Running with the Herd – Bison vs Peterborough Phantoms 23/9/12

Basingstoke Bison 4-0 Peterborough Phantoms

Sheppard

Miller x3

 

Keep on running: It’s always interesting when the mood is so high before the game starts. Coming of the back of the first 4 point opening weekend since 2001 and a dominant display versus Bracknell the week before, the fans were expecting another good Bison performance.

The Bison immediately went on the offence but found themselves on an early penalty kill. Joe Greener went to the net and collided with Phantoms netminder Damien King. Rather than moving, the two of them just seemed happy to just lie on the floor but Mr Evans decided that Greener impeded the goalie in getting back up and sent the Phantoms to the powerplay. The Phantoms powerplay however struggled to gain much in the way of a footing against an effective Bison special teams unit.

The Bison’s early pressure told; Sheppard hit the blueline and slotted a pass to Joe Miller who took a step and fired the puck past King to give Bison an early lead after just four minutes.

The Bison pressure continued but the home team couldn’t seem to convert their chances. Miller had a shot beat King but ring off the iron, Chambers and Owen combined for a two on one but Owen’s shot could only find King’s chest. Carl Graham took a boarding penalty after his hit on one of the Phantoms junior players sent the youngster skidding into the boards but the Bison looked more dangerous on the Phantoms powerplay than Peterborough did. The first period came to an end with the Bison leading 1-0 but very much in control of proceedings.

The second period didn’t start any better for the Phantoms. Tom Norton highsticked Joe Rand in the face and it took the Bison 22 seconds to convert on the powerplay. Chambers shot from the point deflected to Miller who was all alone at the top of King’s crease. The Bison forward controlled the puck, took a second and poked the puck past King to make it 2-0.

The period got chippier and chippier and the Bison gave up a couple of powerplays but the penalty kill units for the Bison did a good job of keeping the Phantoms at bay. The Phantoms tried to up the physicality in much the same way Bracknell did the week before but the Bison responded with some tough hits along the boards, capped off by Greg Chambers forcing Ondrej Lauko to take a seat on the ice as they battled in the corner. The Phantoms had their best chance on the second powerplay as some great passing play found Maris Ziedins in space at the point but his shot was kicked away by Lyle.

The period’s physical edge kept rumbling along as both officials saw fit to call very little and Cameron Wynn laid a fantastic hit on James Ferrara. The Bison thought they’d scored with 4 minutes left of the period but the goal was washed off as Jeff Glowa and Damien King conspired to fall into the net and dislodge it from its moorings. The ref felt it was accidental but a few in the crowd had some suspicions that it wasn’t quite as accidental as the officials believed it to be. It didn’t matter for very long.

Having been on the powerplay due to James Ferrara’s decision to water ski behind Greg Owen, the Bison’s powerplay (which is still kind of finding its feet) had worked well but just after the man advantage expired, a lovely pass through the middle from Doug Sheppard found Joe Miller. The Cardiff born forward faked the shot, dragged the puck round the Phantoms defender sprawled on the floor and fired high glove side on King who was left frozen with his glove in the air for a few seconds. That goal at 39:40 was the last real action of the second.

The Phantoms came out harder in the third period as the Bison seemed happy to sit back and hold their visitors at bay. The Phantoms had some good chances; some good passing round the edges led to a scramble in front but the puck rolled across the front of Lyle’s net as well as a much more effective looking powerplay. The Phantoms were hustling and bustling but their attack was lacking bite. Then, just when Phantoms fans thought they might be finding a way back into the game, the Bison shut the door.

A turnover in the Phantoms zone saw the puck with Doug Sheppard. His pass found Miller who was alone and in space, took a step and fired past King for a natural hattrick and pretty much killed the game off.

The remainder of the game was just efficient, energy conserving play from the Bison coupled with more of the Phantoms trademark hustle. Sadly, as has been said here many times trying only gets you so far. The Phantoms had a late powerplay chance when Carl Graham attempted to go low for a hip check and ended up taking the man out on his hands and knees. Funny, yes but also tripping but Lyle stood firm. As time wound down and the inevitable became reality, the Bison ran out the clock safe in the knowledge of a perfect 3-0 start and what one might hope is not the last shutout of Stevie Lyle’s season.

 

All Miller, no filler but don’t forget Greener: When your keeper keeps a shutout and doesn’t get man of the match, it can only be because of an exceptional display by one of the outskaters. Joe Miller was dominant all night on a retooled second line with Doug Sheppard and Joe Greener with Joe Rand moved to playing with Greg Chambers and Greg Owen. The Bison second line was dominant over its Phantoms counterpart all night and the combination of Sheppard and Miller seemed to work really well. Miller hasn’t lost a step since last season and with arguably better service from the middle, be it Sheppard or Owen he could be on for a monster season.

Greener however is still the team’s top scorer. 3 assists last night he now has 6 points in 3 games (1+5). He’s taken some interesting penalties but has quietly gone about helping to set up the goals, scored the crucial game winner in Manchester and is arguably the best power forward in the EPL with it.

 

Lyle: 0.67 GAA after 3 games. That probably won’t last so lets enjoy that stat now.

 

A word on our opponents: Firstly a quick message whoever did the man of the match last night; were you watching the game? I appreciate Luke Ferrara was noticeable, given how much he felt the need to moan to the ref about everything but for Tom Norton to not get man of the match was a travesty. He was the best player in a Phantoms jersey by a distance. His defensive positioning was phenomenal and he found himself breaking up a number of Bison attacks on his own.

Damien King in the net didn’t have the greatest night at the office but gave a decent account of himself. He made some good saves and gave the odd flash of the glove. There is certainly promise there.

The rest of the Phantoms however were utterly anonymous. Lauko, Glowa and Ziedins, the imports and arguably the better players on the team made no impact on the game, Glowa only really getting noticed for the telling off he got from Mr Evans for arguing an icing call. Missing Sladok from the defence will have had an effect but unless Sladok is the greatest defenceman on Earth, he wouldn’t have made that much of a difference. The Phantoms offered little going forward and never really looked like they could break the Bison defence down. That may sound harsh especially given the shotcount but, as Manchester have found out recently, you can take tons of shots but it’s quality of shots that make the difference rather than quantity.

I hope to see a better Phantoms side next time we see them play but last night was not a good game for them.

 

Lowlight of the night: Sadly I need to mention aspects of the officiating. If we’re going to have a 4 man system then BOTH officials need to be doing something. Mr Evans seemed to do all the calling and was running the show with Mr Pickett almost reduced to the role of 3rd linesman. The perfect example was Norton’s high stick on Rand at the start of the 2nd period; Pickett, all of 4 feet away from the incident in the far corner of the rink called nothing but Evans standing by the redline in front of the Phantoms bench makes the call. If that’s how the system is going to operate then take it back to a 3 man system because unless both refs are going to make calls then there really is little point.

 

Highlight of the night: Joint win for Lyle’s shutout and Miller’s second goal which was beautiful.

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