Running with the Herd – Bison vs Guildford Flames 9/3/13Posted: 10/03/2013
Basingstoke Bison 4-2 Guildford Flames
Greener (sh) Dixon
A little case of history repeating: With a large travelling crowd in a sold out building as a regulation win for the Flames would hand them the league title, the Bison had Andy Melachrino back in the line up. Nicky Watt took the warm up but didn’t ice and with Alex Symonds still out, Greg Chambers remained on defence. The Flames scratched Milos Melicherik for the contest and he ran the bench.
The game started out as a cagey affair (something that really wouldn’t go away) and the first few chances went the way of the visitors as David Longstaff made a lovely little dangle around Sullivan but his shot was dealt with by Lyle. The Bison responded with chances of their own, Andy Melachrino charged the net but they Lee denied the former Flames junior.
Branislav Kvetan and Matt Selby ended up in the box after a scuffle; Kvetan’s large check of a Bison player into the boards drew a penalty and a crowd and Selby’s roughing penalty came from diving into the scrum.
Both teams kept up the drive for the first goal; Joe Rand forced a save from Lee, Zach Sullivan’s point shot drew a full stretch glove save from the Flames backstop and Kohut had sections of the Flames fans on their feet but his shot could only find the outside of the net but shortly after that, the first goal came.
The Flames turned the puck over just over their blueline to Greg Owen and the Bison centreman took a couple of steps into space and wristed a lovely shot past Lee into the top corner of the net at 7:02 to give the Bison the lead.
The response from the Bison was to instantly look for a second. A shot from Joe Miller trickled through Lee and edged towards the goal line. Players of both sides raced towards the net and the puck was cleared away but Jez Lundin was called for delay of game as he deliberately knocked the net from its moorings but the Bison couldn’t double their advantage on the powerplay.
The Bison were playing with a confidence and energy that had been lacking in the previous couple of weeks and kept creating the chances but the Flames defence was standing firm. Sheppard and Cesky were set free on a 2 on 1 but a superb individual effort by Lundin snuffed out the chance.
The Flames got a chance to get their powerplay going when Carl Graham was sent to the box for interference when he stepped in Andy Hemmings behind the play. The Flames puck movement was very good but the Bison pk unit remained patient and held the visitors at bay.
The first period came to an end with the Bison still 1-0 in front and the crowd wondering where they’d pulled this performance from.
The Bison went right back to it at the start of the second period as an early face off in the Flames zone gave a chance to Cesky but Lee made the save. The Flames as well were not giving up the ghost as Longstaff held off a couple of men and made a great centring feed but no Guildford player could get on the end of it.
When Joe Miller was called for hooking at 21:44 it sent the visitors back to the powerplay, the visitor’s powerplay unit went back to work but the result was not one they wanted. Greg Owen intercepted the puck and sped towards Lee. Owen made a move and shot but it was stopped on the line by the Flames goalie. Lee thought the puck was frozen in his glove but Joe Greener appeared to poke the puck into the goal. Lee protested vigorously but Mr Cloutman was unsympathetic and pointed for the shorthanded goal to count at 23:04.
The Bison kept going forward and the line of Melachrino, Miller and Rand were causing a manor of problems for Guildford, forcing turnovers and getting shots on net but nothing that could get past Lee. Then, out of nowhere the Flames scored.
Some neat passing gained the Flames the zone but the play broke down and the puck found its way into the slot onto the stick of David Savage who backhanded the puck through traffic and into the net at 27:25.
The goal gave the Flames confidence and saw the Flames come forward more and more looking for the equaliser but, at the risk of a really cheap pun, they got burned. Joe Rand forced a turnover and fed Miller who walked through a massive gap in the Flames defence and had years of time to pick his spot above Lee’s glove and put the puck into it at 30:50 for the 3-1 Bison lead as Lee chewed out his defence for hanging him out to dry.
The Flames were sent back to the powerplay when Andy Melachrino was called for slashing but again the most clear cut scoring chance went to the Bison as Joe Greener ended up with the pucks. He got a couple of whacks at the puck but this time Lee was equal to the task.
The Bison fans were soon in a state of despair. Nathan Rempel went down after getting Greg Chambers’ stick in his face. Blood was drawn and that meant a 5+match penalty (later downgraded to a game penalty as Rempel returned) and a 5 minute uninterupted powerplay for the Flames. When Joe Greener was called for charging, a call that mystified many people as it looked more cross checking than anything else, the Bison had to hang on till the end of the period. They managed that but the Flames would start the final period with 1:12 of 5 on 3 time.
The third period began with all the fans on tenterhooks but ultimately it was the Bison’s patient penalty killing that won the day. The Flames powerplay seemed to be setting the table better than most teams we’d seen this season but nobody wanted to eat. As the final seconds of the penalties expired Rempel was blown up for being in Lyle’s crease and the Bison fans roared their approval.
The game got tighter and more tense as time ticked on and the Bison reverted to their counter attacking style that had worked so well in games against Manchester this campaign. Mogg and Cesky broke in 2 on 1 but Cesky tried to do too much on his own and the play died a death.
The Flames just kept coming forward; Rempel fed Longstaff with a very neat saucer pass but the GB record appearance holder could only find Lyle’s stomach with the shot. Kvetan muscled his way through the Bison defence from the point for a shot but could only find the outside of the post with his shot. Rempel had a chance where he fired across the net to Kohut but some neat defence stopped the Slovak getting a stick on the puck.
The pressure eventually told when Greener overskated the puck in the zone allowing Paul Dixon to walk uncontested into the slot and fire through traffic past Lyle at 53:03. There was a large suspicion of a man (or 3) in the crease but the goal stood and at 3-2 the game really was on a knife edge. Bison called their timeout at 53:24 to discuss strategy.
The Flames kept coming, Ben Campbell getting a step on his man but Lyle made the glove stop and the Bison’s patience appeared to be paying off.
The Flames were starting to launch their all out assault. They called their timeout at 58:27 to formulate strategy and then set back attacking the Bison net as the crowd willed their respective team towards their desired outcome. Lee dashed from his crease to the bench for the extra attacker but it wasn’t to be.
As the puck was worked back to Kvetan for the blueline drive, Rand poked the puck away. Sheppard eventually managed to clear the zone, crossed the redline and slipped the puck into the empty net and the home fans leapt from their seats as some away fans headed for the exits.
An important statement: The numbers don’t lie and the Bison will have to likely concede the EPL tile to the Flames before too long but this was a very big psychological win for the Herd. The Flames will have their party before too long and they will have earned it but the Bison said “not in our house you don’t” and produced their best performance of the second half of the season to do it.
Joe Miller won the beers for man of the match which was a fair enough result. He skated like a man possessed and, despite not scoring was part of that line with Melachrino and Rand that kept causing problems for the Flames. It was a reward for his work rate. Rand also though deserves credit on another superlative performance where he played his game to perfection, his play to knock the puck away from Kvetan at the death could have been the difference between a regulation win and overtime.
Before he was thrown out for the high sticks penalty (stupid rule is so stupid) Chambers was having a really good game. He was controlling the play, making decent passes and then poof, he was gone from the game. Matt Selby moving back on to defence was the sensible move and alongside Zach Sullivan (as has been mentioned already on the Bison site and elsewhere) looked a solid partnership despite their youthful looks.
It wasn’t a picture perfect performance by any means but it was a big performance. The playoffs are winnable for this team, shortbenched or not. I tweeted before the game #NotInOurHouse but in some ways I was wrong. This is our house and we do what needs to be done in it.
A word on our opponents: This was a good if odd performance by the Flames. Let’s give them their dues, they looked good but they looked nervous. David Longstaff was beyond brilliant last night but the Flames suffered from a similar problem that AFC Bournemouth used to suffer from. When Darren Anderton played for the Cherries they frequently had a problem because they had one player a couple of steps of everyone else and the rest of the team would either keep up with him or couldn’t follow what he was doing. Longstaff kept going for 60 minutes but nerves appeared to get the best of his team mates and it wasn’t a case of the Flames wanting to keep up with what Longstaff was trying to do, they just couldn’t for some reason.
Plays were blown, the powerplay could pass the puck around till they were blue in the face but couldn’t finish and they struggled to break down a Bison team showing some patience.
I thought Mark Lee looked alright in nets if not stellar but he made some really good saves when called upon. He was rightly angry about the third goal when his defence left him dry for so long he was almost dehydrated. Lee did look human at times as well, as has Lyle but he still looked a top drawer netminder.
The better team won last night and there’s the fan part of me really happy that the Flames didn’t get to celebrate winning the title on our ice but taking a step back this is a very good team. Under different circumstances who knows what might have happened but if I was walking into that game last night as was told that the team that lost are 1 point from winning the title, I wouldn’t have been surprised.
Lowlight of the night: 5+match for high sticking with blood is up there in my pet peeve ranks with the lack of a 5 minute fighting major. The EIHA needs to remove its head from its backside and have adult rules for an adult league where you have a mix of professionals and semi-pros. If it’s intentional then 5+match is fine but accidental high sticks getting that penalty is disproportionate and stupid.
Highlight of the night: Miller’s goal and Lee’s fury afterwards.
All photos courtesy and copyright of Grant King and 5 Hole Photography. Visit the website for prints from Bison games.