Running with the Herd – Bison vs Sheffield Steeldogs 30/3/14

EPL Playoff Quarter Final 2nd leg
Basingstoke Bison 6-2 Sheffield Steeldogs
Karpov pp                        Wood
Long                                    Bebris
Rand x 2
Melachrino
Wynn

Basingstoke Bison win 8-2 on aggregate

 

Reach for the sky: Bison headed into the tie with only the loss of Michael Wales to concern them, the lines shuffles to reunite Doug Sheppard and Joe Greener who were joined by Cameron Wynn. Rand and Connolly were teamed with Nicky Chinn which saw Sheppard continue with the new look KLM line of Karpov, Long and Melachrino. The Steeldogs were without Lewis Bell, Andre Payette and Tim Smith with Tom Barry and Cameron Brownley added to the roster.

After the very tight and nervy 2-0 win for Basingstoke the night before, the first few exchanges were tense for both sides. The Greener, Sheppard and Wynn line combined for good early chances and Dean Skinns was forced into save from Greg Chambers and Edgars Bebris put the ensuing rebound wide.
The Bison got the first powerplay chance of the night when Tom Squires hauled down Nicky Chinn and was called for interference. The Herd’s special teams unit set to work and got the cycle going with great effect. Joe Greener fed Karpov out of the corner and with the Steeldogs defender screening Sedlar, the Bison’s all star forward slid a slow moving shot past the Sheffield netminder who was down and set at 04:46 to extend the Bison’s aggregate lead.

The Steeldogs pressed quickly looking for a way back into the tie and got some good shots on the Bison net. Greg Wood followed the puck towards Skinns, being closely marked by Joe Baird. The two toppled to the ice as the whistle blew and a little scuffle ensued. Baird was called for interference for his challenge on Wood and the Steeldogs made short work of the powerplay. The visitors instantly got traffic to the net and bundled the puck over the line past Dean Skinns at 06:07 to tie the score on the night.

The game continued its somewhat nervy feel and both sides looked dangerous knowing a goal either way could have a massive say on the outcome of the tie. The Bison had a powerplay chance from a tripping call on Bebris but couldn’t use it effectively. Joe Rand went close with a trademark drive to the net but put the puck wide and the Steeldogs tried to repeat the action that resulted in their first goal but couldn’t find a way past Skinns.

A bad change gave the Steeldogs a 3 on 1 break but rather then use the extra men, Lubomir Korhon decided to shoot from distance and his shot went well wide. It was to prove costly moments later as the Bison came flying up the ice. The puck was worked brilliantly at speed from Melachrino to Karpov who put the puck on the stick of Ciaran Long who fired high over the shoulder of Sedlar at 15:30 for what has to be a contender for the Herd’s goal of the season.
The remainder of the first period saw a couple of chances but the first twenty minutes of the contest came to a close with the Bison ahead on a superb display of team skill.

The hosts kept up the pressure at the start of the second, immediately charging to the net and Rand was denied by a save from Sedlar but the Canadian was not to be denied for long, an Aaron Connolly shot rebounding off of Sedlar into Rand’s path and he made it 3-1 on the night at 21:55.

The Bison were having the better of the play but the Steeldogs were still having moments of good pressure, pinning the Bison back in the zone and forcing Dean Skinns into successions of quick saves. Nicky Chinn had a guilt edged chance off a feed behind the net from Rand but Sedlar plucked the puck out of the air.

Tom Squires and Tomas Karpov came together, Karpov being adjudged to have slashed the wrist of the Sheffield man which drew a crowd. The Steeldogs couldn’t make anything of the powerplay and when Karpov returned to the ice, he returned to his old tricks. The Czech forward picked up the pick in the slot, held off his man and proceeded to round the back of the net and shoot off his backhand but he missed the net by inches.

The opportunities came thick and fast; a shot from Melachrino was tipped wide by Rand, Korhon, Squires and Duncombe forced good glove saves from Skinns.
Craig Elliott was called for high sticking on Baird in the last minute of the second and earned himself an extended sit down at the buzzer when a conversation about his penalty with Mr Cloutman resulted in a misconduct.

The Bison couldn’t take advantage of the penalty spanning the period break but weathered a bit of pressure from the Steeldogs before effectively killing off the tie. Nicky Chinn, apparently wanting to prove that it wasn’t just Tomas Karpov that can dangle round entire teams, toedragged round players before feeding the puck to Rand who had all the time in the world to backhand past a sprawling Sedlar at 44:02.

The traditional physical Steeldogs style had been lacking from the game but an unlikely member of the Bison roster found himself in the middle of the one real bit of action. Greg Wood lined up Danny Ingoldsby in front of the Steeldogs bench, catching the Bison youngster with what looked to be an elbow. Ingoldsby stood up and found himself tussling with a couple of Steeldogs players which saw Tom Squires and Lubomir Korhon join Ingoldsby in the box.
The play continued with a few shots either way but it appeared the young man had a long memory as on the next shift Ingoldsby lined Squires up and waffled him in front of the Bison bench at the end of his shift, the youngster climbing over the boards to cheers from the fans and his team mates.

The Bison were firmly in control of the contest and with under 8 minutes to go, turned the screw; a neat pass from Ciaran Long fed Andy Melachrino in space at 52:12 and seconds later Miroslav Vantroba sent Cameron Wynn away. Wynn saw his initial shot saved but collected the rebound and fired home from the angle at 52:28 for 6-1 on the night. The Steeldogs called their timeout and swapped Sedlar for backup Brad Day.

The Steeldogs did get the last word on the scoresheet, a neat pass from Korhon into the slot for Bebris saw the Steeldogs man fire past Skinns at 54:37 to reduce the deficit to 6-2 on the night.

Craig Elliott sound found himself back in the box, a low and nasty hit on Connolly called as clipping but the Bison seemed happy to just hold the visitors at bay for the last few minutes.
The clock ticked down for the final time this season at the Basingstoke Arena and the Bison had stamped their ticket to their second consecutive final four weekend in emphatic fashion.

 

Eyes on the prize: At the end of the EPL Cup final, I talked about doing things the easy way or the Bison way. Against Milton Keynes, they chose the Bison way; a method which gives the entire Herd fanbase a collective aneurism. Against Sheffield last night they didn’t give the visitors a choice as to what way it would be. The Steeldogs were blown away.

The Bison went out, played their game and the visitors had no answer for it. The line of Karpov, Long and Melachrino in full flight were a joy to watch and will be a constant danger for any team they face. The lines that were rejigged looked really useful as well against a team that were short of players and looked tired.

Cameron Wynn was a fair choice for man of the match. It’s easy to look at it as “well the youngster scored a nice goal, let’s give it to him” but this was Wynn’s best performance in a Bison jersey that I have seen. Put on a line with Sheppard and Greener, all the criticisms that many have had of Wynn’s game over the season seemed to fall by the wayside. He was strong on the puck, wasn’t easily outmuscled, got stuck in when in front of the net; he looked like he truly belonged. The goal as well was a well worked piece of skill, the eventual shot that beat Sedlar going in from a very tight angle.

Nobody really had a bad night though the chance again to give Connor Standing ice time passed us by and the lack of a shift at all for Carl Graham seemed confusing. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t argue with watching Kurt Reynolds and Zach Sullivan play 25 minutes a night because they’re a joy to watch but the Bison had this game sown up in the third period and we couldn’t find a way to give our backup some ice time or thought it might be an idea to rest someone from our top 4 defenders? The decision seems odd to me but a merely a mild gripe on the back of a convincing win.

The Bison head into Saturday’s semi final with Guildford full of confidence after a convincing win. They’ve made it to the dance again and hopefully they find a way to keep dancing through to the end of Sunday.

 

A word on our opponents: A massive thank you to the dedicated band of Steeldogs fans that made it down from God’s own country last night. Sadly their team were short benched, without their talismanic coach on the ice and looked tired and short of ideas.

It was a dogged (no pun intended) and determined Steeldogs performance but one that was ultimately not to be. They went out and tried to play hockey the Bison’s way rather than their own way and got beaten as a result. Sheffield coach Andre Payette has said on many occasions that they can’t beat teams on skill but didn’t play their usual physical style. The Bison played a speedy game and there seemed to be no answer from the visitors.

Greg Wood got the beers for the visitors and did the best job he could of leading from the front. Lubomir Korhon as well looked dangerous but made a poor decision to shoot from the blueline when the Dogs had a 3 on 1 overlap into the Bison’s zone. Edgars Bebris as well looked very solid and the fact he qualifies as a Brit is a massive bonus for this Sheffield side because he is better than some imports in this league. He took his goal tonight very well.

Dalibor Sedlar didn’t have the best of nights but a shortened Steeldogs defensive corps didn’t make things easy for him. When the Bison scored twice in 16 seconds to make it 6-1 on the night, the least the coaches could do was end the suffering. Good on Brad Day for getting out there, looking confident and stopping what shots he did face.

Sheffield already have some key pieces locked in for next season and now can spend a summer deciding what direction to go in. Whether Andre Payette returns to the ice remains to be seen but a sincere amount of best wishes to Andre as he rehabs his leg and all the best to Sheffield in the off season. Stay safe, Steeldogs fans.

 

Lowlight of the night: Elliott clipping Connolly, looked nasty.
Highlight of the night: Bison’s second goal, gorgeous stuff and a cracking finish from Long.

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