Running with the Herd – Bison vs Slough Jets 17/11/13

Basingstoke Bison 2-0 Slough Jets

Wynn

Connolly (eng, pp)

Cameron Wynn looks on from his back as he scores the Bison's first in their 2-0 win over Slough (c) 5 Hole Photography

Cameron Wynn looks on from his back as he scores the Bison’s first in their 2-0 win over Slough
(c) 5 Hole Photography

That’s more like it: The Bison headed into the tie minus…you know what? Just assume Elliott Dewey is a scratch from here on in, I’m sure the club will tell us something eventually. The Jets went into the game with no notable absentees in what was club captain Michael Wales’ last game for the Berkshire side; the Jets looking to streamline the playing squad due to financial reasons.

The Bison started out the brighter of the two sides, early chances for Miroslav Vantroba being saved by Kamil Jarina and Joe Miller failed to connect with a slap pass but the Bison were soon on the powerplay as Miller was called for slashing at 03:24, the Welshman having got caught up with his man and his efforts to free himself were deemed worthy of a 2 minute sit down. The Bison had a good shorthanded chance as Sheppard and Greener broke out but the Bison coach’s drop pass went one way and his assistant coach went another. Padelek was gifted a chance as he given the puck in space in the slot but his weak backhand shot was easily deflected away.

The Jets were soon back on the powerplay at 06:49 as Aaron Connolly was called for charging but the Jets special teams unit didn’t seem to be firing on all cylinders in the first period. Coach Slava Koulikov had the best chance; a static Bison defence allowing the Jets forward to wind up and fire a hard shot on net but Dean Skinns saw through the traffic and gloved it out of the air.

In 5 on 5 play the Bison were having the better chances and eventually the pressure told. Tomas Karpov worked his magic again as he stickhandled around the Jets defence and round the back of the net, drawing defenders to him. Karpov fired the puck across goal where it was met by Cameron Wynn who slotted past Jarina at 09:55 just before a defenceman could knock him off the puck for his 2nd goal of the campaign.

The Bison continued to press and were having plenty of chances but were being met with stern resistance from Jarina in the Jets goal and some really high energy play from the line of Wales, Lack and Towalski. The Herd had a golden chance to double their lead as Karpov and Greener broke away 2 on 1 but the former lost his edge and fell meaning the later’s pass sailed past him into the corner with the net gaping.

The first period ended with the hosts deservedly in front and they looked to continue the pressure in the second period. Joe Greener went close early off of a feed from Miller before having a go himself, a weaving run that mesmerized the Jets defence but was let down by the final shot which was easily saved. The line of Chinn, Rand and Connolly was also laying into the Jets as they got the cycle going and ran their opponents ragged. They lacked the final touch but even when they lost the puck forced the Jets into an icing call as they looked to clear their lines at all cost.

Slough however were slowly edging their way back into the contest as the Bison took their foot off the gas; a great passing move setting up Dan Davies produced a good save from Skinns. The rebound fell to Pliskauskas but his shot could only connect with Davies as he was falling to the floor.

Then out of nowhere there were punches; a bad hit by Lack on Reynolds drew a crowd and Lack and Andy Melachrino came out of it swinging at each other; both players knocking each other down. Melachrino was cut, some are saying it was Lack, some a stick, and didn’t return to the ice as he required stitch work.

The Jets started to attack more and were stretching the Herd’s defence but Skinns stood firm against the onslaught; at one stage using the pokecheck to break up the play which sent Aaron Connolly off to the races but his wrap around chance was stopped by Jarina.

Chances came and went before and the teams exchanged powerplays; Karpov was called for slashing which saw Joe Miller give a brief penalty kill masterclass before the Bison had a chance after Rose was called for high sticks. After the powerplay expired, arguably the best chance of the period fell to Stuart Mogg during a rare shift, the Bison youngster turning on a sixpence in the slot to fire goalwards but Jarina blocked it with his pads.

The Jets were nearly on the scoreboard at the end of the period; a bad turnover by the Bison at their own blueline gave Padelek a chance. It looked like a defender hauled him down but he got up in time to try a shot which Skinns saved. With no penalty coming from the trip, play continued only for Joe Baird to fire the puck straight out of play for a delay of game penalty at 39:42 and the Bison headed into the final period a man down.

It was the start of a bit of penalty trouble for the Bison. The Herd killed off the delay of game only for Baird to be released then be put back in the box seconds later for hooking Dan Davies but the Jets couldn’t find a way past Skinns.

The Bison had a powerplay chance after Mindy Kieras tripped Connolly but nothing came of the man advantage as the Bison played themselves into a bit of a hole. After a controversial icing call, the Herd were called for an icing infraction which they saw off but then Baird was called for tripping and Connolly was called for slashing as Skinns took a shot off the mask giving the Jets a 1:08 5 on 3 at 49:24. Slough took their timeout to discuss tactics but a resolute penalty killing performance by the Bison (including the odd sight of Zach Sullivan taking a faceoff) killed the 5 on 3 then rode out the storm.

The game was getting tighter and tighter as the Jets were playing with more purpose and desperation as the Bison looked for the hammer blow to close out the game. They had a chance when Pliskauskas was called for tripping at 55:38 but good puck movement on the powerplay came to nothing.

Jarina was pulled for the extra attacker but the Jets didn’t seem to be able to make that killer move and the Bison kept sending the puck down the ice but were denied an empty netter by Ciaran Long and lack of accuracy respectively.

The task was made harder for Slough when Davies shoved Miller to the flow off the play which earned him a roughing penalty. The Jets attack looked worn out as Rand disposed a Jets player and fed Connolly who fired down ice and into the Jets net at the buzzer to give the Bison another 4 point weekend and book their place in the cup semi finals.

Aaron Connolly leaps into the arms of Nicky Chinn as his empty net goal seals the Bison win. (c) 5 Hole Photography

Aaron Connolly leaps into the arms of Nicky Chinn as his empty net goal seals the Bison win.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

Doing what they do best: After last Saturday’s rather disappointing effort against the Bees and the nailbiter against Peterborough the night before, this win was something of a tonic for the soul. The Bison returned to playing simple, hard and sensible hockey and it worked. They didn’t do much that was overly flashy and perhaps that was the right thing to do given the recent games where they arguably were overconfident. They played a really tight game, limited Slough’s chances and those that did get through were stopped by Dean Skinns.

Yes we do need to moan about the penalties again as the Herd are just taking too many of them. I won’t repeat myself too much but you have to wonder if whether the refs genuinely don’t like the Bison (not true, the officials are always right) or whether the team just needs to adjust their style of play slightly. The Bison had 18 minutes of penalties in the second and third period combined including over a minute of 5 on 3 penalty kill. I’m all for playing with a bit of an edge, the best players do but it bit the Bison in the behind in Milton Keynes and could do so again.

As for man of the match, I don’t blame the sponsors for their choice of Joe Miller, his was the more obvious performance last night but for myself and others, Dean Skinns was the more obvious choice for man of the match. Calm and collected even when the team seemed to flap a bit, Skinns earned his first shutout of the season having only faced 20 shots but the shots that were getting past the defence were of decent quality or when the team was stretched.

BOTW said that when Skinns signed that it was fair that people had questions given his last stint with the Bison but 20 games into the season, have those questions been answered? Yes the team as a whole have had lapses but Skinns’ performances, certainly the ones at home covered by BOTW have been more than capable. Skinns has played more minutes than any netminder in the league, is seeing around 29 shots per game with a GAA of 2.85 and a save percentage above 90%. Now if you look at the tables for netminding stats then Skinns is 6th but apart from Stephen Fone, none of the netminders above him have played more than 500 minutes when Skinns has played close to 1000. The defence is obviously a lot better than his last stint here and it has been put together to suit his style of play, this is true. I also appreciate that Bison fans might win the title of hardest cynics in the league and for good reason but even we might now need to admit that Dean Skinns has proved people wrong.

It was a night of unspectacular but solid performances; Sullivan, Reynolds, Karpov, all the usual suspects performed well. Cameron Wynn got the game winning goal and his first multi goal season as a senior but I assume he might have given Karpov a beer for the assist.

It wasn’t the best ever Bison performance, that’s for sure and with Peterborough at home then away in Manchester next weekend the team need to be all guns blazing next weekend but confidence plays a big part and a solid home win is a good start.

A word on our opponents: Whilst their off ice antics confuse many, their own fanbase included, it was a spirited effort from the Jets last night. Having had the nightmare start when the teams last played, Kamil Jarina looked decent. He’s obviously settled and had time to get used to the players around him and he does look like a decent netminder. Sadly he wasn’t given much help offensively.

The choice of Darius Pliskauskas as man of the match for the Jets was bizarre to say the least. The top two lines had the odd chance for the Jets but there was never a great amount of energy or bite bar the occasional chance from Padelek.

The Jets man of the match could have been Jarina but also any one of Alan Lack, Matt Towalski or the now departing Michael Wales. It’s not hard to see why Wales was made Jets captain on the strength of performances like last night. I’ve given Wales a fair share of stick from the stands over the years but he was a true professional last night. That line had all the energy, all the oomph and looked most likely to make something happen. I was also impressed by young defenceman Cam McGiffin. He played a simple game, didn’t make many mistakes and is definitely one to keep an eye on.

It just wasn’t the Jets’ night. They huffed and they puffed but were shut down easily but a well drilled side. It happens and the Jets will move on from it but finances aside, given some of the performances of the “better quality” players, the releasing of Wales looks stranger and stranger.

Lowlight of the night: Too many penalties…again

Highlight of the night: The overall performance of the Bison; put their heads down, worked hard and won.

"They really don't pay me enough for this rubbish"

“They really don’t pay me enough for this rubbish”

All photograpgs courtesy and copyright of Grant King aka 5 Hole Photography. Visit the website, buy a print and remember that the best goal you can score is like the best in hockey photography; always go 5 Hole.

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