Running with the Herd – Bison vs Milton Keynes Lightning 12/2/12

Basingstoke Bison 3-2 Milton Keynes Lightning

Reynolds x 2               Jamieson

Wiggins                      Wales

 

Beware wounded Bison: This season has provided us with more moments of frustration then you or I would care to mention. Last night was the other end of the spectrum and reaction seems to be uniform; everyone’s beaming with pride.

At first glance, the game had all the hallmarks of a bad night for Bison fans; no Kubenko, Harris, Redmond, Oakford or Chong through injury. Redmond ran the bench while the others watched from the crowd. The Bison blueline consisted of Reynolds and Petran being joined by Nicky Chinn for a sum total of 3 d-men with makeshift forward lines, powerplay and penalty kill units. The Bison added 16 year old under 18’s standout Cameron Wynn for the contest. Wynn saw no ice time the last time he dressed, tonight was a positive baptism of fire for the young man.

Wynn saw the first shift of the game alongside Joe Miller and Daniel Volrab and almost got a dream start. Breaking in with Miller, the youngster deflected a centring feed just wide of Alex Mettam’s goal. Sadly though about 30 seconds later things turned the way of the Lightning. A well worked cycle from the visitors meant Leigh Jamieson ended up in the slot with time to shoot and he fired through traffic past Matt Colclough with 74 seconds gone. The Bison were quite clearly trying to conserve energy at every opportunity but weren’t afraid to have the odd foray forward into opposing territory. Wynn had another chance in front of Mettam but couldn’t get the puck over the goalie’s pads, Chinn had a blueline shot that hit Mettam in the mask, all the while defending desperately when MK came forward. The Bison got a break when Grant McPherson managed to hand the Herd a 4 minute powerplay for tripping Reynolds then taking a shot at him after a lovely check that sent the Scot sprawling to the ice. Revenge was Kurt’s as the Bison powerplay stretched the Lightning defence, Petran’s pass through the slot found Reynolds in space who took a step then fired over Mettam’s glove to tie the score. The rest of the period saw the Bison happy to try and contain MK whilst saving their energy. This meant the Lightning saw a fair deal of the puck which they couldn’t capitalise on, Wales coming closest when he fired off the crossbar. The first period ended 1-1 and most Bison fans were relatively satisfied.

The second period saw the Lightning up their intensity and physicality, trying to press the Bison more and going to Colclough’s net to try and rattle the youngster. Emersic almost did himself an injury when he crashed the net and went over Colclough and head first into the post. The Bison however bided their time and took their chances on the counter. With the Bison having the pressure following the end of a powerplay the puck was worked back to Petran. With Wiggins sneaking in, Petran wound up for the shot but slap passed it across goal where Wiggins long reach managed to guide the puck past Mettam. The Bison then waited it out again before suddenly finding themselves in a 3-1 lead. Volrab won the faceoff back to Reynolds who took a speculative wrist shot only to see Mettam get his blocker to the puck and it deflect into the net, 3-1 and the crowd seemed shell shocked that the Bison were leading at all let alone by 2 goals. Just after however Miller was called for hooking and Milton Keynes went hammer and tongs for their second goal. Emersic lasered a shot through everyone but could only find the iron. Then a moment of controversy; Wales went to the net and bumped Colclough and the net came off the moorings. The puck cross the line and Mr Cloutman gave the goal with Bison players and fans yelling for a mixture of goaltender interference and the net being dislodged but the veteran official was having none of it. The Lightning smelled blood and spent the remainder of the period piling on the pressure for an equaliser. They had a fair few chances with Jamieson and Poole drawing good saves from Colclough and the Bison held out till the break with a 3-2 lead. The question was would the fatigue set in?

Milton Keynes went into full on attack mode. The Bison game reverted to clogging the passing lanes, getting the puck out of the zone and short shifts to try and combat the fatigue. Petran and Reynolds were all over the ice breaking up plays, be it with their sticks or in Petran’s case, diving head first across the ice. MK still kept coming and as time wore on you could feel the nerves rising in the crowd. At 57:28 the Lightning hindered their own cause when Adam Carr took an offensive zone tripping penalty meaning they’d get precious little time with the extra attacker. Bison seemed content to set up camp in the zone and try to kill time. When MK got back to full strength, Mettam raced to the bench but it was too little, too late as the Bison’s shut down play snuffed out the game and earned the tired ranks of players a standing ovation from the home crowd.

 

Coming to you in 3D: It was a real rag tag affair and all players played fantastically but the makeshift blueline corps of Reynolds, Petran and Chinn were outstanding. Chinn, playing out of position was caught out a couple of times (one time yelling an expletive so loud I had no choice but to laugh) but he settled in well and the veteran experience meant that he didn’t do anything too rash. Chinn also let fly with a few blue line blast which always looks impressive due to his distinctive slapshot style.

Petran ended up with man of the match and on any other night if he’d played like that it would be justified. Diving stops, excellent positioning, bone crunching hits and just that little extra spark that saw Wiggins sneaking in for the second goal were just sublime. It was arguably his best defensive performance of the season.

The issue is that once again, Kurt Reynolds was in full on Beast Mode. If the Bison weren’t 6th he’d likely be an EPL all star for the way he’s been playing and would have taken home so many man of the match beers that you’d fear for his liver. Both goals were taken well (albeit the second had an element of fortune attached to it) and he must have logged close to 40 minutes of ice time if not more and never stopped.

I’ve bemoaned the aspect of team defence across this season but this night when they were forced into a defence orientated strategy due to lack of numbers they all stuck to it. The lot of them were brilliant but the 3 at the back were extraordinary.

 

Things you may have missed: Two people whose performances might get lost in the shuffle from the game at Matt Colclough and Chris Wiggins.

Colclough showed maturity beyond his years again in net making crucial saves when called upon as well as never giving anybody any cause for concern. He looked sharp and was only beaten by one bit of great skill and being knocked flat on his back.

This was arguably one of Wiggins’ best games in a Bison jersey. Playing a mixture of power forward and grinder he covered every inch of the ice laying out his usual bone crunching hits (along with the odd stick in the ribs) and going to the net with purpose whilst not compromising the overall team game plan.

 

A word on Wynn: It was an excellent proper debut performance by Cameron Wynn. He got stuck in and even had a chance to open the scoring but it wasn’t to be. He’s not a big lad but at 16 he has time to fill out. With 15 pts on 7 games for the Buffalo and 52 points in 16 games whilst averaging over 2 goals a game for the under 18s, the lad has a bright future.

 

A word on our opponents: Not a great night at the office for the Lightning. They played a sensible first period and didn’t go hammer and tongs at the Bison in the hope that their hosts would tire with the idea being they’d outlast them and smash them in the second or third. The problem was they couldn’t break the Bison and it cost them. Ross Green was a fair shout for man of the match as he ably went about his role. Lukas Zatopek was his usual quality self and is arguably one of my favourite non Bison in the league for the way he plays the game. The thing was at the crunch, the Lightning seemed to lack bite. New import Tuomas Tikkanen was relatively anonymous throughout the evening and even with Leigh Jamieson on the ice, as time wound down I was saying to myself “they don’t look like scoring”. Matt Towalski (whose shirt was on the ice but not the man himself) would have helped matters as he’s generally a catalyst for them and has good games in Basingstoke but we can’t speculate on what we didn’t see.

This doesn’t detract from the fact that the Lighting are a good side but it’s a game they’ll want to forget and move on from quickly.

 

Lowlight of the night: For once, I’m struggling to name one. OK, didn’t win shirt of the players back. That’ll do.

 

Highlight of the night: For some unknown reason the MK fans started chanting dodgy keeper at Colclough. 2 minutes later Mettam blockers the puck into his own net. That made me smile.

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