Running with the Herd – Bison vs Sheffield Steeldogs 15/3/14Posted: 16/03/2014
Basingstoke Bison 4-3 Sheffield Steeldogs
Greener x 2 (1x pp) Squires
Rand x 2 (1x pp) Payette
From war to war: The Bison could again call upon the services of Matt Selby having served his suspension. The Steeldogs entered the contest adding Thomas Barry on defence and Brandon Stones as backup netminder, starting Dalibor Sedlar.
The tone of the game was set very early when Wales and Payette were jawing and jacking, hacking and whacking at each other at the opening faceoff. 22 seconds in the first crowd was drawn which resulted in a Bison powerplay, Ben Morgan taking a seat for roughing but the Herd couldn’t take advantage.
It got uglier moments later; Ashley Calvert left his knee out when he hit Joe Baird. The Bison man, unhappy at the hit and lack of call took a whack at Calvert who crumpled to the ice. Craig Elliott sprinted across the ice and jumped on Baird and the two had a sprited if uninspiring scrap. Calvert sprung to his feet to join the fray but ultimately the Steeldogs ended the fray with the powerplay as a result of Baird’s slash whilst Elliott got an extended sit down with a misconduct.
The game was not a masterclass of passing and puck movement, rather a disjointed, scrappy affair that frustrated the home crowd. They were more frustrated moments later when the visitors took the lead; a shot from Ashley Calvert rebounding off of the endboard into the path of Tom Squires who had most of the net to shoot at, giving Sheffield the lead at 07:23.
The Bison had their chance to get back into the contest just over a minute later. With the Bison attacking in the Steeldogs’ zone, Steve Duncombe got his stick up on Joe Rand and the hosts were back on the powerplay. The Bison powerplay wasn’t operating at full power but the equaliser came when Miroslav Vantroba hammered a shot goalwards and Joe Greener was on hand to bundle the puck over the line at 09:56.
The bad tempered nature of the game continued; Payette and Greener clashed at the Bison bench and were given matching roughing minors. The crowd was struggling to get into the tie as well, nervous as to the importance of the game and that the Bison seemed to be playing into the Steeldogs’ gameplan.
Then out of nowhere, the Bison were ahead. The Bison got a faceoff to Sedlar’s right, Chinn won the faceoff straight to Joe Greener who slammed a shot off of the crossbar and into the back of the net at 14:38 to put Basingstoke in front.
The Herd had another powerplay chance shortly afterwards when Andre Payette took a roughing penalty but there was no luck on this powerplay.
Tom Squires had a good chance for the visitors when he got the other side of Joe Baird to get in on Skinns but the former Hull man missed the net.
The first period ended with the Bison ahead on the scoreboard and they had a golden opportunity to extend their lead when Andre Payette held Michael Wales’ stick and by held I mean the Steeldogs’ player/coach actually skated off with it in open play for a good few seconds.
The Bison however were burned just after the powerplay expired. Payette jumped out of the box and joined the play. Greg Wood took the shot which Dean Skinns paddled away but right into Payette’s path and the Canadian levelled the score at 22:40.
The penalty strewn affair continued as first Elliott was called for high sticks then Danny Ingoldsby was called for holding. The game was very disjointed as the Bison’s usual fluid game was being stiffled by the Steeldogs.
The Bison took back to back penalties when Vantroba was called for hooking and then the Bison were called for an icing infringement. This saw a furious Joe Greener remonstrate with Mr Hogarth, certain the call was unjust but the only thing the Bison got from the exchanges was to be down by a goal. The Steeldogs’ powerplay stretched the Bison defence, sent the puck back to the point and Steve Duncombe drove the puck into the back of the net to give the visitors the lead at 36:53.
The Bison ended the second period on the powerplay when Elliott was called for hooking and the period ended with the odd sight of Sheffield pulling Sedlar for the final second of the period when the Bison had iced the puck but the buzzer sounded and the visitors were ahead as the news that Manchester had lost in Swindon filtered through the arena.
The message had obviously reached the Bison who came out for the third period with a different focus. The Bison’s attack changed into a more direct style in the hope of breaking down the visitor’s physical defence.
The chances started to come; Vantroba ringing a shot off the base of the post and Chinn feeding Melachrino for a redirect thar was saved by Sedlar. The Steeldogs came close thanks to a chance from Lubomir Korhon when he got into some space but Skinns was on hand to save the shot.
The game was still, to put it mildly, a bad tempered mess with stick work a plenty. Andre Payette got his stick up on Ciaran Long which drew no call to the anger of the home crowd and it looked like it would be one of those nights for the Bison.
Step forward Joe Rand; the Canadian so often an unsung hero for the Herd across the last two seasons was the man to level the scores when a massive scramble in front of Sedlar saw the puck squirt loose and it was Rand who dived into the fray to eventually shovel the puck over the line at 48:05 to even the scores. The Ontario born forward raced over and jumped into the Bison bench in celebration.
The Bison continued to press in search of the needed go ahead goal. Joe Greener and Nicky Chinn were sent away 2 on 1, Greener electing to take the shot himself and the puck rebounded off of Sedlar and a defender before it was eventually frozen by the Steeldogs netminder.
Sheffield were still trying to play their game, physical (some would say overly so) and seeking to disrupt the Bison at every turn. The physicality boiled over slightly when Skinns froze a puck and a little crowd formed. Former Bison forward Greg Chambers decided to give a gloved shot to a Bison player’s face in front of the officials and the Herd were sent to the powerplay.
The powerplay began the puck was quickly worked around and then in front of the net. All 9 outskaters seemed to descend onto Sedlar’s crease but it was Joe Rand again who got the telling touch as the puck was called over the line by the referees at 54:08 and the home fans could sense vistory was within reach.
The teams played 4 on 4 when Korhon and Chinn came together and were called for roughing and the chances started to come thick and fast in both directions as the Bison looked to put the game to bed and the Steeldogs looked for a way back into the game.
The Steeldogs called their timeout with 77 seconds to play and it looked even more dangerous when Reynolds pulled his man down to give the Steeldogs a powerplay. The Bison spent the remaining 54 seconds defending for their lives, diving in front of every puck and the final buzzer sounded to the delight of the home crowd to set up what essentially becomes a winner takes all encounter with Manchester.
To the wire: Well, that game was flat out painful to watch for a variety of reasons. There’s the easy way and there’s the Bison way but whilst the Bison way seems to be about enducing an entire arena of people to have a heart attack, they do keep winning. The Herd got caught playing into the Steeldogs’ game plan for the first two periods but in the third got down to the task in hand. They got gritty and won as a result.
Joe Rand was the right choice for man of the match for his clutch performance, scoring two vital and almost identical goals by going right in his office in front of the net by digging away to put the puck over the line.
Joe Greener’s goals as well were very well taken, his second goal in particular was a beauty of a snap shot that made a lovely noise as it went in off the crossbar. Greener, whose groin saw him not ice in the last period on Wednesday spent chunks of Saturday stretching on the bench in between shifts but was still one of the most effective players on Saturday.
Even so it was another very good team performance where the Bison stuck to their systems and when plan A didn’t work they reverted to plan B and that did work. There were a lot of penalties but given how the opposition played this was almost unavoidable but crucially everyone kept their temper and composure and focussed on winning the game rather than deciding to go for a Saturday night session of Rock’em Sock’em Robots.
A word on our opponents: There are many things I could say and I won’t lie, I was angry at the end of last night’s game with how the Steeldogs approached the game. So I went to sleep last night, woke up, had some breakfast and re-examined my thoughts on the game. I’m still cross.
When the Steeldogs came to Basingstoke at the end of December, I rightly praised them for how they approached that game. They came out, played a solid game of hockey and it was a decent game. What we saw last night sadly was the Steeldogs of old and I’ve got to be honest, I’m not sure it’s worth my time complaining about Sheffield failing to play in the spirit of the game for the umpteenth time. Writing this match report has been the biggest slog of the season because this game was just dire. The antics of their coach and some of their players are infuriating and I’m not even going to mention those who sought to ruin last night so I’ll focus on what they did that’s worthy of praise.
Steve Duncombe was a fair choice for man of the match and I think still has a place as one of the best British defencemen in the EPL. He has solid positioning, plays his game well, has a good shot and was very good on the night where others weren’t quite at the races.
Tom Squires was also a constant threat for the Steeldogs and I thought Dalibor Sedlar had a solid game in nets, making a string of very good saves to keep the game closer than it could have been.
The Steeldogs’ playoff fate isn’t set and I’ll be honest that I don’t want to face them in the playoffs not because I’m scared the Bison will lose but I want to watch 120 minutes of hockey, not whatever we got for chunks of last night.
Lowlight of the night: The game was a dire mess
Highlight of the night: Joe Rand’s third period, outstanding performance in the clutch (thought I won’t lie, did have to chuckle at Mr Hogarth skating out for the second period with his skate guards still on).