab was a good choice for man of the match in the end for this game. He looked decent on the night and really is a very good centre at this level. The majority of his points will come from setting up Miller but he looked top drawer all night even if his linemates didn’t fire on all cylinders. Kurt Reynolds on the other hand seems to be in season long Beast Mode. Whilst we’ve all bemoaned the lack of defensive cohesion across the season for some of the sloppy goals given up by the team last night was one of those games where Reynolds showed why he should be in the running for all end of season awards both at the club and possibly further afield. The mean streak he’s developed this season has only added to his game rather than detracted from it. He’s maintained all of his quality faculties in defence (good positioning, excellent puck handling, excellent skating) but seems to be throwing his weight around a bit more which has been tons of fun to watch.

 

Injuries: The team played without Dan Harris last night who it turns out wasn’t short shrifted on ice time last week, he just wasn’t fit enough to go on. The scary sight was at the end when Kubenko was helped back to dressing room by Glen the medic. Kubenko was noticeably in pain with his left ankle all evening but just under a minute from the end he collided with Cesky and went down in a heap. He managed to get his own way off but had an ice pack taped to his ankle at the end.

 

A word on our opponents: This game wasn’t a classic for the ages but it was a better performance than we’ve seen from the Wildcats in Basingstoke in recent times. They made the best of their chances given but right at the end when they needed to score they couldn’t find a way and had one of their best playmakers sitting down with a misconduct penalty. Aaron Nell was a worthy choice for man of the match in the end; 2 goals, 1 of which showed superb hand/eye coordination to knock the puck out of the air and generally made a nuisance of himself all evening. Cesky, Höög and Pinc played well but got very frustrated easily which reduced their effectiveness. I was impressed with Steven Whitfield and Paul Swindlehurst who went about their jobs quietly and effectively. It wasn’t Dean Skinns’ finest hour but he gave a good account of himself. It is somewhat ironic though that on his return, two goals that he’ll want back arguably cost Swindon the game.

 

Lowlight of the night: Kubenko hobbling off at the end, Slovak Machine may require servicing.

 

Highlight of the night: I’ll say Petran’s goal, was just so well worked and pretty. The big man even broke out the jazz hands for the first time in a while. Though the hop from Volrab after he scored was a close second.

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