Running with the Herd – Bison vs Sheffield Steeldogs 24/3/12

Basingstoke Bison 2-6 Sheffield Steeldogs

Moria x 2                    Gomeniuk pp

                                  Ozolins x 3

                                  Morgan

                                  Calvert

 

A game of three periods, one of them good: The Bison went into this game with the Steeldogs embroiled in a battle for 6th with Swindon. Once again the Herd went into the game without Dan Harris, Sam Oakford and Oli Bronnimann and added Cameron Wynn and Ryan Sutton to the line up. Sadly the latter didn’t see any ice time that I noticed. After last week’s disappointing home loss to Telford, many felt the Bison needed to show some sort of a response. The Herd came flying out of the gate with sustained pressure on the Steeldogs net and the early focus paid off. Moria’s hard work on the forecheck forced the turnover and after a quick 1-2 with Liam Chong fired the puck through the wickets of Ben Bowns for an early Bison lead. The Bison seemed to be making the running but it all quickly turned the other way. With the Bison on the penalty kill, controversy reigned as Andre Payette threw a blatant elbow into the face of Tony Redmond. With the fans in the stands yelling their frustration at Mr Boniface’s lack of call, pretty much every player on the ice ended up camped at the top of Wall’s crease. Pavel Gomeniuk walked out of the corner and with nobody closing him down snapped a wrister through Wall’s 5 hole. Then less than a minute later Bison’s d fell asleep and top goal scorer Janis Ozolins blew past a flat footed Reynolds, deked and fired a blistering shot past Wall. In the blink of an eye all the good work of the first 5-6 minutes was gone. All of a sudden Mr Boniface found his whistle as he called what looked like two very soft penalties. Miller was called for interference and 82 seconds later Petran was called for cross checking. The call on Petran was particularly soft in my opinion and it appears Petran’s as the giant Slovak lost his temper and managed to get himself a 10 minute misconduct for his troubles. With Miller’s penalty having expired but the Bison still on the penalty kill, the hole got a bit deeper. A shot from Greg Wood was initially saved by Wall but the rebound fell to Ben Morgan who had half an empty net to shoot at. The scoreline did flatter the Steeldogs as the first period ended 3-1 but the Bison weren’t helping themselves a great deal. Something had to change if there was to be any hope of a turnaround.

As the 2nd period started you had a feeling the game could go either way but out of nowhere the Bison suddenly woke up and started taking the game to the Steeldogs. The trademark Sheffield game plan of being incredibly physical was being thrown back at them. Reynolds crushed Ben Morgan behind the net, Cameron Wynn got walloped then got straight back up and crashed the net to get splatted again. The Bison had their tales up and Sheffield looked rattled. Bowns wasn’t holding onto shots as well as he had been and the Bison looked the more likely to score as a result. Steeldogs were still having their chances and despite being on the back foot they didn’t panic but you felt the Bison had to score. Kubenko had a shot that many of us in Block C thought had hit the back of the et and flown out but no light from the goal judge and no call from Boniface of any description. I wondered if it was going to be one of those days. Another great piece of pressure in the offensive zone by the Bison led to the breakthrough; traffic in front of Bowns caused problems, the puck found it’s way to Moria in the right of the slot who picked his spot and put the puck right to it. 3-2 and though the Bison were still a goal down, there was hope in the building.

Then the 3rd period started and the Bison came out looking flat as a pancake. Ashley Calvert picked up a turnover, walked in and fired through Wall’s 5 hole again and out of nowhere, Payette called the timeout. At 4-2 up Payette got his team together and yelled at them to keep going. The Steeldogs responded by giving away a powerplay which made the Bison fans think “way back in here” but instead Payette’s plan just keep rumbling on. Gomeniuk released Ozolins shorthanded who walked in on Wall, made the move then fired under Wall’s left arm. 5-2 and you hoped that maybe now the Bison would be sparked into life. No joy there sadly, the Bison powerplay had a few more opportunities but they came to nothing. With 5 minutes to go Ozolins got his hattrick as he blasted another shot past Wall, the Bison goalie looking more and more frustrated with every passing minute. It was after the 6th goal that Bison called their timeout and I could only wonder “why? What good is it now?” The game ended and I found myself doing what has almost become default mode for me, rolling my eyes and wondering “what if”.

 

Where do we go from here?: Luckily last night Swindon lost to Manchester in regulation so at the time of writing, we’re still 6th. Issue is the Bison have to go to Sheffield tonight and Swindon have Peterborough. Then again if any team plays like the Bison did in the 3rd period most teams will beat them. The team have qualified for the playoffs, that’s good. Issue is they don’t look like they’ll do anything in the playoffs at the moment. The end of season review is coming and I’ll touch on this in more detail in that but this club has the talent in the individuals to make Coventry. The issue is at the moment they don’t look like they can do it. That pains me to say because last season we went into the playoff quarter finals weekend realistically looking like the team would make the weekend. The team has a puncher’s chance of making the weekend, whoever they play but after last night it feels like optimism in the Herd fans is running low. Me? Mine’s not dead yet but I am a bit fearful at the moment. Making Coventry will rescue this season to a degree but will they make it? If they play like they did in the second period then there’s a good chance. If they play like they did in the third, not in a month of Sundays.

 

Any positives?: Very easy to be doom and gloom after all that but there were a couple of positives. Moria played his best game in a long while and at times looked like a man possessed. To be fair I wouldn’t have argued if he’d been given man of the match but Liam Chong for his creativity and efforts alongside Kubenko made him a decent choice. The one person the crowd seem to be taking to their hearts is Cameron Wynn. Still without his name on his jersey, he had a regular shift on the 3rd line alongside Heron and Wiggins last night and he didn’t look out of place. With team performances not living up to expectations it’s arguable that Wynn’s performances are standing out as a result but if the rest of the team aren’t performing and the 17 year old junior player is the one to keep skating and keep trying, sign him up says I!

 

A word on our opponents: If Andre Payette doesn’t win coach of the year for the EPL, I think I make break a few social media sites with the amount of rage I will put out. Steeldogs stuck to their game plan, outplayed the Bison as a result and won. It’s really that simple, no moaning or complaining about the officiating (although Boniface wasn’t good last night) no moaning about cheapshotting, Steeldogs played better over the course of 60 minutes, weathered the storm when the Bison were the better side and went away with the points.

Payette played up to his reputation a bit and seemed to be having fun with it. He got under peoples’ skins and ruffled feathers and it worked. Janis Ozolins understandably got man of the match for scoring a hattrick but didn’t do an awful lot else bar appear, score and disappear. The game was kind of the story of the Steeldogs season in a nutshell; nobody really stood out but a great team performance won them the game. One person who really seems to be revelling in that environment is Steeldogs captain Greg Wood who got in peoples’ faces, played well and lead from the front. Rumours were circulating that Wood could be heading back to the EIHL with Coventry next season which would be a blow for Sheffield if true. Rumours aside, I’m not a betting man but what odds the Steeldogs lift the playoff trophy in a few weeks time?

 

Lowlight of the night: The entire third period.

 

Highlight of the night: Cam Wynn’s talented display alongside Kurt Reynolds’ awesome check on Ben Morgan. It was beautiful.

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