Running with the Herd – Bison vs Milton Keynes Lightning 23/3/14Posted: 24/03/2014
Basingstoke Bison 4-1 Milton Keynes Lightning
Long x 2 (1x pp)
The slow run to the sprint: The Bison rested a few players carrying injuries ahead of next weekend’s playoff encounter with Sheffield as Joe Greener and Matt Selby watched from the bench. Aaron Connolly didn’t play in the Bison’s 3-1 loss to Swindon but returned for this game but the big loss for the Bison was Michael Wales whose season was ended in Swindon with a broken ankle. Milton Keynes were without Jordan Hedley who is with GB under 18s and replaced him with Mark Woolf. Stephen Wall started in net.
With the game being a dead rubber, Doug Sheppard used the opportunity to give a ton of icetime to the line of Ingoldsby, Mogg and Wynn. The “Youth Brigade” line took the opening faceoff for the Bison and very nearly scored on the first shift; Ingoldsby blew past the man marking him and feeding Wynn from behind the net but the shot was off the post and wide.
The Bison had an early powerplay opportunity when the Lightning were caught with too many men on the ice but it was a somewhat slow moving powerplay from the Bison and nothing much came of it but the Herd did get the lead shortly afterwards. Tomas Karpov went for one of his traditional skates through the opposition and fired a shot at Stephen Wall which rebounded out to Andy Melachrino who shot into the back of the net at 6:44.
The first period chugged along with chances both ways as the Lightning had some very good shots on Dean Skinns and Joe Rand had one of his usual charges to the net through the Lightning defence.
The game however felt like the dead rubber that it was; the tempo just wasn’t there, neither was the intensity but both sides looked to be wanting to get a good run out from the occasion.
Janne Jokila and Joe Baird took matching roughing penalties to send the game to 4 on 4 play but it didn’t up the pace of the encounter or produce any goals. Michael Farn was given a good chance but with time and space, fanned on the shot and the puck trickled towards Skinns.
Tomas Karpov seemed to be enjoying the somewhat slower tempo because it gave him a chance to put on bursts of pace and just breeze past players. The Czech forward was making a few very good runs past defenders with Andy Melachrino but he just couldn’t get the final touch to get the puck past Wall as shots either squeaked wide or were saved by the former Bison backstop.
The Lightning headed to the powerplay when Danny Ingoldsby was called for holding and the visitors had a very good chance when some smooth passing found its way to the front of the net for a redirect from Stanislav Lascek but Skinns was equal to the tipped shot.
Joe Rand was given a good chance when a pass out of the zone by Stephen Wall was misplayed right to the Canadian but Wall recovered in time to make the save from the slapshot.
Ingoldsby came out of the box and immediately jumped into the fray, drawing an interference call from Lukas Zatopek who stepped into the Bison youngster too late and the Herd had a powerplay that would last across the first break but it didn’t provide a goal either side of the first intermission.
The Bison did eventually add to their lead once the powerplay had expired; the Bison top line of Karpov, Melachrino and Long got the cycle going to good effect and Melachrino found Long by the hashmarks who fired a shot at Wall but it managed to squeeze under the arm of the Lightning netminder to make it 2-0 at 24:22.
Carl Graham got himself into the action when he was sent to the box for interference, the best chance for MK on the powerplay coming from Jokila who blasted a shot off of the outside of the post.
The Bison were still making the better of the running and having the better chances on the whole. Joe Baird and Joe Rand all had good chances to extend the lead before a tic tac toe play from Sheppard to Chinn to Rand paid dividends as Wall saved the initial shot but Rand collected his own rebound and scored at 34:56 to make it 3-0 to the hosts.
MK came close as time wound down, Ben Russell had a shot hit the post through a crowd and players descended but the official lost sight of the puck and blew play dead. The second period ending with the Bison firmly in command of the tie.
The Lightning had the better of the chances at the start of the final period; Jordan Cownie, Blaz Emersic and Stanislav Lascek all drew quality saves from Dean Skinns before Tom Carlon was the man to break Skinns’ shutout bid. Carlon took the feed from Lascek in the slot and put a laser of a shot through Skinns’ 5 hole at 44:51.
The teams traded powerplays shortly after with Carl Graham being sent to the box for cross checking and Jokila for tripping Doug Sheppard but it was the Bison who would make the most of the extra man.
The Bison got their powerplay up and running efficiently and worked the puck round to Ciaran Long at the point who one timed a shot in off the bar at 50:03 for his second goal of the evening.
The Bison had more good chances; Melachrino and Karpov broke out thanks to a great stretch pass from the Czech but the shot from Melachrino hit Wall high on the chest. The Herd also had another powerplay when Tom Carlon was called for hooking but a good chance to set up Aaron Connolly saw the Bison alternate captain lose the puck in his feet and fall into Wall.
The 2013/14 regular season wound down and the buzzer sounded on another Bison win and focus quickly turning to Saturday and the trip to Ice Sheffield.
Job done: The first place to start is to wish Michael Wales a speedy recovery from his broken ankle in the hope he’s back on the ice for the start of 2014/15.
It wasn’t the most high paced, action filled game in Bison history but it was a professional job well done with no obvious extra injuries picked up and a good win over a solid MK side.
Ciaran Long was as good a choice as any for man of the match with 2 well taken goals and having slotted in well onto the top line alongside Karpov and Melachrino. Long is the obvious replacement for Wales on that line due to his level of physicality that he provides along with his skill. Whilst Wales isn’t what you would call a high skill player, his roll on that line was about creating space and being a physical presence which Long can also do as well as add an additional scoring threat. How this sees the other lines change with Greener likely to be back for the Sheffield games remains to be seen but I expect Long to remain on this line going forward.
It was also a good night for the line of Ingoldsby, Mogg and Wynn who were rotated in as a regular line for the night including time on the powerplay and penalty kill. Obviously this was the ideal time to give them all this ice time and chance in different situations at this level and they didn’t look out of place by any means.
It was a shame that Connor Standing couldn’t be found any ice time during the game though what it must have meant to Dean Skinns to get every minute possible of every game given the reaction of some when he signed has to be appreciated as well. It’s a case of swings and roundabouts but it’s not ideal for a developing netminder to get no time in a 54 game season.
That aside it was a decent game from the Herd and they did what needed to be done. The setback of losing Wales appears to have been dealt with and two very tough games of hockey against Sheffield will decide whether the Bison have a chance to add to this season’s silverware total.
A word on our opponents: As with the Bison, this was a functional performance from the Lightning who were ultimately beaten by a side with a little bit more quality wanting to entertain the home fans.
Janne Jokila was an interesting choice for man of the match for me as I’d probably gone for Stanislav Lascek who looked much more dangerous than Jokila who only seemed to appear to take a penalty for me. If nothing else, Lascek’s beard was certainly worthy of a beer on its own.
Tom Carlon took his goal very well and him being left along in the slot is something all teams just cannot do because he will burn you from there. I was also impressed again with Jordan Cownie who appears to have come along really well this season for the Lightning and I have to think Nick Poole will be looking to retain his services for next season. Lukas Zatopek as well had a solid game and made a variety of good defensive plays to deny goals and kill attacking plays.
There’s no real reason for Lightning fans to be overly disheartened from this loss unless this is how they play against Swindon. With the Wildcats hitting a rich vein of form, the Lightning need to hit their stride quickly but as we know from the second leg of the cup final, when the pressure is on this team can turn up.
Lowlight of the night: Game and the crowd were a bit flat but that’s to be expected somewhat.
Highlight of the night: A tie between watching the Youth Brigade get so much ice time and Long’s second goal which was an utter beauty.
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Meanwhile, back to the grindstone. I’ve got the day off work and last night’s game to write up.
Onwards, upwards, Coventry-wards. #DownTheDogs