Running with the Herd – Bison vs Swindon Wildcats 24/3/13Posted: 25/03/2013
Basingstoke Bison 6-3 Swindon Wildcats
Miller x2 Nell
Sheppard x3 Perkkio
The start of what’s to come: Bison headed into the game without Kurt Reynolds and Andy Melachrino. Nicky Watt dressed for warm up and sat on the bench for the first but didn’t ice. Swindon rested Jan Melichar as the extra import and added Floyd Taylor.
The game started off relatively evenly with few clear cut chances for either side but the Bison were having the more dangerous looking attacks. The Wildcats appeared to be struggling to get the puck on net and looked flat. Shane Moore tried to stand up Cam Wynn at the Bison blueline but was subsequently dumped to the ice by the Bison youngster.
Shortly afterwards the Bison made their pressure tell. Joe Miller skated into the zone and floated a shot goalwards that just seemed to perplex Dean Skinns in the Wildcats net for the game’s opening tally at 05:01.
Swindon kept trying to attack with speed but the Bison defence remained patient and kept snuffing out attacks from the visitors. Bullas and Nell had a great 2 on 1 chance but Matt Selby diving across the path of goal forced Aaron Nell’s shot wide and it would cost the Wildcats. With the puck in the Wildcats’ zone, Tomas Fojtik overskated the puck and Cesky and Sheppard pounced on the chance. The Bison imports played a neat series of 1-2 passes before Sheppard tucked home the final pass at 10:18 for a 2-0 Bison lead.
It only got worse for the visitors; Höög hooked back Greener as he was trying to work the puck into the net down low which sent Bison to the powerplay. After setting up from their own end, Cesky fed Miller who skated over the blueline and whilst using Paul Swindlehurst as a screen slotted his second goal of the period for a 3-0 Bison lead at 12:58.
Skinns appeared to be fighting the puck most of the first period as he coughed up large rebounds of let shots squirm through him but the score stayed at 3-0 as the first stanza ended, leaving the Bison fans in high spirits and the Wildcats looking for a way to regroup after tallying 1 shot in the first 20 minutes.
Whatever Ryan Aldridge said to the Swindon players in the first break worked well as the visitors came steaming out of the gate for the second period, instantly putting the Bison under pressure. Greg Chambers was called for holding shortly after the start of the period and the Wildcats powerplay took 46 seconds to find the back of the net, the deadly combination of Perkkio, Höög and Nell linking up for the British star to fire past Lyle at 21:29 for 3-1.
The Bison tried to weather the storm but the Wildcats were creating chances; Alex Symonds pinched in for a shot but it deflected to Höög who raced away with his trademark speed towards Lyle. The two players, arguably both candidates for EPL player of the year were in a showdown. Höög faked one way, then the other but his superb stickhandling was tracked all the way by Lyle who stopped the Finnish forward with his right pad.
The Bison managed to reign the Wildcats back in and the period was a lot more even after that point and the Bison started firing more pucks on Skinns. Miller and Wynn broke in 2 on 1 but their picture perfect play was denied a happy end by a great stop by the former Bison netminder who then stopped Miller’s follow up chance. Redmond clipped the outside of a post with a shot and a goal mouth scramble caused by pressure from Cesky were some of the golden chances the Bison had to extend their lead but they couldn’t make the chances count.
All it took was one good attack from Swindon to make the game a bit more of a nail biter. Swindlehurst fed Aldridge with a lovely cross ice pass and the Wildcats player/coach fired across goal for Perkkio to tip in past Lyle at 38:21 for 3-2. The Wildcats fans were in fine voice as they felt a comeback was on. They were to be denied by a moment that Bison fans had been waiting all season for.
After the earlier save by Skinns and a lovely move where he walked round one man only to have another shot saved, many were wondering if Cameron Wynn would ever break his EPL scoring duck. He’d had a ton of ice time to this point in the game and been given some guilt edged chances but he wasn’t getting the bounces. Then finally, in the last game of the regular season, it all melted away. Miller played Rand in behind the static Wildcats defence allowing the Canadian to fire the puck across the crease to the waiting Wynn who onetimed it top shelf past Skinns. The Bison junior product raised his arms skyward as Rand scooped the puck up off the ice as a souvenir of the occasion. The crowd and the bench erupted in delight at what they hoped was the first of many goals for Wynn in Bison colours.
The second period ended shortly afterwards and though the Wildcats had the scoring edge in the period, the momentum was very much with the Bison as the final frame approached.
The Wildcats started the third period with a powerplay but their best chance came after it ended. Höög, showing why he’ll be a first team all star, danced around Zach Sullivan like he didn’t exist but Lyle was on hand again to make the stop.
The Bison extended their lead shortly after as they were sent to the man advantage by a slashing call on Swindlehurst. The Bison powerplay unit took 33 seconds to make it 5-2 as Doug Sheppard got the last touch from a shot from Greg Owen past Skinns at 44:44 but in the blink on an eye it was 5-3.
The Bison were on the powerplay but a turnover proved costly. Höög zipped past Cesky and rocketed a shot through the wickets of Lyle at 45:30 for a short handed marker. The Wildcats fans sat up hoping for a heroic comeback to secure 6th place but that idea was put to bed 2 minutes later.
The Bison went straight back to the attack and fresh off his new contract for next season, Sheppard completed the hattrick when Greener’s shot rebounded to him to slip past Skinns at 47:70 for 6-3.
Swindon had a powerplay chance when Graham was called for tripping, the best chance falling to Höög when he was set up for a one timer but Lyle made a great stop to his left. The powerplay ended with Joe Greener sprinting away with the puck but his shot could only clatter off of Skinns’ mask.
The game started winding down with few incidents, the one major one being Sandvik clipping Tony Redmond in the face with his stick to no call from Mr Matthews. The Bison captain exited the ice, giving the referee a look normally reserved for only the most heinous of Rangers fans.
The clock ticked down on the EPL regular season and another Bison home victory to round out the campaign. It wasn’t till about 20 minutes or so afterwards with both teams in the bar that they realised they were now also playoff opponents.
Seeing it off in style: Whilst the 2012/13 league campaign ultimately didn’t end the way we wanted it to, the last game was certainly one to be savoured.
We can’t go much further without talking about Cameron Wynn and his goal. There are times when teams can get accused of being patronising towards their younger players when they do things like get some time in net or score their first point but it genuinely didn’t feel like that was what was happening last night. We’ve watched Cam across this season working hard for his opportunity and, in very Basingstoke fashion some would say, just not getting the bounce needed. The team were clearly trying to set the lad up for large chunks of the second period last night but you have to be able to finish the chance and finish he did. I can’t think of many better ways to score your first EPL goal than one timing a shot top shelf. Now that monkey is off his back and that puck on his mantelpiece we can all start longing after the next young Bison product to come from juniors to get their first goal.
Whilst Wynn was a fair choice for man of the match in the circumstances, you have to feel for Doug Sheppard a little; 3 goals, covered the ice all night and no man of the match beers to show for it. It was a good night for many players; Rand and Cesky both had 3 assists, Miller went 2+1 and some would argue it’s not right that sentimentality win out over hard graft but hockey is a game of the heart as well as the head. The head will win 9 times out of 10, last night was the 1.
The Bison played well though were pinned back for a stretch at the start of the second. They slacked off for Swindon’s second goal particularly, the third was a great bit of individual skill so we’ll give them that one.
All in all however it was a powerful message to potential playoff opponents that the Bison are going full steam and can dispatch sides. The team are playing well as a unit and made a side that we now have to play again look very ordinary. The trick now is to do it when it matters.
A word on our opponents: It was likely a frustrating night for the Wildcats fans but I’ll leave their views on themselves to Ben Callaghan of On The Prowl. From my perspective the Wildcats played well for stretches, not very well for longer stretches and got beaten by the better team on the night.
Jonas Höög should be a 1st team EPL all star every day of the week and twice on Sundays for his performances across the season. He was a worthy choice for man of the match for last night. He was a constant threat and the Bison were burned at least once by his turn of pace for that short handed goal.
The entire top Wildcats line with Nell and Perkkio again showed why they are so dangerous but I was once again left not feeling a lot of love for the Wildcats defence. The big issue for Swindon was Dean Skinns seemed to be fighting the puck most of the night and his defence giving too much space for the Bison forwards to attack.
Patchy is probably the best word that could describe Swindon’s performance; 1 shot in the first period followed by 7-8 minutes at the start of the second where they really came at the Bison followed by playing alright and rounded off with subdued acceptance of the final result in the last 10 minutes of play. It’s not a great sign at the business end of the season.
The Wildcats fans are a good bunch who always come down to Basingstoke and make a lot of noise. I’m looking forward to returning to The Link for the first time in a few years on Saturday but if Swindon play next weekend how they did last night, then their chances of making Coventry are not great. Is there a chance? Of course, there’s always a chance but if they don’t play 6 periods of hockey next weekend it won’t be much of one. Ryan Aldridge has a week to get his charges up for the task.
Lowlight of the night: Bison switching off and allowing 3 goals that better defence should have stopped.
Highlight of the night: It has to be doesn’t it. Come all without, come all within, you’ll not see nothing like the Mighty Wynn.
All photos courtesy and copywrite of Grant King and 5 Hole Photography. Visit the website and get a print of that goal…or any of the goals.