Running with the Herd – Bison vs Telford Tigers 7/12/13

Basingstoke Bison 5-1 Telford Tigers

Karpov                         Salem (pp)

Sheppard (pp)

Vantroba (pp)



Beware of flying bears: The Bison headed into the game minus Zach Sullivan who is on international duty with the GB under 20s which saw Michael Wales switch to playing on defence for the Herd. The Tigers also lost Danny Rose to international duty and Marcus Maynard was a scratch due to injury as well as the recently released James Preece.

The Bison went on the attack right away; a Joe Baird pointshot was tipped in front but Sam Gospel made the save. Miller and Sheppard were also sprung with a 2 on 1 breakaway but rather than make the pass, Miller tried to make a move and shoot himself but ran out of room and Gospel net was breached but not for long. Danny Ingoldsby fired the pass to Joe Greener in a mile of space, Greener’s shot was saved by Gospel but Karpov was on hand to poke the rebound into the net at 05:04 as a shower of teddy bears rained down onto the Basingstoke Arena ice to celebrate the goal and Ingoldsby’s first EPL point.

The Bison kept their foot on the gas but still had to fend off the Tigers attacks, Adam Walker coming close after he redirected Timo Kuuluvainen’s shot but the visitors were quickly undone when Miika Kiviranta was called for hooking which sent the Bison to the powerplay. It took the Bison just 14 seconds to double their lead as Joe Baird’s pointshot was put past Gospel by Doug Sheppard at 08:32.

Sadly for Telford fans, the Tigers just weren’t learning from their mistakes and Michal Pavlu picked up an interference penalty that allowed the Bison to make it 3-0 just after the halfway mark of the period. The Herd worked the puck around, created the space then sent it back to the point to allow Miroslav Vantroba to fire a blast past Gospel thanks to Joe Rand’s screen at 10:05. Tom Watkins called a timeout in attempt to steady the reeling Tigers who responded well and played better for the rest of the period.

That said, it was the Bison who were playing better. Aaron Connolly had a great chance when he sped past the Tigers defence to race in on Gospel only to lack that final touch to add the Bison’s fourth goal.

Former Bison James Smith picked up a hooking call to give the Herd their 3rd powerplay of the period but it didn’t click as well as the previous two. The passes weren’t as crisp and the best chance with half a net to fire into was denied when Gospel made the best save of the night when he dived post to post to keep the puck out of the net to stop what looked like a certain goal. The period ended with the Bison deservedly in front.

The second frame didn’t start well for the Tigers. James Pease was caught out behind the Tigers’ net by Tomas Karpov. The Czech forward put the puck into the slot for Andy Melachrino steaming in but the one time shot was saved by Gospel to save Pease’s blushes.

The Bison then seemed to fall back to type and made hard work of the second period as they got themselves into quick penalty trouble with two infractions in quick succession. Connolly was called for delay of the game as he fired the puck out of play from his own zone and the Tigers were handed 15 seconds of 5 on 3 powerplay when Joe Miller was called for hooking. The Herd killed Connolly’s penalty but succumb during the second penalty kill, the puck batted out of the air past Dean Skinns by Nathan Salem at 26:20. Joe Greener tried to argue that there had been a high stick on the play but neither Mr Hogarth or Mr Hicks were swayed by his arguments.

The Tigers were in the ascendency, even as they gave up another powerplay thanks to a slashing call on James Pease. The Bison powerplay looked lost at sea and gave up two quick shorthanded breaks to the Tigers but good defensive plays by Vantroba and Baird managed to bail the Bison out of the mess they had put themselves in. Timo Kuuluvainen came close as well as he was fed the puck from behind the net but Dean Skinns was able to make the save.

The Bison topline of Sheppard, Miller and Greener were working hard during the game and the final touch finally came at the moment the Herd really needed it. As they swarmed the net, Joe Miller took the puck behind the red line. He tried to feed Joe Greener for the one timer but the Bison assistant coach scuffed the shot and the puck found its way back to Miller who looked up and fired the puck off of the back of Gospel into the net to make it 4-1 to the Bison at 33:59.

Bison skipper Nicky Chinn managed to get into an argument with the officials close to the end of the period. As he tangled with Nathan Salem, Chinn thought a penalty would be incoming and when it wasn’t he proceeded to slash Salem’s stick out of his hands. The Tigers couldn’t take advantage and Pease was called for tripping just under a minute into the Tigers powerplay. The extra space provided by the 4 on 4 played into the Bison’s hands. Kurt Reynolds managed to spring a 2 on 1, fired the puck to Andy Melachrino whose laser guided wrist shot nestled into the top of the net past a diving Gospel at 39:28. The period ended and so did Gospel’s night as he was replaced by Declan Ryan for the final frame.

The Bison started the period with powerplay time and were quickly returned to the man advantage when Kiviranta was called for slashing but there was no way past Ryan in the net.

The chances bounced backwards and forwards as the Tigers looked for a spark and the Bison just seemed to want to play patient hockey, protect their lead and strike when opportunities arose. Jaroslav Kruzik hammered a shot that Dean Skinns was equal to and Tomas Karpov had one of his trademark dances around the defence stopped by Ryan.

Danny Ingoldsby got a rise out of crowd when he checked James Smith near the benches. Smith got up and tried to take a run at the Bison youngster but the Scotsman was quickly sat back down by the young forward which had the home fans roar their approval.

The teams traded penalties, Taylor for tripping and Vantroba taking a necessary penalty as he tripped Kuuluvainen to stop a breakaway but the chances started becoming fewer and far between as the period ran down.

Sections of the crowd started chanting, wanting an appearance by Tigers’ enforcer Owen Bennett and were granted their wish but the most Bennett managed to do was be checked by Ingoldsby and Melachrino.

The final buzzer sounded on a night that got the Bison two important points and more importantly, a lot of cuddly toys for the kids at Naomi House.

Keeping focus: Last night could have been a game where the Bison ended up getting caught up in some of the recent issues off ice between the two clubs. Instead both sides were professional on the ice to the ultimate degree and it was a decent hockey game that was played out without much incident. The better team won.

Doug Sheppard got the man of the match beers and it’s hard to argue with it on reflection. Sheppard’s not been the team’s star performer over the course of the season so far, at times looking like he has been struggling for form, but last night was probably Sheppard’s best performance of the season that we’ve seen so far. It was a case of Sheppard playing his game but his hard work was creating the space he needed to be that more creative than he’s had a chance to be recently and that showed last night. His line with Greener and Miller dug out that 4th goal in the second period that helped stem the tide during what I’ll call “the second period sleep” the Bison seem to have. With the Bison playing very flat, the coach stepped up and helped drag the team through.

Kurt Reynolds had another great night on the blueline which was important with the absence of the in form Sullivan. The entire blueline corps, bolstered by Michael Wales had a few wobbly moments but were solid all night and did a good job of shutting down the Tigers offence. Many who have never seen Wales play on defence were pleasantly surprised by just how comfortable he looked on the blueline.

We also have to tip the hat to Danny Ingoldsby on his first EPL point. The 4th line don’t normally get many shifts but with the move to defence for Wales, Ingoldsby and Wynn were given more shifts and didn’t look out of place when they did. The arguments that Wynn needs to bulk up and Ingoldsby needs seasoning have some weight to them but they seem to be able to do that at an EPL level so hopefully that will continue. Stuart Mogg and Carl Graham are now the only two outskaters active on the Bison roster without a point.

The Herd weren’t massively tested last night but didn’t take their opponents lightly into the bargain as they did against Bracknell a few weeks ago. They played their game and when the Bison play their game they are a tough task to defeat in the EPL.

A word on our opponents: Whilst the recent signings have the Tigers fanbase rightly in a good mood, last night’s performance will not please Tom Watkins and the Telford coaching staff. They took too many penalties, didn’t do well on the penalty kill in the first when they gave them away and lacked attacking dynamism when going forward.

Timo Kuuluvainen rightly got man of the match because at times he felt like the sum of the Tigers’ offensive threat at times. He was the side’s most dangerous player on the night when it felt some of the other top 6 players for the visitors didn’t seem to hit their stride. His speed and handling made him a constant threat so it wasn’t a shock to see him awarded the beers.

I felt sorry for Sam Gospel mainly because (after I’d finally realised he had been pulled) I didn’t think he was playing badly. Yes he had allowed 5 goals but many were due to getting no help from his defence. Screened twice on two powerplay goals, a goal banked off of his back, a huge two on one breakaway given up. I’m sure there was a logic behind swapping Gospel for Ryan but I’m not sure the young Nottingham man’s performance warranted it.

The bigger game for the Tigers this weekend is tonight against Bracknell which is a must win in terms of the picture for the final playoff spot. The Tigers need to just put this game to one side, regroup and go again.

Lowlight of the night: Whilst I appreciate some find it fun chanting for Bennett, when the team is 5-1 up in the final minute don’t cheer for the other team’s token “enforcer”, cheer for the team!

Highlight of the night: Melachrino’s goal, utter beauty of a strike.


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