Running with the Herd – Bison vs Slough Jets 16/2/14

Basingstoke Bison 7-2 Slough Jets

Long                            Towalski

Connolly x 2 (1x dpg)   Temple

Melachrino

Rand sh

Karpov x 2

 

A very long flight: The Bison headed into the game minus all their young British forwards; Cam Wynn was still recovering from his hip flexor injury, Stuart Mogg was sidelined with an illness and Danny Ingoldsby was playing for the Basingstoke Buffalo on the road back from his shoulder injury. The Jets were minus Ales Padalek, Alan Lack, JJ Pitchley and Brad Watchorn with James Buckingham added for the contest.

The first piece of action for the Jets was Matt Towalski getting outmuscled and dumped to the ice by Matt Selby. It was something of an omen of what was to come.

The Bison soon set about stamping their authority on the contest as Tomas Karpov set off on one of his trademark dazzling skates around the entire Jets side only to be denied by Andej Vasiljevic in the Jets goal. It was then a who’s who of shooting chances for the Bison; Melachrino, Greener, Karpov and Sullivan had chances. The Jets were trying to hit on the counter as Kamil Tvrdek created a chance for Eddie Temple to walk out of the corner for the shot but Dean Skinns was caught the puck and held on.

After what seemed like a wave of unending pressure, the damn broke. Joe Greener’s pass sprung Ciaran Long behind the visitor’s defence and the former Jets man sniped it past the Croatian netminder at 09:13.

Moments later, the Bison doubled their advantage. Aaron Connolly went on a resolute charge through the Jets defence off of Sheppard’s pass. The Herd’s alternate captain was being hacked and whacked from all angles but wouldn’t be denied as he powered past the opposition to poke the puck past Vasiljevic for 2-0 at 10:10.

The Bison were relentless and kept attacking at a pace that the Jets struggled to manage. Despite some good link up play at times between Tvrdek and Line, the hosts were very much all over their opposition. Another Karpov dash up ice was thwarted by Vasiljevic, Greener and Chinn combined for some slick passing but had no final touch.

It felt like goals were coming and it wasn’t long before they did. After yet another good shift from the top line, Andy Melachrino backhanded a shot into the net at 17:50 and before the Jets could regroup, Connolly had his second of the night. Again the Bison forward powered to the net and slotted home past Vasilijevic at 18:11. 4-0 and many were questioning as to whether Joe Myers would come off the bench.

When Mindy Kieras collided with Joe Greener, the Bison assistant coach took massive exception to it and ran after the Jets captain. No fisticuffs ensued but it appeared the Jets would have something of a reprieve with the powerplay. Instead a poorly timed pass was picked off by Joe Rand and the Canadian had all the time in the world to walk in on the netminder and slide the puck through the 5 hole. 19:16 gone, 5-0 Bison and the buzzer couldn’t come quick enough for Slough.

The penalty to Greener carried over into the second period but again, Rand had the best scoring chance but Vasiljevic made the save the second time around.

Shortly after, a slight bit of controversy; the Bison fans were shouting and shouting that the net was off its moorings but none of the officials saw the net wasn’t in position. Tomas Karpov slammed a slapshot into the back of the net, only for Mr Thompson to look down, see the net out of position and wave the goal out much to the chagrin of the home crowd.

The Jets were buoyed by their escape and started to come into the game a little more with Matt Towalski forcing a save out of Dean Skinns.

Andrius Kaminskas was sent to the box for slashing Kurt Reynolds but the Bison did nothing with the powerplay, almost looking lackadaisical and it cost them moments later.

The Jets put together a smooth passing play that sprung Towalski and Line two on one against Carl Graham. Line found Towalski who fired goalwards and Skinns got a piece of it but not enough and the visitors were on the board at 28:25.

The Bison responded by trying to up the intensity again and were rewarded with another powerplay when Mr Cloutman adjudged Vasiljevic had knocked the net off and was called for delay of the game. Again the crowd roared their disapproval as it appeared the Jets had too many imports on the ice during the penalty kill but more importantly, the Bison didn’t take advantage of the powerplay.

Both teams had their chances as the period wound down, the best falling to Karpov as he dispossessed McGiffin and fired goalwads but again the Czech born Bison forward was denied.

The third period started much the same as the second period ended but the pace felt like it was falling out of the game as both sides seemed to be aware as to the result of the game. The Jets had a good chance when Sam Waller engineered a chance for Ryan Webb but Skinns made the save.

The Bison extended their lead shortly afterwards as Karpov finally got on the board. With the Bison in the midst of a change, Chinn fed the Bison’s top scorer who needed a couple of whacks at the puck but eventually found a way past Vasiljevic to make it 6-1 at 43:01, slightly tinged with irony that after all of the ice length rushes and skills he ended up scoring from about a foot.

The game got slower and slower but the Bison maintained their composure and didn’t give Slough much in the way of openings. Selby had a blueline drive go through Sheppard’s legs but straight into the gut of Vasiljevic and the Bison had another goal washed out for (you guessed it) the net being off the moorings.

Kaminskas took another penalty which gave the Bison a powerplay, Miroslav Vantroba only able to ring the puck off of the bottom of the post but the Jets got a glimmer of light a few minutes later.

A well worked attack, led again by Matt Towalski saw a shot head towards Skinns. The Bison netminder made the save but down on the ice the rebound hopped into the air and was batted into the net by Eddie Temple for his first EPL goal at 55:31.

The Bison’s response was to head right back to work and it wasn’t long before the 5 goal lead was restored when Karpov again worked his magic in tight before sneaking the puck over the line at 58:21.

The clock wound down and the Bison headed back to the dressing room satisfied with a professional job done, the side still keeping pace with Manchester in the race for the title.

 

Job done, move on: It was a pretty straight forward win for the Bison but it was a sensible performance to ensure a much needed 4 point weekend.

Aaron Connolly’s selection as man of the match was one of a few good picks the sponsors could have made but I must say, I was impressed with Connolly last night. He took both his goals well, especially the first where he was almost carrying some of the Jets players on his back whilst he scored. This was the sort of game where Connolly thrives; a game that allows him to get stuck in physically and use his physicality to his advantage.

Tomas Karpov was unlucky not to have 7 goals of his own given some of his end to end rushes where he danced through the entire Jets side and his disallowed goal. Karpov should be in the player of the year discussion. He won’t be because that’s too much like common sense.

Long, Melichrino and Rand took their goals very well, especially Rand whose shorthanded marker was really beautiful to watch.

The whole team didn’t really need to get much out of second gear but were sensible, played well and had the game killed off inside the first period.

It’s good momentum to take into some very big games with Sheffield on Wednesday and the massive game with Manchester on Saturday.

 

A word on our opponents: It sounds silly but I wouldn’t have given Andrej Vasiljevic man of the match for Slough. “Anthony, he faced nearly 60 shots” you cry but yeah I’d have given it to Jamie Line. Line played 60 minutes, made some good offensive charges, even got sticked in the face twice and still kept going.

That said Vasiljevic did what he could with minimal defensive support and made some decent saves and looked like a netminder who on his day will frustrate attackers to the point of tears.

I appreciate that Slough are a club in a difficult place at the moment; players lost all over the place (two to the Bison as well) and a virtually new squad out there. This is also a Jets side that under Craig Moran have still managed to get wins and points but on this showing it will be tough for them. They came up against a good side at a canter and were blown away.

That said I’m also pleased that Moran is giving the chances to younger fringe EPL players to make a statement at this level. Tom Avery, Ryan Webb, goalscorer Eddie Temple as well as Cam McGiffin who was meant to be splitting time with MK Thunder but now seems to be a full time Jet are all getting a chance to play big minutes at this level and have the chance to earn spots for next season. That deserves praise.

Whether the Jets make the playoffs or not remains to be seen and on this performance seems unlikely. Coach Moran has some time to adjust before the double header weekend at the end of the month.

 

Lowlight of the night: That far ahead, shutout not on and we couldn’t find a reason to give Connor Standing any icetime? Really?

Highlight of the night: Connolly’s first goal; powers through the defence and muscles it in.

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