Running with the Herd – Bison vs Bracknell Bees 2/2/13Posted: 03/02/2013
Basingstoke Bison 4-0 Bracknell Bees
Responding in style: The Bison went into the tie missing the usual suspects but saw the home début of Matt Selby. The only player missing for the Bees was Alan Lack, out due to work commitments.
After the Bees’ recent 5-1 win, Bison fans were hoping for a big response in Basingstoke against their local rivals and the tone was set early as Joe Greener lined up James Galazzi and levelled him with a massive open ice hit. The physical play seemed like it was going to be a theme when Messers Watt and Spearing started having an early chat but nothing came of it. (Insert your own jokes here).
The Bison top line of Chambers, Owen and Miller set about laying siege to the Bees net. Some good cycling set up a chance for Owen in the slot but his shot hit Ambler’s shoulder and looped over the crossbar. The danger wasn’t cleared for the Bees and a goal mouth scramble ensued shortly after but Ambler managed to hold firm.
Bees had an early chance to turn that tide when Alex Symonds was called for hooking and the powerplay set to work. Strycek had a blueline drive kicked away by Lyle, Bees worked a similar move to Masa at the blueline and his shot was kicked away by Lyle.
The Bees were back on the powerplay shortly afterwards; Jaroslav Cesky sprinted in on Ambler’s net with the puck and was hauled down by the defender. While some were screaming for the penalty, Ambler managed to freeze the puck but Nicky Watt took a shot at Scott Spearing and was called for crosschecking but the best chance on the Bees’ man advantage came to the Bison. Doug Sheppard stole the puck and gained the zone. After holding the puck and drawing the man he fed Joe Greener but Ambler saved the shot.
Bison were having the better of the play and had their own chance on the man advantage half way through the period when after a scramble for the puck in front of Lyle, Oli Bronnimann hooked Cesky as the Bison forward seeked to lead the breakout. The Bison powerplay put together some good passing and a great pass through the seam from Chambers to Sheppard gave the Bison player/coach a gaping cage to shoot at but he fired wide. With the powerplay expiring, Owen created some space and a chance for himself, firing a wrist shot towards the net only to see Ambler pluck it out of the air.
Joe Greener landed another massive hit, this time on Lewis Turner but the Bees kept coming. Martin Masa gained the zone but was driven behind the net by the defender. This didn’t stop Masa firing a great no look pass to James Galazzi who had a golden chance to give the Bees the lead but his shot hit the outside of Lyle’s right post. It was to bode ill for the visitors.
Owen and Chambers then gained the zone, Owen passed the puck to Chambers who wiffed on the shot but Ambler spilt the rebound allowing Owen to fire the puck into the back of the net and give the Bison something of a deserved lead. Some Bees fans in the away block were waving their arms for the goal to be called off as the net was off its moorings but Mr Cloutman seemed unconcerned by such protestations.
The Bees found themselves back on the powerplay after Greener was called for a high stick but again it was the Bison who had the better chances. Watt and Owen manufactured a chance but Watt’s shot was gathered in by Ambler after a bit of puck juggling. The second time however he wouldn’t be so lucky.
Redmond cleared the zone to Sheppard who put the puck deep which Chambers picked up behind the net as the Bison looked to kill time off of the penalty. Chambers sat behind the net for a moment looking for someone to fire the puck to. With no option of someone to pass to, Chambers saw the opening he needed as he took a step to his right and fired the puck at the back of Ambler. The puck rebounded off of the Bees netminder and nestled into the bottom of the net for a shorthanded goal at 17:35. The Bison had broken the seal and the fans were in good voice.
The period wound down as the Bees continued to look for a way into the tie but found no joy, bar an odd interference call on Sheppard inside the last 20 seconds of the period but the first period ended with the Bison in comfortable control.
Having killed off the remaining bits of the Bees powerplay, the Bison went back to the task in hand, the first real action of the period coming when Sheppard attempted to chase down a long pass that was poked away from him by a diving Ambler.
The Bison 1st line was still causing a variety of problems for the Bees, a good cycle leading to a chance for Carl Graham to step in from the blueline and fire a booming shot towards the net but it was gobbled up by Ambler.
There was a scary moment for Bison fans when Joe Miller was slammed into the boards. Bison fans were crying for a boarding penalty but they did get a penalty when Shaun Thompson tried to skate away from the mass of humanity by the boards and caught Miller in the face with his stick. The Welshman stayed down for a little while but eventually got up and carried on.
From the scary to the downright funny shortly after; the puck found it’s way into the corner to Ambler’s right. Bison and Bees players raced into the corner to dig it out then out of nowhere, everyone stopped moving as a game of stuck in the mud appeared to break out. That’s not a joke, all 5 men against the boards just stopped dead in one of the more surreal moments of the season.
The second period continued in a passage of play that seemed to frustrate fans in both directions. Fans of both sides screamed for penalties by Mr Cloutman was determined to let the game flow and after a 5 minute period where nothing was called, Nicky Watt was eventually called for slashing which seemed a very innocuous call given what had come before it.
The other great coming together came when Miller chased the puck down on the penalty kill to be greeted at the hashmarks by a rushing Ambler. Ambler turned his back, almost looking like he was attempting to hip check the Bison forward. Miller couldn’t stop and the two collided. Nothing happened in retaliation but it was another very amusing, odd moment.
The second period ended still at 2-0 to the Bison but the Herd couldn’t rest on their laurels with the Bees not allowing themselves to be shoved aside that easily.
Cesky and Watt combined for the first real chance of the 3rd period. Cesky gained the zone, fired the pass to Watt who made a move but Ambler tracked the puck all the way and made the stop. Greg Owen also had a great chance on the wrap around try but the puck flashed across the crease and away from Ambler’s net.
The Bees kept attacking and after a scramble in front of Lyle, Alex Symonds was called for hooking which sent them to the powerplay but again it was the Bison who capitalised. Greener sprinted out of the zone with the puck. Seemingly covered by the Bees player tracking back, the Bison 97 looked up to see if he could pass to Sheppard, decided he couldn’t and instead saw a gap he could shoot into and fired a laser past Ambler into the net for the Herd’s second shorthanded tally of the night.
The Bison kept coming; Chambers muscled his way past Strycek inside the Bees zone but his powerful wrist shot whistled wide of the post. The Bison shortly broke the Bees again however; Greg Owen drew far too many Bees players to him and fired a pass to Rand before getting clattered and causing a pile up on the Bees blueline. Rand raced towards Ambler, made a move and potted it home for the Herd’s 4th goal of the night, properly killing any illusions anyone might have had of a Bees comeback.
Stevie Lyle was called into action shortly after. Shaun Thompson fired a ferocious shot at Lyle who made a great save but the rebound dropped onto Thompson’s stick. As Lyle bent backwards to his left to pick the puck out of the air, Thompson was left only to stare at the ceiling wondering how he had been stopped from scoring.
At about 5 minutes to go it looked like things would boil over; Joe Greener had been called for interference and Scott Spearing again seemed to be doing his best to get under people’s skins. Just as it seemed that he and Nicky Watt would properly drop the gloves, Mr Cloutman called them both for delay of the game and the linesmen through them in the box.
The Bees pressed for a goal but Lyle made save after save and as the buzzer sounded on his 4th shutout of the season, Bison fans were left to reflect on a dominant performance over their local rivals.
Exerting your dominance: In the last couple of weeks back to December when the Bison’s rough patch was upon us, people were worried that the impressive performances from the start of the season were a thing of the past but last night saw a return of the swagger and confidence that was evident at the start of the campaign.
Stevie Lyle was good value for man of the match with his 29 save performance. Whilst at times he had very little to do, the Bees are a team that possesses some very good scorers and made some superb stops, especially his double save on Thompson that was simply spectacular.
On his birthday, Joe Greener was the other really strong candidate for man of the match in my opinion. He threw some tremendous hits, scored a great goal and just didn’t stop working for 60 minutes. When you’re on that incredibly hard working line with Joe Rand and Doug Sheppard and you outshine them on the night, you are certainly worthy of the beers.
Chambers’ goal was lucky but he has tried similar things in the past and that’s the mark of a player certain in his abilities. Though they only tallied the 1 goal, where the 2nd line caused issues for Peterborough the top line did so for Bracknell. The Bees are a physical side so they were never going to be outmuscled often over the 60 minutes but the “skill” line gave them all sorts of problems.
It was a very good team performance by the Bison. They played like a team that knew they were better than their opponents and seemed determined to prove it. They played a smart team game that didn’t play into the gameplan of their opponents, stifled the Bees creatively and made their opponents look ordinary in comparison. It was a win that warmed the heart.
A word on our opponents: I probably owe Bracknell an apology, not a big one but one none the less. At the start of the season I felt the Bees would really struggle this season and on the balance of the campaign so far and the last few weeks they have caused a few surprises. I came into this game thinking it would be a really tight affair and I wanted to give them the credit I felt they were due. The only really sad thing was that none of that really came to the fore last night.
Someone who sits near me mentioned to me last night after the game “how embarrassed do you think Jan Bendik is on getting man of the match?” and to be fair I agreed with him. There were only 2 real stand out performances for the Bees; Carl Ambler and Grant Rounding. Rounding constantly kept going, kept skating and kept trying to make anything happen.
Whilst we all had a chuckle at Ambler diving about the stop pucks, he was called upon to make a lot of saves and did what was asked of him with minimal support from some of his defence. He will want the 2nd and 3rd goals back, the 3rd goal in particular looking at the photos looked like he messed up his angles but he really wasn’t that terrible.
Insert reference to Scott Spearing’s antics here (no seriously what can I say that I haven’t already said? It’s not worth the energy.)
The rest of the Bees team sadly didn’t really stand up and be counted. The imports bar a couple of moments were virtually non-existent and they lacked a sense of creativity that they needed to score against a team with more skill than them. They never really massively looked like scoring and didn’t.
The Bees are capable of a lot more than they showed last night, they beat this same team 5-1 in Bracknell not that long ago but they got played out of the building last night, there’s no other way to describe it. How the Bees recover from here and push on in the playoff race will be interesting because their key issue isn’t a lack of ability but a lack of consistency. If they find a way over that hump, they could be an outside bet at playoff weekend.
Lowlight of the night: You get no prizes for guessing this. Either throw down or sit down sir.
Highlight of the night: Lyle’s double save on Thompson, spectacular stuff.
All photographs copyright and courtesy of Grant King (http://www.5holephotography.co.uk/). Like what you see? Buy a print at the website.