Running with the Herd – Bison vs Sheffield Steeldogs 29/12/13

Basingstoke Bison 5-4 Sheffield Steeldogs after penalty shots

Connolly dpg                Korhon

Melachrino                    Hirst

Greener pp                   Haywood

Long pp                        Morgan

Penalties (Steeldogs shoot first)

Long – save Sedlar      Korhon – save Skinns

Karpov – save Sedlar   Wood – save Skinns

Miller – scores              Chambers – save Skinns

 

Zach Sullivan clashes with Craig Elliott in the Bison's 5-4 penalty shot win over the Sheffield Steeldogs (c) 5 Hole Photography

Zach Sullivan clashes with Craig Elliott in the Bison’s 5-4 penalty shot win over the Sheffield Steeldogs
(c) 5 Hole Photography

I’ll leave you something to remember me by: The Bison came into the game after a disappointing loss the previous night in Swindon without the injured Joe Rand who was joined on the disabled list by Kurt Reynolds who was injured in Swindon. Also missing for the Herd was Danny Ingoldsby who was training with GB under 18s. The Steeldogs were without Polish forward Mariusz Jakubik and added 16 year old defenceman Thomas Barry to the lineup.

The game couldn’t have started any worse for the Bison. Joe Baird was caught in the midst of indecision on the half boards by Andre Payette. The Steeldog player/coach won the battle and fed the puck to Lubomir Korhon who walked unopposed to the hashmarks and fired past Dean Skinns at 01:03 to give the Steeldogs the early advantage.

The visitors were the better side in the opening exchanges with the Bison looking lost at sea. The teams exchanged penalties which resulted in Sheffield having a 4 on 3 powerplay but they couldn’t convert with the man advantage. They did however double their lead with an almost mirror image goal to the first. Doug Sheppard was caught in possession on the opposite half boards to the first Steeldogs tally as Greg Chambers stole the puck and fed Andrew Hirst at the top of a crease with all the time in the world to find a hole in Skinns to make it 2-0 to the visitors at 08:13.

The Bison had a powerplay chance when Elliott was sent to the box for a high stick on Michael Wales but blew their chance when Joe Greener missed the net when all alone in front of Sedlar. It got worse shortly afterwards for the Herd; the puck was fed back to Miroslav Vantroba at the point but his stick broke on the shot giving Korhon a chance to speed away. Vantroba, now without a stick, raced back and attempted to hip check the Steeldogs import and fell to his hands and knees in the process taking Korhon out of the play. Vantroba was called for tripping on the play and was absolutely furious with the officiating earning himself two misconduct penalties in the space of 10 seconds on the play signalling his ejection, leaving the Herd with 2 imports and 3 normal defencemen. Michael Wales dropped to the blueline to cover.

The Bison were looking flat and out of the contest in the first frame when finally, a bit of skill got them back into the affair; with the official’s arm raised for a delayed penalty Tomas Karpov fed the puck to Aaron Connolly who raced up the left wing at speed. He wound up and blasted his shot past Dalibor Sedlar in the Sheffield net to get the Bison on the board at 16:27. The Herd seemed marginally sparked into life and drew a powerplay late in the first as Steve Duncombe was called for hooking but it was to no avail and the visitors lead at the first intermission.

The Bison had looked like they were going to claw their way back into the tie at the end of the first but their hopes were dented early in the second period when some simple passing from Sheffield set up Lee Haywood for the blueline shot that made its way past an unsighted Skinns and into the net to give the Steeldogs a 3-1 lead at 21:42.

The Bison responded to this third Steeldogs marker however and were playing a lot better than in the first period, the best chance falling to Ciaran Long who fired a shot off of the bottom of the goalpost.

One person benefitting from the loss of Vantroba and the moving around of players was Stuart Mogg. Playing extra shifts on the third line with the moving of Wales to defence, a pass from Joe Greener sprung the GB universities player behind the Steeldogs defence for a 2 on 1 with Andy Melachrino. Mogg held then fired the perfectly timed pass across to Melachrino who fired past Sedlar to make the score 3-2 at 26:17.

The Bison started to play more in a way that the home crowd were accustomed to but the Steeldogs weren’t going down without a (metaphorical) fight. Chambers forced a splits save from Skinns and moments later had the Bison netminder drawn out of his crease but with all the traffic in front of the Bison net, the visitors couldn’t find a way to get the puck into the goal.

The Bison had a late powerplay after Elliott was called for highsticks but the best chance fell to Elliott after he took the puck straight out of the box but he could only fire wide of Skinns’ goal. The period ended with the visitors ahead 3-2 but the momentum of the game was slowly shifting towards the home side.

The third period started at a frantic pace as first Chambers then Miller had chances on the respective netminders before the Bison were handed a chance back into the tie. With Andre Payette having been called for slashing at a faceoff, the Bison made quick work of the man advantage 4 seconds into the powerplay. Ciaran Long won the faceoff back to Joe Greener who took a couple of strides then drilled the puck low through traffic and past Sedlar to bring the Bison level at 43:18.

The Bison killed off a hooking penalty called on Nicky Chinn, a penalty kill that saw the crowd roar with approval as Joe Baird dumped the former EIHL grand slam winner to the floor. Carl Graham and Korhon were called for hooking and holding the stick respectively making it 4on4 but it was the Seetldogs that edged ahead as Ben Morgan drove a blueline shot at Skinns that squeaked through under the Bison backstop’s arm at 45:49 to make it 4-3.

The Bison however weren’t knocked back by the goal and kept coming at the Steeldogs, sensing the urgency to get the tying goal. The visitors were called for an icing infringement to hand the Bison another powerplay and the special teams unit set to work. Ciaran Long had a shot that was tipped in front by Joe Greener but it went agonisingly wide. The roles were shortly revered with a better outcome as Greener’s drive on net was redirected by Long over the shoulder of Sedlar at 52:26 to make it 4-4.

The Bison reacted by piling on the pressure, sensing there was a way end the game in regulation; Connolly fired a shot, Sedlar saved and the rebound fell to Zach Sullivan who could only see his effort saved by Sedlar. The Steeldogs’ netminder was putting on a masterclass of netminding under pressure. The Bison couldn’t find a way through and the end of regulation time sounded with the score at 4-4.

Overtime saw a continuation of the end of the third period as the Bison continued their onslaught. A great tic tac toe play saw the puck go from Sullivan to Sheppard to Miller but the Telford bound forward could only poke the puck wide of the net. With Korhon sprinting away in the dying seconds, Sheppard happily took a hooking penalty to avoid the Sheffield man having a clear run at Skinns.

The shootout saw the keepers excel; Skinns tracked Sedlar all the way and held firm, poking the puck off of his stick in tight. Sedlar responded with a confident kick save to deny Long. Wood failed to trouble Skinns as he advanced and fired his shot right into Skinns’ chest whereas Karpov was denied by a lovely pokecheck from his compatriot in the Steeldogs net. Chambers was denied by the right pad of Skinns before Joe Miller took to the ice. It was almost as if it had to be when in his final home game for Basingstoke, the Cardiff born forward advanced from Sedlar’s right and fired a lovely wrist shot into the back of the net to sign off his stint in Bison colours with the penalty shot goal to mirror Steve Moria’s end in Bison colours.

 

The Basingstoke Bison link arms on the bench during the shootout (c) Jessica Blackburn

The Basingstoke Bison link arms on the bench during the shootout
(c) Jessica Blackburn

Character win: Joe Greener opined on Twitter after the game that this was a character win for the Herd and I’m inclined to agree; having royally pooped the bed in the first period, the Herd came back in the second and dominated the third and overtime before eking out the win in the shootout. Now it’s fair that teams won’t always play 60 minutes of perfect hockey but having put themselves in the hole they dug themselves out of it minus two imports and three of our better players.

Miroslav Vantroba’s outburst nearly cost the team dearly and you have to wonder what made the Slovak lose his temper so quickly as well as what was said to Mr Cloutman to incense the experienced official in such a way. Whilst it was a very irregular thing to see from Vantroba, it was still foolish though many will be inclined to register this as a blip on the record of the solid defenceman.

Whilst it was nice for Joe Miller to get man of the match on his final home outing and a nice reward for his utter professionalism during his notice period, I’m actually not sure it was the right call on this occasion. Joe Greener had a good game with 1 goal and two assists in what was his best game for ages. In the absence of Reynolds and Vantroba, Zach Sullivan stepped up to the mark to prove why he is one of the country’s best defensive prospects. Andy Melachrino looked like a man with a mission all night and was a constant threat. Whilst I appreciate that Miller is a popular choice, I think I would have picked one of the three above instead.

Also, with Stuart Mogg tallying an assist all of Youth Brigade now have a point. Mogg took his assist well though I confess, part of me wishes he’d shot it and scored.

Either way the Bison pulled this one out of the fire. As the photo from friend of the blog Jessica Blackburn shows, this was a real team win and it was earned together.

 

A word on our opponents: I won’t make any bones about it, I’ve been critical at how the Steeldogs play at times. I also feel that at times that criticism has been entirely justified though Steeldogs fans won’t thank me for it. There have been games I’ve seen here in Basingstoke where Sheffield weren’t interested in playing hockey. Last night however was a really good hockey performance from the Steeldogs. There was a bit of physicality of course, no dog changes its spots that much but for large swaths of the game Sheffield were the better hockey team. They dominated the first period and though the Bison turned the tide of the game, I don’t think anyone can begrudge them getting a point from last night’s affair.

Lubomir Korhon showed why he is such a threat and was well worth the man of the match beers for the visitors but the Brits stepped up and made a real impression and Korhon’s closest challenger for the beers was Andrew Hirst who took his goal well and just seemed to be everywhere. Dalibor Sedlar probably saved a point for the Steeldogs in the end, responding above and beyond the call of duty when the Steeldogs were on the back foot at the end of the game.

I’m informed by Milton Keynes fans that the Steeldogs also played some good hockey on Saturday night at the Skydome. I did theorise in my Steeldogs season preview that the Dogs were playing the long game when it came to how this team played. Is this the turning of the corner for them? Will some of the physicality make way to some of the more slick play we saw last night? Time will tell.

 

Lowlight of the night: Vantroba losing his marbles.

Highlight of the night: Miller’s penalty shot to win the game; sometimes this hockey lark gives us the poetic endings.

So long...and thanks

So long…and thanks

All photographs are copyright of Grant King/5 Hole Photography apart from Jessica Blackburn’s which is copyright to her.  Visit Grant’s website for your official match night photographs. I included Jess’ photo because she was sitting in front of me and I liked it. You can buy her a cider.

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