Running with the Herd – Bison vs Slough Jets 2/3/13

Basingstoke Bison 5-4 Slough Jets after penalty shots

Sheppard Hutchinson

Rand Kieras

Chambers x2 Pliskauskas

Bakrlik

 

Pens:

Davies (SJ) scores, Miller (BB) scores

Pliskauskas (SJ) missed, Sheppard (BB) scores

Bakrlik (SJ) scores, Rand (BB) scores

 

The Basingstoke Bison and Slough Jets go into battle.

The Basingstoke Bison and Slough Jets go into battle.

All the way back: The Bison were even further depleted coming into tonight’s game with Alex Symonds and Nicky Watt added to the missing list but a welcome return for Matt Selby, back from a strained hamstring. With the loss of Symonds, Greg Chambers moved back to playing on defence. For the Jets, Adam Greener was missing.

The first period started evenly enough but the first big chance went the Jets’ way. Lyle made a good save off of the initial shot off of his left side but the puck fell right on to the stick of Dan Davies. The Jets’ forward hit the one time shot but Lyle got his glove to the puck to pluck it out of the air.

The period continued with some chances either way before an error nearly gifted the Bison a goal. Rand picked Kieras’ pocket on the Jets blueline and sprinted towards Rockman. Before he could get a shot away, Kieras hooked him back and took his seat in the box but the Bison couldn’t capitalise on the powerplay.

The ebb and flow continued but the Jets were edging the shot count and that wasn’t helped when Greg Owen was called for slashing behind the Jets net. The Jets worked the puck very well and found their breakthrough as Gomeniuk fed Hutchinson at the top of the crease and his quick shot found a way between Stevie Lyle’s pads at 16:37.

Then before the Bison fans could blink and recover it was 2-0. Having missed a chunk of the build up as I was trying to tweet out the previous goal, I looked up to see the puck go back to Kieras who fired home past Lyle at 17:16 and shook my head as it seemed another slow first period was going to kill the Bison. Shortly after when the Jets had an odd man rush Bison fans feared the worst but Towalski’s shot was saved well by Lyle to keep the hope alive. The period ended 2-0 to Slough and the frustration of previous weeks was very much in evidence in the stands.

It didn’t start well in the second period for the Bison as they were quickly back on the penalty kill. Cesky gave Kieras a shove and the Jets player lost his balance and fell awkwardly into the boards however the Jets’ powerplay couldn’t add to their tally.

Joe Greener had a good chance to get the Bison back into the tie. One of one with Pavel Gomeniuk the Bison forward used his pace to get past the veteran defenceman and fired goalwards but the shot drifted just wide of Rockman’s post.

The Jets were back to the powerplay when Carl Graham slashed Aaron Connolly off the play but it was the Bison who were nearly on the score sheet early in the man advantage. Doug Sheppard intercepted the puck in mid air and raced towards Rockman but his shot could only find the chest of the Jets’ backstop. Shortly afterwards the man advantage told for Slough as Darius Pliskauskas took the puck in the slot and fired past Lyle who was being screened by at least 3 of his own team mates. 29:09 gone and 3 goals in the hole meant the Bison fans were grumbling again.

The Bison were sent to the powerplay a few minutes later as Bakrlik took his obligatory penalty at 33:31 when he slashed Owen and finally the home fans were given something to cheer about. The Bison powerplay looked in fine fettle as they passed the puck around with ease. With Rand and Cesky in front of the net causing commotion, Chambers fed Owen and with the screen in place the GB international fired into the top corner of the net for the powerplay marker at 34:35 to bring the crowd to life.

The Bison pressed hard for their second and when Bakrlik took an interference call the powerplay unit set to work but couldn’t find a way through. They had a second chance when 15 seconds before the end of the period Matt Towalski was called for crosschecking. The Bison frantically tried for a goal before the buzzer but there was nothing doing.

Once the penalty has expired at the start of the third period, the crowd was left with baited breath. Ciaran Long made his way goalwards with the puck and was hooked back by Cesky. It was a “necessary penalty” such as one exists but Mr Thompson signalled for a penalty shot. Long took his time, weaving left and right as he looked to make a move close to the net but Lyle got his left pad out and thwarted the opportunity.

The Jets were back to the powerplay when Greg Owen was called for hooking and made some good plays but it backfired as the penalty was close to expiring. Sam Godfrey coughed the puck up at the blueline to Joe Rand and the Canadian raced away. Godfrey tried to hook and pull Rand back but the Bison forward wouldn’t be denied but managed to control the puck and fire past Rockman.

Controversy shortly followed as Tony Redmond was taken down by the Jets net off the play. With the Bison stalwart down holding his face, Bakrlik raced up the ice and fired one of the best wrist shots past Lyle that you are likely to see at 46:46 to make it 4-2 to the visitors as the home fans howled at the officials for the lack of call.

The Bison were incensed and seemed to have shaken off the malaise of previous weeks. With Bakrilik in the box for slashing the Bison powerplay used the tactic that had worked for the first goal to great effect. Players screened Rockman and Chambers skated into the slot and fired through the screen to make it 3-4 at 47:39.

The game was getting chippy as both teams looked to exert their dominance on the game again, the worst incident being when Cesky took a stick in the face but no call again from the official that left Matt Selby baying for blood on the bench. With the Bison swarming (and somewhat incensed from the lack of call), Slough took their timeout at 49:07 in an attempt to slow the pace of the game. It was a sensible move but sadly it backfired.

Bison went straight back to the attack and tried their powerplay tactics at even strength and Chambers again as his shot took a small deflection on its way through and into the net it went. 4-4 at 49:43 and the Bison had made it all the way back.

The teams traded chances back and forth for the remainder of the period as the Bison wanted the pace as frantic as possible whilst the Jets tried to stifle the Bison and play the game their way but 4-4 was how it finished at the end of three periods.

Overtime started and the Bison nearly put themselves back into the muck as they were called for too many men. The Jets four man powerplay unit moved the puck well but couldn’t find a way through. The home fans were crying for retribution again as Redmond took his second illegal shot to the face of the night, again with no call from the officials.

As time wound down Cesky tried to charge away down the right wing but Gomeniuk stepped into him long after the puck was past him and Cesky tumbled to the ice but no call for anything in either direction. Cesky was incensed and took a misconduct penalty at the final buzzer as he protested his case. For my money whilst Cesky was arguably looking for the call, it was a cut and dry interference call.

The penalty shots left some looking at the floor out of fright. Davies moved in and fired a great wrist shot past Lyle but Miller answered as he skated down the central channel and slipped the puck past Rockman. Pliskauskas however missed as his shot missed Lyle and the net, meeting only with the plexiglass behind the goal. Sheppard however made no mistake as he drew Rockman down then shot high to make it 2-1 in the shootout to the hosts. The pressure was on Bakrlik but the Jets import showed his skill as he made a move that fooled Lyle and caused him to topple over as Bakrlik roofed the puck. The pressure shifted to Joe Rand as the Bison’s workhorse skated towards Rockman. He went down the central channel like his team mates, deked then shot. The crowd rose in triumph as the puck hit the back of the net and signalled a great comeback victory for the Herd.

 

Joe Rand slots the winning penalty shot past Gregg Rockman.

Joe Rand slots the winning penalty shot past Gregg Rockman.

A character win: The first period was poor, the second period was OK but the third period showed some of the character and heart we’ve known this team has. Short benched, carrying injuries and their top scoring import playing on defence as cover are never a great recipe for success but somewhere, after weeks of frustrating results and performances, the Basingstoke Bison remembered just how good they are.

Chambers took the plaudits with whoever chose man of the match for his two goals and it was a clutch performance from the dual national but many felt Rand was worthy of the beers as well (that’s becoming a regular occurrence that phrase). It was the archetypical Rand performance of constant energy and effort. Chambers however gave a great performance if at times a nervous one. We’d all much rather he was playing as a forward but he isn’t terrible back there.

The mixed up lines had mixed effect but performed well as previously effective partnerships (Cesky and Sheppard, Miller and Rand) were put together and we got the unfamiliar combination of Owen with Greener leading one of the lines but it didn’t look too bad out there. I must confess though I’ll be happier when players are fit and the regular lines are back together.

The Bison need to bottle the last period and find a way to use it for the remainder of the season. The league may well be gone and such is life but the playoffs are not out of reach for this team when fully fit and firing on all cylinders. It’s time to remind the league of that.

 

A word on our opponents: Firstly thanks to Slough for turning up and trying to play hockey rather than what we were subjected to the week before.

Pavel Gomeniuk was a good choice for man of the match for me, his 2 assists on crucial plays and a decent performance at the back made him my candidate for man of the match as well. He should have been called for interference in overtime but otherwise it seems Pasha’s had a new lease of life since joining the Jets and the partnership is working well for all parties.

Frankie Bakrlik gave another good performance but again took a lot of penalties to infuriate his backers and boost his detractors. Another player who looked good on the night again was Dan Davies. As I look back through my match reports from Jets games I notice how often I mention the good things that Davies does without really going into much detail but he has the potential to be a really top class British player at EPL level and has a really good work rate. His penalty shot goal was also of high quality.

Slough fans though will not be pleased with letting 3-0 and 4-2 leads slip even if they did pick up a point. With the playoffs and the EPL cup final looming large they can’t do such things against a short benched team on a bad run of form, let alone Guildford.

 

Lowlight of the night: At least two or three calls the officials missed where Redmond and Cesky were clipped in the face by elbows and sticks. There was some moaning from Jets fans about the stickwork of some Bison players and whilst the Bison aren’t angels, it felt a case of the pot calling the kettle black to some degree.

 

Highlight of the night: Chamber’s second goal to tie the game at 4-4, it gave the crowd a reason to believe again.

Remember Bison fans – you can nominate your favourite player for the Banners On The Wall playof of the year.  Leave your vote in the comments and details on the award here.

Photos courtesy and copyright of Grant Kind and 5 Hole Photography.  Visit the website and buy a print.

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