Running with the Herd – Bison vs Slough Jets 01/03/14Posted: 02/03/2014
Basingstoke Bison 6-2 Slough Jets
Melachrino pp Lack x 2
Flying high: The Bison went into the game with the entirety of the fourth line back from injury as Cameron Wynn and Danny Ingoldsby returned to the line up. After releasing Brad Watchorn during the week, the Jets started Andrej Vasiljevic in net and had Ales Padelek in the lineup meaning Andrius Kaminskas was scratched from the lineup along with JJ Pitchley.
Having not faced off against each other more than a month ago, the Bison attempted to regain the dominance of the team’s previous meeting. Joe Rand had the Herd’s best chances early on, his delayed feed giving Doug Sheppard a chance for the redirect that called Vasiljevic into action and Rand himself took a feed from Connolly that forced another parry from the Jets’ Croation netminder.
The Jets had the occasional chance; Danny Rose battled his way past a couple of Bison defenders to get a shot away and some good work by Ales Padelek set up a chance for Ryan Webb that was wide of the target but it was the Bison having the better of the chances and possession. Tomas Karpov was set up by Michael Wales, the Czech forward having the puck close to Vasiljevic but the Croatian was again holding firm.
The Bison were sent to the powerplay shortly afterwards when Aaron Connolly was felled in the Jets zone by Mindy Kieras and the Herd’s special teams unit set to work. It took a while for the powerplay to set itself up but once it did, the passing was slick and smooth seeing the Jets penalty kill stretched. Joe Greener put the puck into the wheelhouse of Miroslav Vantroba but rather than hammering the puck as hard as he could, the Slovak hit the shot off speed and Andy Melachrino was adjudged to have gotten a touch in front to give the Bison a deserved lead at 11:26.
The Bison were soon back to the powerplay when Kamil Tvrdek tripped Doug Sheppard in the middle of a good shift from the coach, Rand and Connolly but the powerplay unit was less potent this time around and eventually the Jets were given a shortened powerplay when Nicky Chinn was called for elbows.
Chances went both ways as the first period wound down as Lack and Padelek went close for the Jets but were unable to beat Dean Skinns and Vasiljevic was able to hold shots from Andy Melachrino and Aaron Connolly at bay. The first period ended with the Bison deservedly on top but Slough’s dogged resistance was far superior to their most recent visit.
That effort was rewarded just over a minute into the second period. Having seen off an early chance from Karpov, the Jets caught the Bison napping and out of position allowing Jamie Line to find Alan Lack in front of the Bison net and his backhand shot was over the shoulder of Skinns for the equaliser at 21:32.
Doug Sheppard raced from the faceoff towards the Jets net but Aaron Connolly couldn’t connect with the pass and thus began some end to end if somewhat slow paced hockey where Tvrdek, Sullivan, and Ciaran Long with having the best of the chances. A slick Jets pass set Tvrdek again behind the defence. He toedragged the puck around the diving Matt Selby but Skinns dashed past the top of his crease aggressively and the Jets import’s shot was plucked from the air by the netminder, leaving Tvrdek to only stare at the ceiling before giving Skinns a congratulatory tap on his pads for what was a superb stop.
Nicky Chinn was himself soon put behind the Jets defence but his shot was wide and shortly after that the Bison were on the penalty kill as Joe Rand was called for slashing. Vasiljevic was replaced by Joe Myers in net to allow the Jets 3 import outskaters on the powerplay.
It sadly didn’t bode well for the former Cardiff Devils man. Joe Greener was sent off down the ice on a shorthanded play and raced towards the net. Greener tried to stuff the puck in and in the effort, Myers’ stick flew out of his hands but was adjudged to have thrown it by Mr Cloutman who called for a penalty shot. The Jets swapped Myers back for Vasiljevic (which I couldn’t see anything about in the rulebook but as Mr Cloutman and Mr Thompson have reffed more games than I’ve had hot dinners, I’ll bow to their judgement on this one) and Ciaran Long lined up for the shot.
The former Jets man took his time, going on a long and winding route before cutting to Vasiljevic’s right, dragging the netminder this way and that before poking the puck past the left pad to put the Bison back on top at 31:51.
The Bison nearly made it 3 shortly afterwards when Zach Sullivan stopped a clearing attempt and his drive was tipped by Andy Melachrino onto the post. The chances kept coming during a period of 4 on 4 play as Vantroba and Lack took offsetting penalties for holding and roughing respectively.
The Bison were given a late powerplay when Tom Avery was called for tripping which carried over into the third period but the Bison didn’t add another goal on the man advantage.
It wasn’t however long before the Bison had added to their advantage in the third period. Though the penalty to Avery had expired, the Bison were very much on the attack. Joe Rand took the pass from Aaron Connolly and out-waited Vasiljevic before firing high into the net to make it 3-1 at 41:16.
The Jets responded, feeling that they weren’t out of the game and had a guilt edged chance. Ales Padelek took the feed right in front of Skinns all on his own but with the Bison netminder scrambling for the stop, the Jets forward conspired to fire the puck over the crossbar from in close when it looked easier to score. It would prove costly moments later; Joe Greener took the pass from Vantroba and fed the puck into the slot for Nicky Chinn to drive the puck into the back of the net at 46:16 to allow the skipper to celebrate St. David’s Day in style.
The Jets response to that? They went straight back on the attack. A high energy shift provided a few chances and whilst Dean Skinns was equal to a shot from Matt Towinski, the rebound popped out to Alan Lack who was on hand to add his second of the night at 48:53.
The Bison however remained firm and didn’t allow the Jets much in the way of the extra chances, instead forcing them to take penalties when Webb boarded Melachrino and Wynn drew a trip from Kieras. Both times the Bison powerplay looked capable but couldn’t find a way through.
Slough called their timeout at 58:46 to try and formulate a plan but it was to no avail. The Jets pressed, Vasiljevic headed to the bench but a broken play saw Michael Wales poke the puck out of the zone to Tomas Karpov who battled his way through a few Jets players before shooting the puck from half way into the empty cage at 59:20.
The Bison sent out the Youth Brigade of Ingoldsby, Mogg and Wynn to cover the last 40 seconds of time and for the most part action was in the Jets zone. With time running down, Ingoldsby played the puck down low for Wynn who looked up and fed the puck to the top of the crease where Mogg held off his man and one timed the shot through Vasiljevic’s 5 hole just before the final buzzer sounded. Mr Thompson on the spot called it a good goal and Mogg’s first home goal for the Bison topped off a job well done for the hosts.
All around effort: After what was a convincing win against Slough a few weeks ago and last week against Manchester, the fear for some was that the Bison wouldn’t be up for this game against a Slough side that beat Guildford last week and shouldn’t be discounted. Luckily, despite it not being the most exciting game, the Bison were professional and ultimately their quality told.
Aaron Connolly got man of the match for an industrious performance. He only picked up the one assist but is a game that felt very stilted he seemed to be constantly moving and energetic, constantly looking for an opening or to make a hit to spark the play.
That said it wasn’t a game where anybody really stood out but where the Bison performed well as a unit. It’s been easy in recent games to pick out individual performances but today wasn’t so much about tons of moments of individual skill but the Bison not allowing themselves to being dragged into the dogfight by Slough, playing their game and winning as a result. 6 goals from 6 different goal scorers speaks to that somewhat and even in the second when there was a wobble it wasn’t to a level that ultimately cost the Bison.
The defence again looks solid though the decrease in ice time at even strength for Carl Graham is interesting. It is entirely possible that Graham is carrying an injury but at the business end of the season, shortening the defensive unit from 6 to 5 seems an odd choice when Graham could be giving players in the top 4 a rest if nothing else.
Also we have to briefly mention Mogg’s goal which was incredibly well worked and well taken. I feel we’ll hear variations on Mogg from Wynn from Ingoldsby for a while to come; the future, ladies and gentlemen.
With another game in Slough tonight, last night’s performance was one that did the business. You can’t be 5 stars and fireworks all the time, but work rate and quality will see you through more than moments of sublime skill.
A word on our opponents: This was a much better performance from Slough than their last outing in Basingstoke. With Ales Padelek and Alan Lack back in the lineup, it was easy to see the quality that they add to a Jets lineup that, whilst on the ropes isn’t out of the playoff race yet.
Lack was unlucky not to get man of the match in my opinion. He took both of his goals well, took a ton of knocks, hacks and whacks all night, took a ton of flack from the crowd and even got Dean Skinns’ blocker in his face but never stopped for 60 minutes.
That said you can appreciate why Andrej Vasiljevic got his second case of beers in Basingstoke in the space of a couple of weeks. Another 60 shot plus performance combined with a variety of decent saves was enough for those who chose the man of the match award. Some of the Bison shots in the first two periods were very much in the easy to save range but the Croatian wasn’t unnerved by the volume and held his positioning well.
Other than that the Jets lineup tried, they tried very hard but lacked the quality to really rock the Bison. Padelek was full of spark, Tvrdek had a few good chances and Jamie Line showed the same skill set that I felt should have got him the man of the match a few weeks ago but the Jets never massively worried me sitting in the stands. I did feel for Joe Myers as well as I didn’t think he threw his stick but that’s Mr Cloutman’s call not mine.
The Jets at home however will be a different prospect than last night and the Bison need to be on their guard. Whilst I don’t think they have the quality of individuals, the team spirit at Slough appears to be high. There’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal.
Lowlight of the night: Jets’ first goal as it was avoidable.
Highlight of the night: Long’s penalty shot goal was rather pretty, very well taken.