Running with the Herd – Bison vs Swindon Wildcats 30+31/3/13

Saturday

Swindon Wildcats 3-3 Basingstoke Bison

Nell x 3 Greener

Cesky x 2

 

Sunday

Basingstoke Bison 2-1 Swindon Wildcats after OT

Rand Bullas

Greener

 

This is a different Running with the Herd from normal. We’re covering two games, one of which I didn’t attend but had to follow via Twitter in a variety of locations. We’ll start at the beginning;

 

Saturday

I need to thank Phil and Debi Perry for Saturday’s fun and games. Aside from both being great supporters of BOTW, they also cooked me lunch and got me to The Link for the game.

It was my first trip to The Link in about 6 years and it’s still a lovely rink to visit. It’s not exactly the pinnacle of sporting arenas but it’s decent enough. Also a great bit of sporting psychology, the away fans are split. Some are down behind one goal where I took up my position for the game and one block on the balcony at the opposite end of the rink. The only downside? There’s no speakers behind the goal so anything I missed was almost impossible to pick up later.

The game had a real playoff feel right from the get go. Tony Redmond set the tone early with a big hit on Perkkiö and the intensity didn’t let up from there. The Bison were sent to the powerplay when Ryan Aldridge was sat in the box but in true Bison fashion they nearly chucked it away straight away as they turned the puck over and Aaron Nell was in alone with Lyle but the Wildcats’ captain fired high.

The Bison had the better of the earlier chances but they were coming both ways thick and fast; Cesky intercepted a pass and fed Nicky Watt but the former Wildcat’s shot was low and kicked away by Dean Skinns in the net. Sam Bullas fed Jonas Höög in front but the EPL player of the year couldn’t get the puck past Lyle.

With the Bison probably edging the play, they eventually took advantage. Joe Greener took a feed from Tony Redmond, beat the defenceman for pace and fired a laser beam past Skinns at 14:41.

The second period started off in much the same style as the first ended; high intensity and edgy all around. The Wildcats however finally got a breakthrough when Nell got a similar chance to Greener and fired past Lyle to tie the scores at 24:35. The Bison however went right back to the attack and eventually regained the lead. A Doug Sheppard shot was saved by Skinns but Jaroslav Cesky was unmarked on the doorstep to poke the rebound home for 2-1 and less than a minute later the Czech forward collected the pass from Joe Miller, made a move and poked it 5 hole on Skinns for 3-1 after 31:49. In between the two goals Wildcats fans thought they had equalised when a Aaron Nell shot pinged off of a pipe and rebounded out. Cats fans were insistent that the puck had hit the back post and come out but there was no goal light and no signal from Mr Cloutman.

The lead however was cut shortly afterwards. Joe Rand was called for holding the stick sending the hosts to the powerplay. The puck was worked to Nell at the point who stepped past a sprawling Joe Miller and fired through a screen at 33:17 to make it 2 for himself and the Wildcats.

Then in the third period, the Bison seemed to change their game plan. The bench got shorter, they changed to playing the neutral zone trap and seemed to be playing to conserve energy. The Wildcats however just kept going at the same pace and ran themselves to the wall. They had more of the puck and more of the chances as a result. Lyle saved shots from Höög, Sandvik and pretty much everyone else but he kept standing tall and the Bison kept holding Swindon at bay.

Late in the third period Joe Greener was called for slashing which sent Swindon to the powerplay. Lyle saved one chance after the puck was worked to Perkkiö and Nell hit the post on the same powerplay before they finally tied it up. The Wildcats’ powerplay had worked really well all night with some slick passing. The puck went from Höög to Aldridge to Nell at the backdoor for the tap in and the hattrick at 54:49. Bison seemed content to ride the game out and the final buzzer signalled a tense ride for all concerned the following night in Basingstoke.

No player on either side had a particularly bad night it must be said. Players were tense and made mistakes but it’s playoff hockey, that happens. Both man of the match calls were spot on though. Lyle made some outstanding saves, especially in the third period and held the Wildcats at bay whilst the Bison played the consolidation game. Nobody else was going to get man of the match for Swindon after their captain scored a hattrick, especially after the quality of the goals her scored. Whether Nell heads back to the Elite League or not remains to be seen but he was outstanding on the night.

The other person who needs mentioning who I thought stood out above the others on the night was Alex Symonds. I commented earlier in the season that Symonds had got a man of the match award as an award for consistency after one game but on this night he was excellent.

I joked to Ben Callaghan of On The Prowl that it wasn’t Wednesday night and the refs would show up so Bison would win on the Sunday. Sadly I was stuck.

 

Sunday

You have no idea how much I love my family but they always seem to plan stuff at the wrong time of year. My cousin had decided Easter Sunday was the perfect time to get her daughter baptised.

I hate missing Bison games for this one reason; following on social media makes me much more anxious than being there. If you’re at the game then you have everything then and there. Yes you’re nervous but if the events are in front of your eyes it’s easier to take. The waiting for the news is what kills you.

The baptism service goes off without a hitch and we head back into the New Forest, further from the Basingstoke Arena for the party/buffet. The game starts around the time I’m eating a piece of spinach and feta thing in filo pastry. They cut the cake and the news comes through, Joe Rand has scored and I fist pump the air in excitement in the middle of a conversation my cousin is having about what cruise ship she is signing on this coming summer.

We head up to Salisbury Hospital where my step dad is currently residing after a blood clot in his leg. We get out of the door of my aunt’s house and Sam Bullas has equalised at this point but there’s more important things at hand. We get to the hospital and my stepdad Lee is doing well…ish. He’s fed up of sitting in a hospital bed and he’s had a skin graft recently and we’re waiting to see if the graft has taken properly. I check the phone periodically but we really need to make sure he’s doing ok. We chat and my sister offers us a lift home so we head towards the car just as regulation time expires.

For those of you who don’t know, Salisbury Hospital is not in the middle of Salisbury. It’s like someone dropped a really small town into a field. My sister turns the car out onto the road towards town as I refresh Twitter for the 8000th time that day and there it was. The weekend started with Debi Perry feeding me with and ended with her one tweet

Wooooo Coventry here we come!”

Time stood still for a moment as I scrambled to all other sources of information. It was there, Joe Greener had found a way to sneak a rebound past Dean Skinns and for the first time since the start of the blog, Curtain Down will come after the playoff quarter finals.

 

Lowlight of the weekend: I won’t tell a lie, I feel a little bad for the Swindon Wildcats fans. Every time they have come to Basingstoke they have made a ton of noise and been a really excellent group of supporters to that team. They deserve a bit more than they get and I feel for them. It’s a shame we both couldn’t have made it because as a semi final tie this would have been outstanding.

 

Highlight of the weekend: My sister is driving and speaking to my wife when I hold up my hand. “Just a minute, Mel. YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSS!”

 

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