Running with the Herd – Bison vs Milton Keynes Lightning 29/9/12Posted: 30/09/2012
Basingstoke Bison 5-0 Milton Keynes Lightning
Lyle in, lights out: After an article in the Basingstoke Gazette during the week that he wasn’t going to ice, Bison fans were delighted to see Doug Sheppard take the warmup and then last the 60 minutes. The local paper reported an “upper body injury” which rumour had it was possibly cracked ribs so for the Bison player/coach to last the full 60 minutes. MK were without Ross Bowers who was dressed on the bench and Adam Calder who was being inducted into the University of North Dakota athletics hall of fame with the 1997 team who won the NCAA national championship. Congratulations to Adam on the achievement.
The game promised a real see-saw battle but it never really developed that way. It certainly didn’t start well for the visitors when Joe Greener toe dragged around his man, took a shot which rebounded off of Mettam in the MK net then shovelled the puck past the netminder to give Bison the lead after 42 seconds. It wouldn’t get better for the Lightning.
The Bison dominated the majority of the early play, Kurt Reynolds showing his prowess early on as he skilfully dispossessed MK player/coach Nick Poole to end a promising run down the ice. The pressure was telling and eventually the Bison doubled their advantage. With play behind Mettam’s net, Greg Chambers stole the puck and fed it out in front for Joe Rand to snap the puck into the net from the top of the crease. That was 6:34 into the game and the Bison fans were getting rather excited.
Milton Keynes reacted to the two goal deficit and started having more chances as the period went on but couldn’t find a way past the very tight Bison defence, a point emphasised by Fojtek’s crunching hit on Leigh Jamieson. Despite some interesting outbursts from Mr Evans (and more on that later on) the first stanza passed off with minimal penalties and some really good end to end action as the Lightning clawed their way back into the game.
The second period started as the “Joe Rand Show”; the former Wightlink man landed a crunching hit on Ross Green behind the MK net which saw the former GB under 18 international slither down the boards to the ice. Green was up under his own power and skated off the ice but in response to a few chirps from Lightning players, Rand decided to continue the routine, read the play well and landed a hit on Jamieson as well. This led to the game quickly becoming chippy as Poole steamed into Rand and was called for the rather interesting call of interference which gave the Bison the powerplay. MK charged down the other end and thought they might have scored. With Lyle out of position the puck was shot goalwards but Reynolds cleared the puck off of the goal line. Brittle landed an elbow on Reynolds behind the play which wasn’t called before Greener then got called for tripping. It felt the game could descend into chaos and it was only 3 minutes into the period.
The Bison however made the most of the opportunity that came their way. As Greener was let out of the box, he charged towards the opposite wing and some nifty passing from Sheppard have the Bison a three on two. Rand laid off the puck to Greener who skated in off the wing and fired 5 hole through Mettam’s pads. The Bison continued to press the momentum that had now fully swung in their favour. 4 minutes after the third goal some great forechecking by Owen led to a turnover in the Lightning zone. Chambers held the puck and fed the pass into the slot where Rand one timed it past Mettam for his second goal and 3rd point of the night.
Lyle was called into action shortly after as some very good cycling of the puck by the Lightning found Emersic in the slot but his only reward was seeing Lyle produce a spectacular glove save. The period ended much in the same way the first ended; end to end chances for both sides but the chippy nature of the period continued till the buzzer and MK started the final period with 1:14 of a high sticking penalty to Greg Owen.
The third period started without Rand on the Bison bench, reportedly injured and the Bison shuffled the lines to accommodate it.
The Lightning started the period on the offensive and thought they had finally cracked Lyle 3:20 into the frame. The puck was in the net, their arms were up but Mr Evans had already blown his whistle and summoned the goal judge to discuss what he had seen. The call stood, no goal and the incredulous Lightning players looked bemused and crestfallen. 2 minutes later, it was the nail in the coffin.
Wynn passed to Chambers who held the puck and dangled past the advancing defender. Chambers looked up and centred the puck to Owen in the slot who fired home for his second goal of the season.
Milton Keynes kept coming however and forced some good saves from Lyle. Brittle had a chance with a 2 on 1 with Carr but his initial shot and shot off the rebound were both saved. With time running down MK found themselves on a 5 on 3 powerplay thanks to Mr Evans’ decision that with Fojtek and McPherson crosschecking each other than only Fojtek was worthy of a penalty. With a scramble in front, the officials lost sight of the puck and the whistle was blown far too early (the puck was still clearly in open play in front of Lyle) which drew the ire of Jamieson in a style that we’re accustomed to from Mr Evans himself. Jamieson’s reward was two 10 minute misconduct penalties. The danger passed and Lyle scored his second shutout in 2 weeks.
Show of force: It was another clinical performance from the Bison where 5 of the top 6 forwards scored points, Miller being the only one kept off the scoresheet. Chambers is the top scorer on the side now with 9 points in 5 games after his 3 assists last night. The night was a breakout performance for Joe Rand in the 40 minutes he played. 2+1 on the night and a few crunching hits that were legal and just played the power forward role superbly all night. Hopefully whatever forced him out of the third period is only temporary. Greener also looked good on the night scoring two goals that summed up the depths of his skills set where he scored one goal with a fantastic laser blast through the legs of the keeper and one where he drove the net and didn’t give up on the play whilst out-muscling the defender to do it.
Defensively Fojtik and Reynolds were the standouts on the blueline but all 5 players had a decent outing. Fojtik’s performance was summed up by the fact he was dispossessed then 2 seconds later turned around took the puck back and it was like nothing had happened. Reynolds had Beast Mode in full effect all night as he danced past oncoming attackers like they weren’t there.
Lyle? 30 shot shutout and a well earned man of the match. MK looked dangerous if ultimately unproductive and Lyle had at least 2 fortunate moments (he owes Reynolds a beer for clearing the puck off the line having ended up miles out of his crease. His save percentage is now 97% which is just a frightening number for forwards to look at as well as looking confident in front of one of the better goal scoring forwards in the EPL last season in Jamieson. It obviously remains to be seen how well Lyle will do when he once again faces the talents of Adam Calder.
Mr Evans’ lets off steam: I’ve tried to make a bit of a change to how I do the updates on Twitter with a new hashtag #nogamewithoutthem. We do owe those who give up their time a debt of gratitude for going out there. This however doesn’t excuse them from criticism and to be honest, Mr Evans’ performance was outright weird. There were calls missed on both sides but that does happen but the weird outbursts of telling off players like they were small children for questioning what was going on. This wasn’t going to the benches and giving them a stern word but full on yelling at the players, demanding they skate over to him and giving them a dressing down. It didn’t work as most of the players just skated away either incredulous at what they’d been told or laughing themselves silly. The chippy nature of the second period was partially down to some of the bizarre calls made. It wasn’t a terrible night at the office but seriously, yelling at players like they’re small children who’ve broken your greenhouse window isn’t likely the wisest idea.
A word on our opponents: A 5-0 defeat on the road is never a good thing, it’s also the most goals the Bison have put past an opponent but MK are the best side to come to Basingstoke this year. They were organised, they had a game plan that didn’t disintegrate and had their chances to score.
Adam Brittle was as good a choice as any for man of the match for his hustle across the ice alongside Adam Carr. To be honest, their performance was somewhat descriptive of the entire MK performance; a lot of buzzing around and intention but little delivery. MK’s usual game plan of the high forecheck was countered by the Bison who forced the turnovers and had the better shots on goal. MK did however look dangerous going forward where Bracknell and Peterborough haven’t so far this season and with a full compliment of forwards on board (no Calder or Bowers and Wiggins was dressed but didn’t ice) they should be a much more daunting prospect. A bad night at the office for the Lightning, no need for panic stations just yet.
Lowlight of the night: Rand getting injured on what was his best performance so far.
Highlight of the night: Bison’s 4th goal; excellent work by the Chambers-Owen-Rand line and a lovely finish.