Running with the Herd – Bison vs Guildford Flames 30/11/13

Basingstoke Bison 6-4 Guildford Flames

Miller                            Duggan

Vantroba                      Longstaff x 2

Karpov                         Kohut (says the gamesheet)

Greener

Melachrino

Connolly

 

Put that fire out: The Bison headed into the game at full strength whereas the Flames were without long term absentees Curtis Huppe and Jez Lundin as well as Rick Skene and Marcus Kristoffersson so iced only 3 imports.

The first major incident was a Bison bench minor penalty that had crowd angry from the get go as someone from the Bison bench was adjudged to have grabbed at Branislav Kvetan. As it happened right in front of me (the bonus of sitting by the bench I suppose), I didn’t see a hold from the Bison bench, I did see Kvetan throw a punch. The logical thing from my mind would have been to put one of each side in the box but apparently not. The Bison managed to kill the early penalty after some good shots from the Flames.

At five on five, the Bison were having the better of the play and the better chances, Tomas Karpov dancing around his man tried to set up Michael Wales but the former Slough man couldn’t connect with Karpov’s pass.

The Flames were having chances but the Bison were coming more and more into the game and thought they had taken the lead just before the half way point of the period; Joe Miller beat James Hadfield in a race to the puck as the two fell together in a heap but Mr Cloutman quickly waved the goal off as having been kicked in again making the home crowd irate.

The Flames were sent back to the powerplay when Andy Melachrino was called for slashing but the Bison killed the penalty off and set right back to the attack. Melachrino digging at a loose puck in front of Hadfield which drew a crowd, Karpov had a shot from the slot that rang off the crossbar and it felt like it would be another night of multiple Bison chances with no joy before Joe Greener took the zone, passed to Joe Miller and the Welshman snapped a wrist shot past Hadfield at 16:30 to give the Bison a deserved lead. Miller celebrated by kicking the air, a clear indication of what he thought of his disallowed goal.

Then out of nowhere it was 2-0. The Bison kept the pressure on, worked the puck back to Vantroba who blasted through the screen provided by Rand at 17:40 to double the advantage. Almost straight away Neil Liddiard was called for holding and then it was 3-0 as Karpov fired past Hadfield from the slot at 18:04. The Herd had 3 goals in 94 seconds and ended the period with their tails up.

The second period didn’t start any better for James Hadfield as almost straight away it was 4-0 to the Bison. With the Herd pressing, Hadfield made the save from the initial Joe Miller shot but the puck rebounded out to Zach Sullivan who shot and Joe Greener was on hand to direct the puck into the net at 21:26. For some reason Hadfield was left out for another shift before he was swapped for Mark Lee at 22:07, ending his night with 4 goals allowed on 12 shots.

The Bison kept pressing; another great bit of play from Melachrino and Karpov to feed Wales whose redirect went over, Cameron Wynn had a shot in space saved by Lee and Joe Baird fired a puck off the base of the post but the next word would go to the Flames.

With Baird having been called for slashing, the Flames powerplay set to work and was rewarded for its efforts when Tom Duggan fired past Skinns at 29:41, 2 seconds from the end of the penalty.

The game became quite scrappy after this point as the Bison seemed to revert to the usual pattern of having issues in the second period, some of the play of one line forcing Joe Greener into yelling at the top of his lungs at the Bison bench.

The Flames clawed themselves back into the game further a few minutes later; Zach Sullivan iced the puck at the end of a long shift bringing the faceoff into the Bison zone. Off the faceoff, the Flames worked quickly and the shot from Kvetan bounced to an unmarked David Longstaff at the back post who had one of the easier tap ins of his career at 34:20.

The Bison had a powerplay opportunity after Kvetan was called for illegal equipment having tried to play the puck without his helmet after Aaron Connolly had draped himself over Kvetan whilst going around him but the Flames pk unit held firm.

Then, when things appeared to be getting dicey, the crowd were treated to a bit of a special goal. Despite initially being given to Tomas Karpov, Andy Melachrino picked up the puck, sped down his left wing, rounded the back of the net and fired off a shot that beat Mark Lee over the shoulder short side at 38:14 to make it 5-2 to the hosts.

The third period started relatively evenly before a slick passing move from the Flames made the game a bit tighter once again. Zach Sullivan felt he was being impeded behind the net but it was pass, pass and right onto the stick of Milos Melicherik who fired past Skinns with a lovely one time shot. It was announced as Kvetan, on the gamesheet as Kohut and both of them were incorrect. What wasn’t missed was a frustrated Sullivan having an angry conversation with Mr Cloutman then slamming his stick against the boards as he skated off.

The game was on edge for a while. The Flames were sent back to the powerplay when Aaron Connolly cleared the puck straight out of play from his own zone but powerplay and penalty kill units were evenly matched and with a faceoff in the Flames zone, called their timeout at 49:29 but nothing came of Sheppard’s set play when Karpov lost the faceoff.

The Flames had a good chance when Ben Campbell got the other side of Zach Sullivan but Dean Skinns was equal to the shot. The Bison had a powerplay when Andy Hemmings hit Carl Graham late after the play but again the Flames penalty killing unit stood firm.

The Bison nearly put themselves into a hole as time was wining down. Kohut and Graham tangled and fell with Kohut standing up and skating off with Graham’s stick. Without his stick, Graham stuck with the play and followed it behind the net where he hit Rick Plant from behind into the boards. It was called 2+10 as a check from behind but many felt Graham was lucky not to have gotten more for the infraction.

Again the Flames struck at the end of the powerplay; a great bit of play by Rick Plant to remove Sullivan from the play left the puck for Longstaff all alone in front of the net to pot past Skinns at 58:15 for the powerplay marker.

Comedy quickly ensued. With the score at 5-4 the Flames players were at the bench discussing tactics with the Bison waiting at centre ice. Having not called a timeout, Mr Cloutman got impatient, signalled he was going to drop the puck, waited till at least 5 Flames outskaters were on the ice and dropped the puck with none of them within a couple of feet of the centre dot.

The Bison went back to work and an awkward bounce off of the boards put the puck to Aaron Connolly who fired past an out of position Mark Lee at 58:57 to make it 6-4 and that finished off the game for the Bison. The final buzzer sounded and the home crowd was sent home happy for another week.

 

Made to work for it: It was another interesting second period for the Bison but all in all they were the better team on the night and it was helped by that early dominance and outburst of goals whilst in the ascendency. The Bison were helped by circumstances to a degree; facing a side with 3 imports and only icing 4 defencemen (more on that in a bit) always bodes well but a team with Guildford’s depth can never be taken lightly even and they weren’t.

Tomas Karpov got man of the match for a performance where he showed just how much of the creative heart of the team he is. He looked continually sharp and his stickhandling, particularly at speed is just phenomenal to watch. The entire line of Karpov, Andy Melachrino and Michael Wales caused issues for the Flames all night using a very simple formula that has worked for teams for ages; Wales clears the way to make space for the faster, more creatively minded players in Melachrino and Karpov to do damage. Dear Doug Sheppard, please don’t change this line for a bit.

Joe Greener was probably the other likely candidate for the beers; a 1+3 performance in what was one of his better games in the last couple of weeks. Bounces haven’t gone his way and his scoring form had been lacking but he was in all the right places last night.

The Bison’s indiscipline at times will have infuriated the fans and Carl Graham chose the worst time to check Rick Plant face first into the boards but again the Bison seem to get away with these things at times. You have to be good to be lucky they say.

Apart from the odd wobble, this was another good team performance from the Herd. They raced out to a lead, were rocked by the Flames on the comeback but held firm and took two deserved points from the encounter. A day off this Sunday gives the team a chance to enjoy their success and plan for next Saturday’s somewhat unusual encounter with Telford.

 

A word on our opponents: I’ll give the Flames credit where it’s due; shipping 4 goals early resulting in James Hadfield getting pulled and they regrouped and kept going. They didn’t play well enough to win but it takes a team of quality to keep going in those circumstances rather than just shut up shop and hope for the end. There were however some bizarre decisions made by the Flames last night.

A team a defenceman short with Lundin and Skene out and Chris Cooke saw no ice time. He even saw no ice time when Dixon had to return to the dressing room to fix an equipment issue. It was baffling and judging by the responses of some Flames fans, I’m not the only one.

The other big error came with that uncontested face off at the end. Jokes about getting onto the ice on time from Bavy aside (and seriously, how hard is it to skate onto the ice for the start of the game) but all Dixon had to do there was take the time out and that entire mess goes away. Instead they try to do what they wanted, annoyed the referee, Bison get an uncontested faceoff and immediately put the pressure on so a chance for 5-5 becomes, along with a lucky bounce off the boards, 6-4.

Rick Plant was a good choice for the Flames man of the match; he played hard, worked hard and was the best Flames player on the ice. His 0+3 performance was probably worthy of a goal and hopefully he’s ok after being driven face first into the boards.

The Flames however were second best on the night and most of the reaction from Guildford fans seems to agree with that. They didn’t start well and didn’t end well and it cost them.

The game tonight at The Spectrum between the Flames, coming off a disappointing loss and Milton Keynes who lost at home to Telford should be an interesting game for any neutrals who might be swinging by.

 

Lowlight of the night: Letting the Flames have a glimmer of hope when the Herd should have closed the game out earlier.

Highlight of the night: Andy Melachrino’s goal was very pretty.

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