Running with the Herd – Bison vs Telford Tigers 13/10/12

Basingstoke Bison 4-3 Telford Tigers

Chambers x2 Burrows

Sheppard Taylor

Greener Kruznik

 

NOTE: What was announced was a touch different from what I saw. We’ll get to that.

 

Mountain or molehill, as long as you climb it: The Bison were back at home for the 1st time after what we’ll just call “the Swindon debacle” with a full squad as Telford came to town missing Thomas Soar who had been injured all week. He was announced as playing but stood on the bench in his civvies.

It didn’t start well for the Bison; just over the 90 second mark the Bison had started the game with a second line of Sheppard, Greener and Chambers but were struggling to clear their lines. Tigers import forward Patrick Greene centred the puck from behind the net to Tim Burrows whose shot sneaked past Lyle’s right foot into the bottom corner of the net. It was a start that would kind of sum up the first two periods.

The Bison however didn’t let their heads drop and went right back at the Tigers and 2 and a half minutes later found their way back into the tie. It was almost a mirror image of the Tigers goal as the puck came from the corner into the slot where Sheppard fired into the top corner. The goal was announced as Chambers and thus began a confusing night of trying to wonder who actually scored and Block C wondering if we were all having collective hallucinations and our eyes were deceiving us.

The Bison were having the better of the first period but were struggling to break down a very energetic Tigers defence who were getting a stick into every passing lane. The Bison however were having the better of the pressure and eventually made it pay at the half way mark of the frame. The Bison had the puck in tight in front of Ryan and it looked like Sheppard shovelled in the rebound off the Tigers netminder but the goal was changed to Chambers. Confusion aside, the Bison has wrestled the lead back from the Tigers and the fans were in good voice as result.

Tigers had a chance to get back on level terms before the end of the first when Bison found themselves facing a 5 on 3 penalty with Chambers and Redmond in the box. The Tigers powerplay however failed to really stretch the Bison defence. After Chambers came out of the box with the Tigers still on the powerplay, Telford iced the puck but clearly changed players. Chambers complained to the official who promptly gave him a 10 minute misconduct. This was interesting in the context of game as Telford’s star man Jaroslav Cesky spent most of the game chasing Mr Pickett about chatting away yet never received the same punishment. The first period ended with the Bison on top but not as convincingly as in previous home outings.

The second period started much like the first; with a Tigers goal. Adam Taylor took the puck in space in the slot on his home and his shot appeared to take a deflection and the knuckle puck caught Lyle out of position and nestled into the top corner of the net.

The Tigers spent the rest of the second period wrestling control of the game from the Bison but there were chances in both directions. Sheppard, Rand (who did a lovely toe drag around his man) and Greener all had chances that Ryan read very well.

The Tigers then started having more of the chances. Cesky checked Fojtek to the ice then got to the front of the net and got the shot away by Lyle read it well. Maynard had a good chance from the blueline that Lyle saw late but managed to get to.

Bison had a late powerplay but like the Tigers before them failed to find the killer touch. After the man advantage expired the Tigers made them pay. Another broken Bison play saw the Tigers rush up the other end and some crisp passing found import defenceman Jaroslav Kruzik in the slot who connected with a shot that fooled Lyle with its lack of pace as the Bison keeper waved a foot at it and missed. Tigers lead 3-2 at the second break and after a poor 20 minutes for the Bison deserved their lead. There was a bit of afters at the buzzer as a frustrated Bison side got in the Tigers faces.

The fans in the stands assumed the Bison players got a rocket up their backside in the break and came out into the 3rd period looking like they were upping their game a bit. The Bison had much more of the chances and pressure. Rand was getting back into the faces of the Tigers players whilst driving the net, Reynolds levelled Brittle with a brilliant hit behind Lyle’s net and the third line (more on them in a bit) worked well to set up Fojtek in the the slot but Ryan was equal to everything that was thrown at him as the Tigers worked at shutting down the Bison’s passing game and calmly played their way out of their zone. They had their own chances as well as Cesky and Preece combined but were denied by Lyle stacking the pads at his left post.

Then with just under 4 minutes to play, Thomas Janak was called for tripping in his own zone and the Bison went to the powerplay. The Bison took their time, set up the powerplay and got the puck to the net. It was another scramble in front and someone, either Chambers or Greener managed to shovel the puck Ryan into the net. 3-3 as the crowd went wild and the Bison bench breathed a sigh of relief. However rather then play out for a point and overtime, the Bison put their heads down and went back to the net. They kept piling the pressure on and eventually the damn broke. Another good bit of work from Greener found Chambers who shovelled the puck home and the crowd went into raptures with 47 seconds to play.

Tigers pulled Ryan but couldn’t use the extra man effectively and Bison nearly scored on the empty net but it wasn’t to be. Either way, Bison win and remain top of the table.

 

Out of the fire: It wasn’t the best night for the Bison on the whole as some of the bigger players on the team didn’t have the best of nights. Lyle looked human for the first time this season but if he has a bad night and we win, I won’t argue. He’ll likely want all of the goals back but there wasn’t a great deal he could do about the second goal which seemed to take a flick off of a defender in front from my vantage point behind the Bison bench.

The top 6 as well didn’t have a particularly great night either. Owen and Miller seemed to lack their usual effectiveness and Sheppard, despite scoring wasn’t his usual sprightly self. Again, maybe a bad night at the office and these things happen.

Rand had a decent night and had some lovely moves to get round his man but couldn’t find the final touch on the night. Chambers was a very good shout for man of the match, scored a couple of goals and out of our “star” forwards he was by far and away the best player out of that group. He worked hard, backchecked well, scored and generally covered the ice well. I don’t begrudge him as a choice for man of the match.

My choice was Andrew Melachrino. Between him and Jacob Corson-Heron they provided the energy in the forward lines that was lacking at times from lines one and two. Tony Redmond played like Tony Redmond and ably played the anchor for the two zippy wingers as well as covering on defence during the final period when there appeared to be a problem with Symonds.

All things considered the 5 man defensive corps played quite well. Fojtek made some good hits and a number of key plays to dispossess the rushing Tigers forwards. Carl Graham went about his job well and played the role of stay at home defenceman well. It was a case that you didn’t overly notice him because he was doing his job well. Alex Symonds took a stick to the face and carried on then didn’t appear towards the end of the 3rd period as Redmond took shifts on defence. Hopefully all is ok there.

It wasn’t the best day at the office but, as I’ve said many a time, if a good team can not play well and win, you really are a good team.

 

A word on our opponents: The Telford Tigers are an interesting side to watch. The big problem they will suffer is outside Jaroslav Cesky and Patrick Greene, they are not the most skilful of teams in the EPL. They also had one of the legitimate title contenders on the ropes and couldn’t finish them off which, if the Tigers want to make the playoffs they will have to do.

Where their strengths lie are in the sheer awesomeness of their team work ethic and tight knit defence led at the back by Declan Ryan.

Where the Bison could probably be accused of trying to play too cute, the Tigers read that well and nearly pulled off the win because of it. They got sticks in the lanes, they exploited the counter attack well, they let Ryan who is fast becoming one of the better keepers in the league see the shots because if he sees them he will stop them. Ryan for me was the man of the match but there were a few candidates on the Tigers side who would have been equally worthy.

Tim Burrows scored and covered every inch of the ice, seemingly without stopping for breath. I was also quite impressed with 22 year old import Jaroslav Kruznik. He took his goal well and generally looked very assured at the back and not out of his depth. He, like Senko for the Tigers last season, could be a sleeper who surprises teams and fans across the season.

Ultimately I won’t pretend that I’m overly upset that the Tigers lost but I can’t help but feel they deserved something out of the game. Telford didn’t play like a side training once a week and hopefully for Tigers fans when the rink in Telford re-opens and the team are training regularly they might make a real charge to the playoffs for the first time since the club’s rebirth.

 

Lowlight of the night: Another Bison player sticked in the face, again blood drawn and again the officials all missed it. Third time’s the charm?

 

Highlight of the night: Nothing lifts a crowd like a last minute winner but special mention to the puck that Fojtek hit so hard he split it into 2 or 3 pieces.

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