Running with the Herd – Bison vs Guildford Flames 8/9/12

Basingstoke Bison 2-2 Guildford Flames

Miller x 2                     Huppe

                                  Rempel

 

Nothing like a good warm up: The Bison headed into the last home pre-season game at full strength with the first appearances of the pre-season for Stevie Lyle in net and import defenceman Tomas Fojtik (pronounced Foy-tik).

The game also saw a first in Basingstoke as a 4 official system for the first time with Mr Cloutman and Mr Thompson wearing the armbands. Whether we see this for the full EPL season remains to be seen.

Both teams came flying out of the gate with chances flying around at both ends as well as a few early penalties called against both sides. Flames had the first guilt edged chance short handed. Kohut stole the puck from Fojtik behind the net but before anyone could put the scoring pass home, Carl Graham managed to check Kohut into the net to take it off its moorings.

After 12 minuets however, things firmly turned in the Bison’s favour. First Rick Plant and then Neil Liddiard were sent to the box giving the Bison a 5 on 3 powerplay. Chambers fed the puck to Reynolds whose slap pass found Miller. Miller then fired the puck over Lee’s shoulder and the Bison led going into the first break.

The Bison started off the 2nd by killing off a penalty and giving Mark Lee a scare. With Chambers and Owen baring down on the goalie like 2007 had come again, the understanding between the two still seems to be there but Lee, arguably the best keeper in the league pulled off a big save to keep the score at 1-0.

Eventually the Flames got a deserved equaliser albeit off of a slightly controversial call. With Joe Greener having been sat in the box on an elbowing call that only Mr Cloutman saw (which I suppose is all that matters) the powerplay expired but with the defence still stretched and some nice passing from Kohut, Huppe fired a tight angle shot from Lyle’s right into the bottom corner of the net to tie the game at 1-1.

Then we all blinked and Sharp and Fojtik were punching each other. Both took a slash at each other in the corner and then came out swinging. Sharp got the best of the early going as Fojtik didn’t seem to realise he was in a fight. When he woke up however he threw some almighty bombs but a draw is a fair result for the fight.

The Flames seemed to have the better of the second period as the Bison found themselves in penalty trouble and eventually Guildford converted on their chances. After Carl Graham was sitting for a slash on Curtis Huppe, the Flames powerplay went to work. With the Bison penalty kill stretched, some sharp passing saw Nathan Rempel alone against Lyle at the top of the crease and the fancy hands of the Canadian won that battle to make it 2-1 to Guildford at the second break.

The third period saw the Bison come back into the game more. The Bison’s top line worked a lovely 1 touch passing play that found Joe Miller by the side of Lee’s goal but the Flames netminder made a great pad save to keep the lead with the Surrey side but eventually the Bison got a deserved equaliser. Miller managed to beat the defenceman at the Bison blueline and sprinted in 2 on 1 with Chambers. Miller fed to Chambers whose centring pass was one timed by Miller past a sprawling Lee.

Joe Greener was called for two penalties in quick succession which saw the Bison alternate captain have a few choice words for the officials, particularly on a charging call where Kvetan slashed him from the floor but the Flames couldn’t capitalise on their powerplay chances due to some very good Bison penalty killing.

With time running down, Jacob Corson-Heron drew a penalty from Ricky Skene and on the ensuing powerplay Bison thought they had scored by Matt Thompson washed out the goal as the puck had made contact with Lee’s mask. Whether you agree with the puck to facemask call or not, it’s still in the EIHA rules as far as I am aware so it’s the right call on the play for my money. The Bison were given another opportunity a moment later as Stuart Potts was called for tripping to give the Bison a late 5 on 3 but the Bison failed to capitalise.

Sheppard rocked: Rather than mention it above I thought I’d give it it’s own section. I didn’t see any particular hit on Sheppard, all I noticed was that Sheppard wasn’t icing himself after the midpoint of the first period and then he was being helped off the ice at the break. Those around me said he’d taken a bad hit from Sharp which is what might have led to Fojtik dancing with the Guildford 3rd liner in the second period.

Sheppard watched the remainder of the game in his suit from the DJ box but after he had gone, the Bison seemed to lose their way a bit especially in the second where the team got into a bit of penalty trouble. Cameron Wynn was bumped to the second line with Greener and Rand and performed admirably but also Wynn still isn’t the size to grind it out of the 3rd line yet. Hopefully Shep is ok but don’t expect to see him tonight at the Spectrum.

Pre-season promise: The Bison look good with the potential to be very good. Lyle played a blinder and was probably a fair shout for the man of the match given some of the big saves he made. The defence and their goalie will obviously take a little bit of time to settle into how they play together but it was two moments of great skill that put the puck in the net rather than any massive defensive lapses from the Bison which is encouraging, from my perspective at any rate. Up front the top line of Miller, Owen and Chambers looks very useful already and teams across the league should be scared of that line because give them an inch and they will take a mile. The third line gave a good account of itself, especially a lovely hit by Andrew Melachrino on Branislav Kvetan. Special teams also looked more than capable but it’ll take time for it all to click together. Hard to say much about the second line with the injury to Shep though if it all comes together then the physical teaming of Rand and Greener could either put this Bison team in penalty trouble or smash teams.

A word on our opponents: Bad news for the EPL, the Flames look good yet again. Where a lot of EPL teams have made changes, this Flames side haven’t but there’s their advantage. There’s minimal time needed to get used to each other because they already know how each other plays and will hit the ground running. Mark Lee was a good choice for man of the match for the Flames after some spectacular saves but Jozef Kohut was also fantastic during the game. He never stopped skating and made some excellent passes and plays, least of all a lovely steal of the puck from Fojtik from behind the Bison net that nearly gave Guildford the opening goal. The line combinations were interesting as I never really see Andy Hemmings as second line player in the EPL but it’s all about the workout and if Hemmings can provide another viable top 6 option for the Flames, that added depth will work wonders. Ultimately I think Paul Dixon will be happy with the outcome as the workout for the Flames is more important than the score.

Lowlight of the night: Shep’s injury, hopefully it’s just him shaken up and taking precautions rather than anything serious.

Highlight of the night: Bison’s second goal, it was oh so pretty.

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