Running with the Herd – Bison vs Peterborough Phantoms 2/11/13

Basingstoke Bison 5-2 Peterborough Phantoms

Connolly                      Petran

Karpov x 2                   L. Ferrara

Melachrino

Miller

 

By the spirits: The Bison once again scratched Elliott Dewey for the contest (seriously guys, if he’s not part of the team any more or injured or what then say as it’s starting to look weird) and the Phantoms were without Nicky Watt and Marc Levers and added Harry Harley to the lineup.

The first period had a sluggish start as the teams seemed to be winding up into the action. The Phantoms were sent to the powerplay when Joe Baird stood in Jaroslav Cesky’s way for a bit too long. The Phantoms powerplay tactic would not surprise any Bison fans as the puck was worked back to Marcel Petran who fired a howitzer of a shot goalwards but Dean Skinns was equal to it.

The game was very bitty and lacking in intensity which was filtering into a quiet crowd. Carl Graham flattened Frantisek Zubek, Declan Balmer’s point shot caused a scramble in front of Skinns and Zubek was released with a lovely pass which put him behind the Bison defence but his breakaway was stopped by Skinns. Zubek however would be called for tripping Joe Greener and the Bison would make no mistake on the powerplay. Some lovely movement of the puck saw Joe Rand feed Aaron Connolly in the slot who span and fired a backhanded shot past Tom Murdy at 12:27.

The Bison quickly had two more powerplay chances. Will Weldon was called for holding onto Danny Ingoldsby which confused the Peterborough man but to the box he went but Murdy held firm on as the Bison upped their tempo; his best save coming when Vantroba’s shot was tipped in front and the Phantoms netminder plucked the puck out of the air.

The Phantoms came off the penalty kill and then went pretty much back onto it as Luke Ferrara was called for tripping and after peppering the Peterborough goal with shots, the dam eventually broke. Tomas Karpov was the man to double the Bison lead as he took the feed from Vantroba, skated across the front of the net and fired past Murdy as he fell to the ice. The sigh of relief from Karpov as the puck finally went in was audible as the Bison now lead 2-0 at 18:15.

The Phantoms however were not going quietly into the night and their band of travelling fans were relieved when they eventually got another powerplay as Baird took his second penalty of the period for high sticking Cesky. There was no mistake from Marcel Petran this time as the puck went back to the blueline and the former Bison fan favourite absolutely hammered the puck into the back of the net at 19:27 to make the end of the period more tense than the Bison would have liked it to be.

The second period started off with more pace than the first had. Barely two minutes into the frame the Bison found themselves 3-1 up, a pile up in front of Murdy’s net after some good work by Burrows and Karpov saw the puck sitting at the top of the crease for Andy Melachrino to pounce and fire home at 22:04.

The Bison however would little time to celebrate at that stage as Luke Ferrara took matters into his own hands. In what was one of the prettier goals we’ve seen in Basingstoke this season, the Phantoms man drifted past the Bison defence as if it wasn’t there before advancing on Skinns’ net and firing past the Bison netminder to make it 3-2 at 23:14. It was a goal so pretty a couple of people around me applauded it.

A few minutes later saw a coming together as Joe Miller and Will Weldon clashed; Weldon slashed Miller, Miller yapped at Weldon and threw his gloves down as it looked like they were about to go but Weldon just stared at Miller and nothing happened. Weldon took a slashing penalty, Miller a roughing penalty and the fans got 4 on 4 hockey for two minutes. The teams were very even with the extra space but as the penalties ran down it was something of a deathblow for the Phantoms; the outlet pass from Joe Baird found Miller as he left the penalty box and the Welshman raced in on Murdy and slotted past him at 29:56 to make it 4-2.

The Phantoms kept looking for ways to spark their offence into life but the Bison defence was equal to the task. Cesky took a lovely stretch pass at the Bison blueline but before he could do anything with it, Reynolds was on hand to strip the Czech forward of the puck. Luke Ferrara had another impressive rush to the Bison net but this time Skinns was able to cover his near post and make the save. The Bison were weathering the storm and then added the exclamation point; a shot from Tomas Karpov in the slot sneaked past Murdy with Miller hanging at the post for any potential rebound. I personally thought Miller had scored it but Miller apparently went straight to the scorer to say he’d not touched it. Either way it was 5-2 Bison at 36:49.

The period wound down with chances at both ends. Two of the Ferraras combined for a good chance but Skinns got a shoulder to it and the puck looped over the Bison net. Joe Greener created a chance when he literally ran Balmer over and created a two on one with Sheppard but Greener’s pass was too hard for Sheppard to control.

The third period started out with Carl Graham levelling Thomas Soar with a lovely hip check at the half boards and the Bison kept pressing their authority as they had the better chances in the first half of the period. Vantroba set up a play by levelling one of the Ferrara brothers which allowed the Bison to break giving Connolly a chance for his second but Murdy made the save. Greener was given a one time chance after some good work by Sheppard and Miller but again Murdy was up to the task and kept the puck out of the net.

Karpov was hit by Petran which gave space for Andy Melachrino to race in and flash the pass across to Burrows but the German born forward could not beat Murdy. Petran was called for boarding for the hit but the Bison could not capitalise on the man advantage.

The Phantoms had a decent chance when Cesky fought past Sheppard to get a shot away but Skinns was able to make the save and the officials were able to ignore Cesky’s protestations that he was held. The period wound down without much incident and the Bison made it 11 points from the last 12 on offer to the delight of the home support.

 

Passing through ghosts: People at the game last night would be forgiven for feeling the game lacked a certain amount of intensity of the recent win over Guildford but as the Bison never really got out of second gear, it’s not really a surprise.

The hosts were on top of the game throughout and the tight-knit brand of hockey that Sheppard has the Bison playing at the moment once again produced a solid all round performance. Joe Miller got man of the match though I probably would have given it to Tomas Karpov, his three point night combined with some excellent stick handling and good play with his linemates Melachrino and Burrows. Karpov’s skill on the puck is hypnotic at times and his playmaking skills have been a real benefit to the club this season.

That’s not to take away from another good performance from Miller, his goal after stepping out of the box was as close to being what I’d describe as a “Miller” goal as any he’s scored.

One player who I thought had a good game and doesn’t normally get a lot of mentions here is Joe Baird. Yes he took three quarters of all the Bison’s penalties last night but it’s fair given his recent good play and some really good attempts on goal last night to put a little focus on the former Swindon man. Some were concerned when Baird signed that he would be a liability on the back end for his lack of speed and tendency for taking penalties but Baird has been used well by Sheppard and has been beyond dependable on the back end. OK he’s not exactly the fastest guy out there but he’s a wise head in the chaos and isn’t making silly mistakes.

It was also good to see decent ice time for the Youth Brigade line. As a friend of mine pointed out, Stuart Mogg’s faceoff percentage is improving as he’s getting more opportunities at the dot. The youngsters very rarely come onto the ice on the fly meaning Mogg’s getting a lot of faceoff chances but they are earning the trust of Sheppard to go out there and put in a solid shift to rest the higher lines.

Everyone played their part last night and it’s making for entertaining Bison hockey.

 

A word on our opponents: The Phantoms tried last night but it really wasn’t enough. The Cambridgeshire side were second all night and sadly for their travelling fans never looked like really clawing the lead off of the Bison.

I always say that the away side don’t owe the home fans entertainment but still it wasn’t an entertaining game from the Phantoms. The structure was there but at times the attack was too basic, too straightforward and easy to read and so was easily broken up by the Bison defence. All the flashes of brilliance came from two players; Luke Ferrara and Tom Murdy.

As already said, Ferrara’s goal was downright pretty to the point a few Bison fans applauded it. He was a decent choice for man of the match for me (everyone else said Murdy) as he was the one player who in my mind seemed to be trying to do something to spark the Phantoms, much in the same way I described Smital’s performance for Bracknell earlier in the season.

Murdy played decently but got no support from his defence. I think I probably chose Ferrara over him for man of the match in my head because he still shipped 5 goals when he could have stopped four of them and whilst he made some good saves, none of them were particularly spectacular. It’s all personal opinion on that front and I’ll finish this bit by saying that Murdy still played well. His personal performance was admirable when very few on that Phantoms side performed to full potential. Marcel Petran’s goal was well taken but bar a boarding penalty in the third period, he did little else of note.

The effect Nicky Watt and Marc Levers would have had on proceedings would have been interesting. Watt’s added physical presence and Lever’s defensive abilities were probably two areas where the Phantoms could have used the extra boost and would have added a different dimension to the game. That’s pure speculation of course and sadly for the Peterborough faithful it was another road loss. Given reports of their Wednesday night narrow loss in Guildford, this was not a repeat of that performance.

 

Lowlight of the night: The game was just a bit flat from start to end; lower crowd due to the fireworks displays, not the most interesting of games, the joint wasn’t as rocking as it has been.

Highlight of the night: The Bison 4th goal; just superbly well timed and a resumption of Miller Time.

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