Running with the Herd – Bison vs Guildford Flames 31/3/12

Basingstoke Bison 4-3 Guildford Flames after overtime

Volrab                         Kohut

Chong                         Huppe

Miller                          Savage

Moria ps

Coming good at the right time?: After last weekend and a disappointing home showing followed by a gritty shootout win away against Sheffield and the league champions in town, I have to confess that I didn’t know how last night’s game was going to go when I arrived at the rink. It went better than most of us thought it could have hoped for. The Herd were also boosted by the return to the lineup of Sam Oakford and Dan Harris. Oli Bronnimann took the warm up but didn’t ice. Nicky Chinn continued on defence.

Bison came racing out of the blocks and put a lot of pressure on from the get go. Cameron Wynn, name on the back of his jersey had the Bison’s first chance which was gloved away by Mark Lee in the Flames net and Liam Chong fired wide of the net off a Moria centring feed. Wynn had more chances as first Lee poked the puck off his stick then with the Bison junior in the slot unmarked he was stopped by a diving Neil Liddiard. Flames lost Stuart Potts when a legal hit from Chris Wiggins left the veteran forward skating off holding his ribs from which he wouldn’t return. The Flames made up for it by taking advantage of a lapse of concentration on the Bison’s part. Some good passing play saw Rick Plant draw everyone to Wall’s right and the puck was fed to Jozef Kohut who tapped home into an almost empty net. Yet again the Bison had been the better side but found themselves behind and it got worse a few minutes later. As a Bison powerplay expired Curtis Huppe took the feed from Jez Lundin and sprinted past the flat-footed Bison defence. Huppe skated in on Wall, deked, drew Wall down and fired high into the net. As annoying as it was that the Bison were 2-0 down it was a pretty goal. Despite having made more of the running, the first break came with the Bison behind and some near me were fearing a massacre.

It didn’t come. The intensity that the Bison started the first period with carried over into the second and after more passages of sustained pressure the Bison finally cracked Mark Lee. Tribe and Miller skated in two on one and made an utter hash of it with Miller ending up behind the net with the puck. Luckily Volrab came steaming into the fray, Miller put the puck into the slot and Volrab fired home. With the crowd buoyed by the first goal 81 seconds later they were sent into raptures. With the Kubenko-Moria-Chong line on the attack the puck ended up by the left side of Lee’s net then behind the net then somehow back in front of the net and in all the confusion Liam Chong poked the puck over the line for the equaliser. In truth it was no less than the Bison deserved for all the pressure they had put on the Flames net. Then out of nowhere, it was back to the drawing board. With the Flames on the attack and traffic in front of Wall, all star defenceman David Savage walked out of the corner and fired from a tight angle. The puck banked off of Wall and through a small hole and over the line to give the Flames back the lead. Before the Flames could attempt to turn the screw they lost Nathan Rempel to a 2+10 checking to the head penalty which took one of their major scoring threats out of the game for a large chunk of the second period. Bison failed to have much of a chance to capitalise on the ensuing powerplay as Kohut broke through the defence and Petran took out his fellow Slovak with his trademark diving stick check. Sadly he took his ankle first. Dan Harris was also the victim of some poor stick work as he took Scott Greenfield’s stick in the face which left Joe Miller and linesman Mr Brooks searching the ice for one of Harris’ teeth. The lesson here kids is always wear a mouthguard! The period maintained a somewhat frantic pace and ended with Bison having won the second but still behind on the scoreboard.

The third period kept up with the frantic pace of the the second but was a bit more end to end with chances for both sides but the Bison weren’t deterred and kept going for the win. With Jacob Heron serving a too many men penalty for the Bison, Joe Miller had a gilt edged chance. Miller picked the pocket of David Savage on the Flames blueline and raced towards Lee. He deked one way then the other and fired. Lee was beaten but Miller was greeted with the despairing noise of puck meeting iron. The crowd however didn’t seem to react with the feeling of “oh no, not again” but “it’ll come, keep going!”. It nearly all went wrong when Kohut broke in on Wall but his effort went wide. Kohut’s reward was getting checked between Wiggins and Redmond like some sort of homage to the Bash Brothers of Mighty Ducks 2. Then all the belief finally paid off. Miller was fed by Volrab who gained the zone. Kubenko raced towards the net which drew players to him allowing Miller space to shoot and somehow the puck snuck in under Mark Lee to tie the game with 4 and a half minutes to go. Bison called their timeout and from how they played after it the message seemed to be the same as the one the crowd was giving off; keep going. Both teams had a few more decent chances and despite the Flames having a late faceoff in the Bison zone, overtime was going to be needed.

The back and forth nature of the game continued into overtime but the Bison looked like they were the more likely to score. Volrab took the blueline, dangled and headed for the net but as he advanced on Lee, the net was knocked off its moorings, some thought deliberately but nothing from Mr Cloutman. Then with time nearly expired, the Bison had their chance. With another scramble in front of goal, Jez Lundin found himself lying in the crease and in an attempt to avoid the Bison scoring, pushed the net off its moorings. Mr Cloutman was right on the spot and awarded the Bison a penalty shot.

With all the criticism of his play and coaching tactics across the season, the crowd bit its lip in nervous anticipation as Steve Moria stepped onto the ice to face Mark Lee. Moria skated in slightly to Lee’s left, a bit of a pause and a shoulder fake and he fired. The puck found its way past Lee on his stick side and nestled into the bottom of the net. Moria stood arms raised as the team raced towards him and the crowd cheering in delight. That’s how you end the regular season at home.

Glad all over: It’s hard not to come out of a game like that without feeling somewhat optimistic. The Bison have played decently against Guildford across the season and generally raise their game when playing them but if you’re going to pick a time to really play well and start gaining momentum, two games away from the playoff quarter finals seems a pretty decent time to do it.

The line of Wiggins, Heron and Wynn were great value for money with a very simple, yet effective gameplan; Wiggins clears the way, Heron feeds the puck and Wynn shoots. Sadly for Wynn he didn’t get the goal his performance deserved. The defence did has its lapses, first and second Flames goals for examples but they looked a lot more solid thanks to the return of Oakford and Harris. They didn’t see as much ice time as they normally would and were being eased back in after long injury layoffs but it’s a real boost ahead of next weekend to see them back. Nobody really had a bad game though Wall will be massively unhappy with the Flames third goal. Moria got man of the match which whilst not unsurprising considering that goal, we were told over the speakers by Bavy that it had been decided BEFORE the penalty shot. For my money I’d have given it to Liam Chong who had an outstanding game where he scored a goal and just looked like he’d tapped into Kurt Reynolds’ beast mode.  That said you have to hand it to Moria, he backed himself and did the job. What a shot!

A word on our opponents: It won’t go down as the greatest performance in Flames history but it was a really good game of hockey and a great advert for the EPL. Firstly hopefully Stuart Potts’ injury that ended his night in the first period isn’t too serious. It was unusual though not unfamiliar to see Greg Chambers playing on defence due to the injury to Branislav Kvetan (a man robbed of a spot on either all star team it should be said). Chambers didn’t actually have that bad a game and his versatility is never a downside to his game. I though David Savage was an interesting choice for the man of the match considering he didn’t have the best of games and got caught out at the back a couple of times. I’d have given it to either Mark Lee who made some top quality saves or to Jozef Kohut. The Slovak forward really didn’t seem to do the business for Swindon but back at Guildford where he spent so many years he seems to be back in step with his high quality ways. He looked dangerous whenever he was on the puck and was really the Flames biggest attacking threat all night. There was a lot of grumbling about some of the hits thrown by the Flames and a few mentions of “they’re playing really dirty tonight” which was partially true. Oddly Jez Lundin, normally prime candidate of such things was kind of quiet bar him trying to start a fight with Liam Chong for no reason. There were lots of sticks in ribs and high elbows going into checks though which is never nice to see. Bison were guilty of some as well but the hit that got Rempel a 2+10 and Kohut’s hit where he boarded Volrab were a bit cringeworthy. That aside the Flames bought out the best in the Bison which I’ll never argue with. All that remains for the Flames is whether they get Peterborough or Bracknell in the quarter finals of the playoffs.

Lowlight of the night: Flames 3rd goal, just a bad goal for a netminder to give up.

Highlight of the night: The overall team play which was outstanding and “that” penalty shot.

Is this the last Running with the Herd of the season? We’ll find out soon enough!

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