Running with the Herd – Bison vs MK Lightning 16/3/13Posted: 17/03/2013
Basingstoke Bison 2-3 Milton Keynes Lightning
And finally it slips away: Bison went into the game at as close to full strength as they had been since November with only Kurt Reynolds and Jacob Corson-Heron missing from the roster with Stuart Mogg once again guesting. Former Bison netminder Stephen Wall was missing for the Lightning who dressed Jordan Hedley in the backup role.
The game started off with good chances from both sides; Greg Owen flashed a puck across the crease that Joe Greener couldn’t turn past Alex Mettam in the Lightning goal but it was the Lightning having the more clear cut chances against a patient Bison defence. A poor Bison turnover gave Janne Jokila the chance to walk to the top of the crease and try to make a move on Lyle but the Bison netminder got his right pad down to deny the Finnish forward.
The period maintained its even edge till the Bison got themselves into penalty trouble. Joe Miller felt his stick was being held but ended up getting called for hooking by Mr Cloutman and then Alex Symonds was called for slashing but the Bison held firm. The best chance came when a well worked passing move worked the puck to Leigh Jamieson at the side of the net but before he could pull the triggar, Doug Sheppard lifted his stick and cleared the danger.
The Bison had a chance of their own a few minutes later; as Zach Sullivan was heading off for a line change he was crushed by Chris Wiggins. The hit was late, high and from behind seeing the former Bison man getting a 5+game for boarding. Whilst the hit wasn’t malicious, it looked awful and gave the Bison a 5 minute powerplay. Sadly for the Bison the powerplay just couldn’t get going and the first period buzzer sounded with the score still even.
The break didn’t help the Bison powerplay but there were chances for Doug Sheppard who had 2 good attempts as the powerplay wound down but Mettam stood firm. The physicality of the game picked up a notch in the second period as both teams began to hack and whack at each other a bit with the officials happy to let the game go. The chances kept coming but it was the Bison who were edging the period. Rand intercepted a clearing attempt and raced goalwards but the Bison just couldn’t settle the puck to get it into the net however the damn did break shortly afterwards.
Greener, Rand and Sheppard worked well in the zone to win the puck. Greener gave the puck to Sheppard who walked into the slot and his slow moving shot through the screen found it’s way into the net at 28:17.
Sadly for the Bison they gave up the lead almost straight away as MK went back to basics. They got the puck on net courtesy of Ross Bowers and a deflection from former Bison captain Nicky Chinn levelled the scores at 29:48 as the Welshman landed on his compatriot Lyle after scoring.
Joe Greener had a good breakaway attempt stopped by Mettam before Kamil Tvrdek showed his skills. The Czech forward mesmerised the Bison defence with his stick handling but Lyle was tracking the puck and nullified the chance. Tvrdek was outdone shortly afterwards.
Greg Chambers took the feed from Joe Miller, toe dragged the puck round his man before making a move and cheekily poking the puck past a sprawling Mettam into the net at 31:52. It has to be a contender for goal of the season for the sheer skill level and the Bison fans celebrated as Mettam rang a taxi to get back into his shorts but the Bison couldn’t hold onto the lead again as Milton Keynes went right back to the net with that 3rd line but it was Connor Goode who shot past Lyle in front of the net for his 1st EPL goal which made him 1+1 in 2 shifts.
It got worse for the Bison shortly afterwards as Joe Greener got his stick up into the face of Michael Farn which saw the second Bison player get a 5+match high sticks penalty in 2 home games and left me staring at the sky over just how daft that penalty is. It gave MK the game’s second 5 minute penalty but Chinn was called for interference and that made the teams play 4on4. Alex Mettam was also forced into a world class save when Sheppard slap passed the puck to Chambers but the Sheffield born netminder reached across with his glove and snatched the shot out of the air. I clapped the save, it was that pretty. Lyle in an attempt to go one better watched a Jamieson shot come towards him, played keepy uppy with the puck on his stick before catching the puck in his glove.
The second period ended 2-2 after 20 minutes of entertaining hockey.
Adam Brittle nearly started the 3rd period off with a bang. Lyle saw his shot coming but where the Welshman thought the puck was sailing wide it snuck goalwards but could only find the join between post and crossbar.
The physical undercurrent in the game continued and fans of both sides were calling for penalties aplenty on both sides but nothing came despite hooks, tugs and the occasional elbow led check.
Then out of nowhere the visitors took the lead. Janne Jokila walked over the blueline and fired goalwards. Lyle was set for the shot but it took a massive deflection off of the stick of Alex Symonds and Lyle had no chance as the puck sped towards the top corner of the net at 48:06.
The game kept going as the Bison searched for the equaliser but looked short of ideas. Then controversy struck; Ross Bowers’ stick clipped Jaroslav Cesky in the face and the Bison man went down. Mr Cloutman signalled for the Bison forward to get up and that it wasn’t a penalty as the home crowd reigned their frustrations down on the man in the armbands. Play continued and MK got the puck into the net but the goal was waved off with Cesky still down behind the play. It left fans of both sides confused but no penalties called, no goal awarded and the game continued.
Lewis Christie was rightly called for interference at 56:39, much to the shagrin of the MK Barmy Army, Bison took their timeout to try and set some tactics up but the powerplay didn’t come together.
Bison pulled Lyle in the last minute but looked lost going forward and couldn’t get anything in motion. The Bison managed to ice the puck with 3.1 seconds to play and not only had the game fallen from their grasp but the league title finally had as well.
Ran out of steam: I’m not going to get too much into the officiating of the game because, whilst there were some calls I disagreed with, both sides were as guilty as each other of niggles, hooks and grabs. The Bison were beaten on the night by themselves. They gave up 2 goals almost instantly after scoring, played with minimal energy and at the end when they needed a goal they played with next to no urgency.
There were positives on the night; Greg Chambers’ goal was superb and the ultimate statement of what he can do as he made Alex Mettam look downright silly to the point he was having to use a GPS to get back into his shorts.
The line of Greener, Rand and Sheppard caused a number of problems for the Lightning all night and looked very productive. It was a line with a good mix of skill, effort and grit. Sadly it was broken up when Greener was ejected but, depending on who our playoff opponents are it’s a line combination that bares using again if needs be.
The other person who had a decent night I thought despite being on the ice for at least 1 goal was Matt Selby. Playing on defence to give the Bison a 5 man defence for the first time since before Christmas the 17 year old looked calm and composed whilst wanting to actively put himself about and make hits.
The game was not a good Bison performance, it was OK but nothing more sadly and MK’s work rate ended up outdoing the Herd as a result. The team can be proud of what’s been achieved this season but last night was not a performance to make a song and dance about.
A word on our opponents: Well done to the Lightning on the win, the third goal was incredibly fortunate taking a massive deflection but the goals for Nicky Chinn and Connor Goode were simple hockey done well. Whilst the Bison earned their goals too the Lightning responded well by just going straight to the net and hunting for what they wanted. Goode in particular looks a very good player for the future for MK. I’d seen him play for MK Thunder in the past so was pleased to see him get a chance at the EPL but he looks more than capable of making the step up full time.
Janne Jokila was a fine choice for man of the match, scored a goal and looked the most troublesome of MK’s imports on the night. Tvrdek showed flashes of brilliance but was otherwise quiet as was Blaz Emersic.
It was a very good team performance from MK rather than many individuals standing out and that’s what won them the game in the end. As a team the Bison looked a bit flat and void of direction whereas MK just keep skating and working. They weren’t a mile better than the Bison but they were the better team on the night over 60 minutes.
Lowlight of the night: I could easily say the non call on the obvious high stick to Cesky from Ross Bowers as I think that was a missed call but the real lowlight? Falling flat at home to hand Guildford the title.
Highlight of the night: Chambers’ goal. For all the criticisms people have of him that was just spectacular and I’m sure the replay will only make it look better.
All images are courtesy and copyright of Grant King of 5 Hole Photography. Visit the site, buy a print.