Running with the Herd – Bison vs Peterborough Phantoms 13/9/14Posted: 14/09/2014
Basingstoke Bison 6-4 Peterborough Phantoms
Greener x3 (1xpp) Bebris
Karpov pp Baranyk x3 (2xpp)
Off and running/fighting: The Bison headed into the game still without Michael Wales, his ankle injury still keeping him from the roster. The Phantoms had Sam James (wearing Lane’s shirt) as the backup to Janis Auzins.
The two teams traded early chances before the Phantoms got an early powerplay, Joe Greener called for slashing just after the two minute mark however the visitors couldn’t find a way past Dean Skinns. The physicality level was ratcheted up early when former Phantoms defenceman Declan Balmer hammered Cameron McGiffin at the Bison blueline which drew a crowd. Balmer was called for interference and Greg Pick took a roughing penalty for his part in the ensuing scuffle.
That appeared to give the game something of a niggly undercurrent. The travelling Peterborough fans were screaming for a penalty when Joe Greener lost his balance and fell into Auzins in the Phantoms net but no call was coming. The Phantoms however got a measure of revenge a few moments later; the Phantoms put pressure on the Bison net and handily stretched the defence when a turnover fell to Edgars Bebris. The former Sheffield man had his initial shot saved by Dean Skinns but the Latvian born forward was on hand to pot the rebound at 07:35.
The teams traded more penalties; Balmer was called again for interference on a hit and Edgars Apelis was called for tripping. Moments later there was another coming together; Auzins slashed out at a Bison forward which drew a crowd and saw the Phantoms goalie given a penalty. As the Bison pressed on the ensuing powerplay, they dug at the loose puck which saw another coming together of players with Auzins getting in the face of the Bison players in front of him. Joe Rand, Ciaran Long, James Hutchinson and Tom Norton all took offsetting roughing minors.
The Bison continued on the powerplay and eventually were given their reward; the pressure from the Herd was maintained and just after the powerplay expired, some neat passing from the hosts found Joe Greener alone to the keeper’s left where he tapped in the feed from Andy Melachrino at 12:16.
The Bison were back on the powerplay minutes later when Luke Ferrara was called for interference. A Kurt Reynolds shot was tipped by Nicky Chinn but Aaron Connolly couldn’t bury the chance. The Phantoms had a good short handed chance through Darius Pliskauskas but Dean Skinns was equal to the task.
Chances came and went as the period wound down, the best falling to Grant Rounding who was set free alone towards Auzins’ net but the Latvian made a crucial save. The Bison also had a late powerplay when Alan Lack was called for high sticking Connolly after the Bison man had checked him but the Bison couldn’t find the way through. The first period ended with the score tied at 1-1.
The Bison were given another powerplay chance early in the second when Will Weldon tripped Ciaran Long behind the Phantoms net and the visitors were soon punished. Tomas Karpov fed Greener in the slot and his shot went zooming over the glove of Auzins at 21:36 and the Bison had wrestled the lead back.
Dean Skinns was called into action almost immediately as the Phantoms pressed for the equaliser but the tide of the period was firmly with the Bison. A turnover in the neutral zone gave Ciaran Long a chance but it was an easy glove save for Auzins. However the Phantoms netminder had no answer for the next real Bison attack. Doug Sheppard reached into his back pocket and pulled out some very soft handed moves to dance through the Phantoms defence and fed a pass to an unmarked Greener who one timed the puck through Auzins’ 5 hole at 25:49 to complete a natural hattrick and give the Bison a 3-1 lead.
The Phantoms netminder was clearly getting frustrated as was evidenced moments later. A stretch pass sprung Rand and Chinn on the two on one. Rand passed to Chinn but the Bison captain couldn’t find a way past Auzins. As players crowded around the net, Auzins wasn’t pleased with the intrusion and facewashed Rand with his glove but no call was incoming from Mr Cloutman.
If anything, this riled up the Bison and the Rand, Chinn, Connolly line went into crash and bang mode to make a point. Unfortunately for Luke Ferrara, he was caught behind his own net with his head down and a thundering but clean hit from Rand left its mark and play was stopped as Ferrara was face down on the ice. Ferrara was eventually up under his own power and returned to the game once he’d shaken off the cobwebs.
The Bison’s dominance of the period continued. Grant Rounding stepped into the way of an outlet pass and fired a shot but it didn’t trouble Auzins. Shortly afterwards, the Bison had yet another powerplay when Tomas Karpov was clipped high by the stick of Jason Buckman. The powerplay produced some good chances for the Bison as some good work in tight from Greener saw him nearly stuff in his fourth goal of the night. He would have to be content with the assist however as he cycled the puck round to Vantroba who fed the puck into Karpov’s wheelhouse and last season’s top scorer open his account for the campaign with a devestating slapshot that went through Auzins’ pads at 29:58 for 4-1.
The game seemed to be losing some of its edge but the Bison still kept going forward, seeming to want to put the boot in and Ciaran Long’s shot that rang off of the post seemed to be proof positive of that.
The teams traded penalties again; Brendan Baird picking up a holding penalty as the teams battled in the corner and Milan Baranyk for boarding then in the dying seconds a clash between Karpov and Koulikov resulted in a tripping call for the Phantoms’ player/coach so the Bison would have 31 seconds of a 5on3 at the start of the third period when the one second of Baird’s penalty had expired.
The Bison used that advantage and made them pay, with Greener tallying his 5th point of the night. The cycle got going on the powerplay and Greener fed the puck off the half boards for Miroslav Vantroba to drive past Auzins at 40:32.
Both teams were having their chances to add to the scoreline; Stuart Mogg got a step on his man but had his shot saved. Apelis had a shot from the blueline snatched from the air by Skinns. The game regained its edge as the teams were throwing decent hits, the biggest being by Alan Lack on Joe Baird and out of nowhere both sides got a goal.
The Phantoms put the pressure on the Bison and stretched the defence with the Herd’s players at the end of their shift. Milan Baranyk had the step on Cameron Wynn, took the pass from James Ferrara and shot past Skinns at 46:36 for 5-2.
The Bison took 19 seconds to respond; Ciaran Long forced a turnover, sprinted towards Auzins, made a move and poked it home at 46:55 for 6-2.
And then at 50:03 it all went crazy.
Brendan Baird laid a hit that saw the arm of Mr Cloutman go up just as Grant Rounding was set free racing towards Auzins. The whistle was blown and Auzins, for reasons known only to himself raced out of his net at Rounding which drew a crowd. Greg Pick dived into the fray and saw hit to challenge everyone on the ice and then the Bison bench. Joe Greener was jawing back and forth with Pick and the discussion went back and forth in front of the Phantoms bench. A punch was thrown at Greener who dived into the Phantoms bench and away they went; clashes on the bench, clashes on the ice. Pick and Selby fought at centre ice as others paired off and there was much scrapping.
Mr Cloutman sent both teams back to the room to sort out the penalties and try to calm things down. The end result was match penalties for Greener, Selby, Pick and Auzins, Ciaran Long got 2+2 for roughing as did Alan Lack but Long was also given 2+2+game for leaving the bench. Grant Rounding got a misconduct and Brendan Baird two minutes for the initial charging penalty.
So the Bison returned to the ice but where were the Phantoms? Slava Koulikov came out and had a very intense conversation with Mr Cloutman and Doug Sheppard. It looked as if the Phantoms were refusing to come back out but they were persuaded otherwise. The upshot of it was Sam James in net for the Phantoms and the Bison on a 4 minute penalty kill.
When Declan Balmer was called for roughing to make it a 5 on 3 powerplay, the Phantoms struck. Milan Baranyk made it 6-3 at 52:07 when the puck deflected off of Skinns and he batted it out of the air. The Phantoms’ Czech forward completed the hattrick a few seconds later when the puck was turned over behind the Bison net and the pass came to Baranyk who fired past Skinns from the top of the crease at 52:41 for 6-4. The Bison players and fans were furious as it appeared first Reynolds then Skinns were being impeded but Mr Cloutman was unmoved.
The Phantoms were given another penalty when Karpov was called for highsticking Cameron McGiffin but there was no way through Skinns in the Bison net.
Time ticked on and the Phantoms called their timeout. James stayed on the bench and the Phantoms went to all out attack to try and get the two goals needed to tie the game. When Vantroba was called for hooking with 49 seconds to play, it seemed like the tide would turn against the Bison but the penalty killing unit stood firm and the final buzzer went to signal the Bison’s first win of the 2014/15 season as the man of the match awards were abandoned whilst off ice officials Mike Downer and Denise Mogg valiantly tried to get the gamesheet into order.
Well, that was different: So that wasn’t what we were expecting. Let’s deal with the fun bits first. Having gone behind early, the Bison responded well and Joe Greener’s 3+2 made him the standout of the game and he should have got the man of the match beers…had we had any. His hattrick was well taken though his final goal really needs all credit to Doug Sheppard who danced around the Phantoms defence like they weren’t there. The Phantoms had no effective answer for the line of Greener, Sheppard and Long and couldn’t compete with the Bison 5 on 5. When the Bison realised that, we got the second period which was as dominant as I’ve seen the Herd play in a while.
The other player who really bares mentioning is Kurt Reynolds who showed right off the hop why he’s a league all star. He remained composed in amongst all the insanity of last night. Positionally superb and still has that great talent of always coming out of the corner with the puck.
It was a solid team performance. Dean Skinns had a decent game in goal and couldn’t have done much about any of the goals that went in. In the dying moments with all the pressure on him, he stood firm aided by some quality penalty killing particularly from Sheppard, Joe Baird and Stuart Mogg who appears to be carving out a useful niche for himself on that part of the special teams.
The grind line of Rand, Connolly and Chinn also looked dangerous though held off the scoresheet. Rand’s hit on Ferrara was a textbook hard check that saw most of the crowd wince.
It was a decent overall performance for the Bison and something to build on that the systems of last season still work.
As for the brawl; I have no idea what Joe Greener was thinking diving into the bench to go at Koulikov and those who took penalties need to be held accountable for their actions, rightly so. The Bison don’t need to be losing top end Brits to game and match penalties off such incidents nor should our assistant coach be front and centre in such things. Sure, these massive fights are exciting but the point is to win a game of hockey, not recreate the Battle of Helm’s Deep and I would guess that Doug Sheppard was not happy at such things. Matt Selby, who is a known lover of a scrap had a cut under his eye and a smile on his face the size of the arena though we could do without him taking too many match penalties across the season. I have no idea as to why Rounding took a misconduct for what happened. It’s being reported that he shot after the whistle which if he did, I didn’t see though I am but one man.
Ciaran Long though said it best on Twitter after the game; 2 points in the bag and that’s what matters.
A word on our opponents: Let’s get the hockey stuff out of the way first. Whilst I feel the scoreline flattered the Phantoms a bit, there’s some decent potential in that side. When he wasn’t getting thrown out, Janis Auzins seems a more than competent goalie at this level. There wasn’t a massive amount he could have done about the Bison goals and made some really top level saves.
Milan Baranyk also looks like the top level import that I and many others expected him to be. It is a shame that his debut hattrick will get lost in amongst the other antics of last night but if he continues on a similar vein then the Phantoms have got a real high quality scoring threat. On defence I particularly thought Cameron McGiffin looked very handy. Obviously playing on a Slough side that wasn’t at real EPL strength meant it was hard to see his full talent but he truly does have a future as an EPL player.
The issue for the Phantoms was two fold. The larger issue was that they couldn’t find an answer to Greener’s line which put them on the back foot so much that when other lines were on the ice they couldn’t find a way to really get back into the game. It’s obviously game 1 of a long season but if the Phantoms are going to improve their lot from last season, they need to find effective ways to shut down other teams’ top scoring lines or they will struggle greatly. They have the firepower in Baranyk, Pliskauskas and others but if you’re losing games 6-4, 5-4, 4-3, you’re still losing games and that needs to change.
The other thing they need is to get Janis Auzins to calm down. When you have a keeper who is clearly that good, you don’t need him unnecessarily flying off the handle like he did on several occasions last night. Were the Bison in his face a bit? Yes, this is ice hockey. That’s what happens. You can’t have your number one goalie taking slashing penalties and charging out of his crease to take on opposition forwards. He’s 23, some may put it down to youthful exuberance but Auzins will quickly become a liability if he doesn’t get his temper under control.
As for the brawl, there are certainly two sides to the story and as I addressed above those Bison who played their part need to be punished as should the Phantoms players. As I’ve been writing this piece, this article (http://www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk/sport/ice-hockey/ice-hockey-news/officials-blasted-as-phantoms-go-down-fighting-1-6298130) has just appeared on the website of Peterborough Today in which is appears, at least publicly that Slava Kouliov is accepting no responsibility for his team’s part in what happened last night. Not Auzins’ outbursts, not Greg Pick challenging the Bison bench and his clear incitement, not his own actions where he nearly pulled his team out of the game. Now we have to take media reports with a pinch of salt and Slava Koulikov is well within his rights to complain to the league about the officiating last night and the game should be examined; there was a bench clearing brawl after all but it takes two to tango and for the Phantoms coach to seemingly absolve his team of all blame in the public sphere might be admirable but it’s also utterly disingenuous given what we saw.
The true shame is that this Phantoms team actually look decent and have potential to do some damage across the season. If they play like last night, that will quickly get lost.
Lowlight of the night: No prizes for guessing really, the actions of Auzins were just petulant.
Highlight of the night: Greener’s hattrick goal, Soft Hands Sheppard is in the building.