Running with the Herd – Bison vs Slough Jets 3/11/12

Basingstoke Bison 6-2 Slough Jets

Rand                          Bakrlik

Sheppard x2               Towalski

Miller x2

Owen

 

No fly zone: Bison came into a game with a full squad, only Terry Miles missing from Slough and Gregg Rockman facing off against Stevie Lyle in a battle of two of the better netminders in the EPL. Slough added NIHL player Dan Rose to the roster. The Jets had the first chance of the game which saw the Bison in a minor defensive flap. Lyle came out to play the puck behind the net but his attempt to wrap the puck round the boards fell straight to a onrushing Jets forward who centred the pass. Lyle had scrambled into his net and lucky the puck flashed across the crease and away from danger.

The period then turned into a minor penalty-fest as the teams traded penalties. Reynolds, Graham, Bakrlik and Koulikov (for a too many men call) all ending up in the box for a variety of offences. Bakrlik was called for a high stick and immediately started protesting. Mr Szucs signalled he was prepared to go for his guns, his hands literally hovering by his hips ready to hand out the misconduct penalty. Bakrlik decided to keep quiet.

Bison tried out their new look forward lines on the powerplay with a 5 forward special teams unit. In a lovely act of irony, having replaced an import defenceman, Cesky spent every powerplay he iced on playing at the point.

The first period wasn’t massively awe inspiring from my perspective but it was a good period of hockey on the whole. I was searching for a word to describe the period in my head and someone mentioned the word “tight” which was entirely the perfect word. Both sides had some good chances but were trying to be very diligent on defence. Bison outshot Slough 11-6 in the first period which probably reflected who had the better of the period rather accurately. Bison certainly had more and the better chances but Slough looked dangerous as well. The general feeling around me was that 1 goal could decide the game. The only thing that slightly soured the 1st period was Mindy Kieras letting a shot go at Lyle well after the whistle had blown for offside. The former Bison defender claimed he hadn’t heard the whistle and received a telling off from Mr Szucs. He also received a telling off from Tony Redmond which is altogether more scary.

The second period started off with Doug Sheppard winning the draw and charging down the ice to put a shot on Rockman. In hindsight it was an ominous sign for the Jets. The first half of the period however was much like the first; very tight game, some chances but not many and both side looking for the perfect opportunity to strike. Bison were still having the better chances; Owen batted a deflected shot out of the air that Rockman saved brilliantly, a Cesky shot rebounded to Joe Greener in the slot who could only fire over.

Kurt Reynolds and Frankie Bakrlik both found themselves sitting in the box after a scuffle. Bakrlik landed a poor hit on Reynolds who retaliated and joined the Slough import in the box. More questionable hits came flying in and saw the Bison fans getting riled up about the lack of calls from Mr Szucs. Eventually however he was given no choice about a call. Cesky picked the puck up by the Bison blueline and skated towards Wales. Wales wrapped his stick around Cesky who flew up into the air and hit the ice to see Wales being called for hooking. Wales was incredulous and there’s an argument that Cesky went looking for the penalty. On the other hand, it turned out to be the opportunity the Bison needed. On the ensuing powerplay, some excellent movement saw the puck go from Miller to Owen who put the puck into the slot for Joe Rand to one time the puck to break the deadlock. Then in the blink of an eye it was 2-0.

Some good forechecking by the Bison won the puck, Melachrino put the puck down low for Greener to centre to the oncoming Sheppard who fired past Rockman in almost a mirror copy of the first goal. Jets were shellshocked and it was about to get worse.

Just over a minute later Redmond forced the turnover at the Jets blueline allowing Miller to gain the zone and fire a wrist shot at Rockman. The Jets netminder got a piece of the shot but he couldn’t stop the puck going in. 3 goals for the Bison in just over a minute and Slough took the timeout in an attempt to kill the momentum.

Shortly after the Bison found themselves facing a 5on3 powerplay after somewhat innocuous penalties against Melachrino for boarding and Symonds for elbows, the later appearing to be called by Michael Wales rather than the officials. The Bison however weathered the storm, the defining moment of the 5on3 being Valecko driving a blueline shot goalwards, only for it to be expertly picked out of the air by Lyle.

Then we all blinked and Adam Greener was standing over Joe Rand punching him in the ribs. It made sense why Greener was cross, having just been checked (legally I should add) by Rand and with Rand having a field day with the Jets defence, it might have been a game changer. What didn’t make sense was Greener only getting 14 PIMs for it. The EIHA rules on fighting makes allowance for unwilling combatants. “A Match Penalty (MP) plus any other penalties will be assessed to any player who, in the Referee’s opinion, delivers a single or multiple blows to an opposition player who is unaware of that player about to use force…” EIHA in house rules and referee interpretations version 8.1 Now how what Greener did doesn’t fall under that category I have no idea. Then again it resulted in the powerplay that pretty much killed Slough’s chances.

Miller found Cesky who found Chambers. Chambers’ shot from the point deflected off a stick and trickled goalwards before a light touch from Greg Owen put the puck through Rockman’s five hole. 4-0 Bison at the end of the 2nd and it seemed it wouldn’t be another appearance of the cardiac Bison.

The third period didn’t start quite as well for the Bison; some good work in the Jets zone worked the puck to the blueline but Alex Symonds missed the puck and it allowed Darius Pliskauskas to sprint in on Lyle. The Lithuanian’s shot however wasn’t strong enough to trouble the EPL’s current stats leading goalie.

Slough did eventually get reward for their efforts with a shorthanded marker with 10 mins to play. With the Bison powerplay running down, Baklrik forced the turnover and sprinted towards Lyle. Where Pliskauskas’ shot didn’t trouble the goalie, Bakrlik’s shot eventually trickled through the netminder into the net. There was some initial confusion as to when Mr Szucs blew the whistle but the goal was eventually given.

Bakrlik was in the middle of the action shortly afterwards as he charged into the corner at Symonds, landing a hit that was well into boarding territory. Symonds threw a few shots from the floor but the ensuing scrum prevented them from properly going at it. Bison took the momentum from the man advantage and regained their 4 goal lead. After a scramble in front of Rockman, Miller eventually managed to put the puck into the net and if the 4th goal hadn’t been the nail in the coffin, then the 5th felt like it.

Then we all blinked and Slough scored. Wales and Towalski worked together well in front of the Bison net to get the puck past Lyle for 5-2. Wales had some choice words for Lyle who responded by slashing Wales in the ribs putting the Jets back onto the powerplay but it came to nothing.

With time winding down and the game playing out, the Bison added the exclamation point. The Bison’s 2nd line of Cesky, Sheppard and Greener worked a very pretty passing move to the Bison player/coach who almost fluffed the entire move. With the puck ping ponging between players, Cesky got a bit of space and fired a no look pass to Sheppard at the top of the crease who slotted home for the Bison’s 6th with just under 2 minutes to play. The game played out and Bison had a well deserved win with Slough having chalked up a 3rd straight loss.

 

Rand leads the band: Joe Rand was an easy choice for man of the match last night so we’ll mention him before we get too far into the new look Bison offence. Rand tormented the Jets all night with his hard nosed style. He played the picture perfect power forward role and drove the Jets to the point of frustration. I would have appreciated him having a more stand up fight with Adam Greener but Greener didn’t give him a chance to do that.

The new look Bison attack scored the most goals the Herd have scored in a game so far this season with 6 and there is certainly promise with this new attacking formation. Cesky who was 0+2 on the night so no goals but he has visibly added a different attacking dimension to the Bison. There is a lot of rotation and differing line combinations for different scenarios but it worked really well. The attack seemed truly potent and clinical so it seems that perhaps Sheppard’s gamble will pay off.

The defence looked comfortable and did the job very well. Alex Symonds will probably wonder how he ended up in the penalty box so many times but all in all, combined with another comfortable performance from Lyle, the Bison were the better team and were the worthy winners on the balance of the action.

 

A word on our opponents: Slough fall into the similar category as Manchester, the quality is there but it didn’t work on the night I think. It almost felt that we were watching a team out of sorts. Rockman, normally a solid netminder (even if I won’t confess to being his greatest fan) gave up goals that he normally wouldn’t, the forwards didn’t seem as dangerous and the defence didn’t really stand out. Now there’s obviously something to be said for the Bison’s performance in there as well but Slough certainly didn’t fire on all cylinders last night.

Bakrlik was my choice for man of the match, mainly because I noticed him more than anyone else and got stuck in. Pliskauskas was nowhere to be seen, same with player/coach Koulikov. Valecko is the more defensively minded blueline import for Slough but even then didn’t make his presence known and Mindy Kieras only managed to get noticed by shooting at Lyle after the whistle.

Both goals were well taken but I don’t think Slava Koulikov will be pleased with the performance. The effort was certainly there but they got rocked in the second period and never really recovered. The fact the game was effectively over after the second period will concern the Slough coach but they will be a much different prospect on their own ice.

 

Lowlight of the night: The downright bizarre officiating nearly won this but Adam Greener jumping at Joe Rand wins. I’m sure there was a reason behind it but if you’re going to fight a guy, then fight him. Don’t just jump a guy with no chance to properly defend himself. It also gifted the Bison a powerplay goal. Perhaps it should have been highlight.

 

Highlight of the night: What’s the best way to respond to the other team calling a timeout to try and kill momentum? Score another goal. That’s how to win a game.

 

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