Running with the Herd – Bison vs Sheffield Steeldogs 11/10/14

EPL

Basingstoke Bison 5-3 Sheffield Steeldogs

Rand x3 (1 sh)             Squires

Karpov                         Korhon x2

Wales

Back in the habit: The Bison headed into the contest without the still injured Ciaran Long and Aaron Connolly who was suspended after his match penalty for spearing against Invicta and added Alex Sampford after his impressive outing against the Dynamos. The Steeldogs were minus Jeff Legue and started Dalibor Sedlar in net after his impressive 61 save performance on Thursday away in Manchester.

The teams started with the feeling out process, taking a few shots on each netminder to see how things would progress. The Bison had the first real chance when they were given a powerplay; Tomas Karpov’s twisting and turning forcing Steve Duncombe into a hooking penalty in an attempt to stop the Czech. The Bison pp unit got going quickly but the visitor’s backstop had his eye in early it seemed and made some good stops.

The Steeldogs soon had their own chance on the powerplay when Miroslav Vantroba was called for interference however they also found Dean Skinns in good, early form as he stopped an off pace shot from Duncombe through a crowd.

The teams kept probing and prodding looking for a way through when the Bison had another opportunity on the man advantage. Kurt Reynolds raced up the right wing and as he tried to take the zone was tripped by Ashley Calvert. The Herd set to work and were rewarded for their efforts; Doug Sheppard drove to the net and whilst Sedlar could make the initial stop, he was powerless to stop Joe Rand tapping in the rebound at 10:51 to give the hosts the lead.

Cameron Brownley had a good chance almost immediately off of the faceoff to get the Steeldogs on the scoreboard but Skinns kept firm and denied him. Andre Payette and Matt Selby clashed moments later with Mr Szucs’ arm already raised for the penalty against the Steeldogs’ player/coach. The two had a verbal sparing match but no punches were thrown. Nevertheless the Bison were back on the powerplay which was soon doubled to a 5on3 moments later when Craig Elliott grabbed at Stuart Mogg after the whistle.

With the two man advantage, the Bison set to work trying to stretch the defence and pass it in but it was a more direct approach that paid dividends as the puck was worked to Vantroba for the blast, Joe Rand got the tip and the puck found its way past Sedlar at 12:02 to give the Herd a 2-0 advantage.

Mr Szucs proceeded to hand out the penalties as the game’s physical edge came to the fore, giving penalties both ways within 40 seconds of each other which left both penalty boxes looking rather crowded.

Tom Squires had a good chance, holding off his man to get the backhand shot away on Skinns but it was the Bison who were on top in the contest. Sedlar was called into stops on Karpov and Melachrino in quick succession but he was unable to stop the Czech forward’s next effort. In all the pressure, Sedlar lost his stick and was using a defenceman’s stick to try and make saves. Karpov took the pass from Melachrino, made some space for himself and fired past Sedlar at 16:07 to make it 3-0.

The Bison kept the pressure on as the period wound down but were nearly caught flat footed by Lubomir Korhon. The Steeldogs’ forward waltzed his way through the Bison defence and made his way towards the net but was lacking the final touch to get the puck past Skinns.

Mogg and Sheppard broke out two on one but some really good work by Lloyd Gibson killed off the chance as the first period came to a close with the Bison deservedly on top.

The second period didn’t start well for the Steeldogs as they gave up a guilt edged chance to their hosts. Andy Melachrino was fed the puck in the slot alone in front of Sedlar but the blushes of his defencemen were spared when the Sheffield netminder got the butt of his stick to the puck and deflected it away.

The first stages of the middle stanza were very bitty as the Bison seemed happy to just disrupt the Steeldogs’ attempts to get some rhythm to their play that had been lacking in the first period. Tom Squires had their best chance again early in the period when some nice passing moved Skinns out of position but under pressure he scuffed the shot wide.

The Bison continued to press and at times the Steeldogs didn’t seem to be able to contain the Herd or get out of their zone. Vantroba rang a booming shot off of the inside of the post before some slick passing found Michael Wales in front of Sedlar who riffled the puck past the netminder for his first goal of the season and forcing Sheffield into taking the timeout. 4-0 at 27:33 was a reflection of how the Bison were dominating.

The Bison continued to press; Alex Sampford was set up for the shot but Sedlar was guarding his post well to deny him. Tomas Karpov tried to copy Korhon’s earlier move and danced through the defence but couldn’t get the puck past Sedlar. Andy Melachrino fed Karpov again for another chance and whilst Karpov didn’t get all of the puck, it trickled off the pad of Sedlar and across the crease, sitting at the far post before it was cleared and the danger was alleviated.

Whilst Andre Payette had pulled himself from the game and was on the bench, Tom Squires was not giving up the ghost. The Steeldogs forward had one shot saved point blank by Skinns before eventually he broke the duck. With the Bison’s line of youngsters still in the ice after an icing and unable to clear the zone, some smooth passing moved the puck back to Squires who fired over the glove of Skinns at 33:59 for 4-1 at 33:59.

The Steeldogs were back onto the powerplay a few minutes later when Nicky Chinn was called for hooking. Ben Morgan’s shot was tipped in front by Squires by Skinns made the save. Grant Rounding and Tomas Karpov had good short handed chances but neither could get the puck on target.

The period drew to the close with the Bison being given a late powerplay after Korhon was called for hooking 3 seconds before the buzzer and the Herd heading into the locker room with a 4-1 lead.

The Steeldogs had the first chance of the final period when Andy Hirst took the puck at speed and fired into the pads of Skinns. The first part of the period was then penalty calling time as Mr Szucs called 18 minutes of penalties in less than 3 minutes. Elliott high sticked Rand which earned him a trip to the box but the Bison couldn’t make the advantagr count. Then Ben Morgan and Rand were called for hooking and high sticks respectively. Less than a minute after that Elliott was bang to rights on the tripping call but this didn’t impress Tom Barry who shouted something from the Bison bench and was given a misconduct for his trouble.

Nicky Chinn was called for holding which gave the Steeldogs a shortened powerplay. The Steeldogs couldn’t make the man advantage tell but they kept the pressure on and got their second goal when Morgan’s shot rebounded off Skinns to Korhon who fired home at 50:29.

The teams traded chances; Selby had a shot gloved down by Sedlar, Hirst forced a big save out of Skinns, a Chinn drop pass to Greener was saved by Sedlar.

When the puck went into the corner and there was a commotion, all that came out of it was a roughing penalty for Michael Wales. It was the Bison however who would score on the powerplay, Joe Greener and Joe Rand broke out, Greener fed Rand who popped the puck through Sedlar’s 5 hole to complete his hattrick at 56:07.

The scoring wasn’t done as the Steeldogs responded almost immediately; the Steeldogs used their superior speed to stretch the Bison and pressure the net. Smith’s shot was saved by Skinns but sat kindly for Korhon to score his second of the contest and make the score 5-3 to the hosts.

The visitors pressed hard in the dying stages as the Bison held on. Sedlar was called to the bench but there was no way through for Sheffield. The Bison should have had an empty netter by Greener missed an empty net and Wales hit a post from distance. The lack of scoring on the empty cage didn’t matter as the Bison returned to winning ways at home.

Passed the test: After last weekend’s poor performance against Guildford, this was more like the Bison that we are used to. Missing the creativity of Long and the tenacity of Connolly, there were some initial worries that the Herd would be out of sorts again but a bit of a shuffle of the lines and the Bison were back to their best. At times they looked like they could pass around the visitors at will. The lack of being able to really put the game to bed in the final stages will be of some concern but they were denied by the typical Bison trap of trying to be too clever and a netminder playing decently. The Herd were visibly tired in the dying moments, almost taken apart by Sheffield’s speed but good teams hang on and hang on they did.

Joe Rand was a fair choice for man of the match, a well taken hattrick and a architypical industrious Rand performance with his mother in attendance was justly rewarded with the beers. The longer Rand plays with the Bison, the more that his almost robotic consistency and high quality of play sometimes doesn’t get recognised in such a way but it’s hard to deny the man of the match to a man who scores a hattrick including a short handed goal.

Stuart Mogg’s impressive two way game seems to get better as the youngster continues to find his feet with the extra ice time. Given additional powerplay time with the suspension to Connolly, last season’s most improved player has started 2014/15 off in fine fashion. Cam Wynn, whilst not given as much ice time was also impressive with the chances he was given.

Tomas Karpov, Andy Melachrino and Michael Wales appear to be back to their usual ways of terrifying defences. Karpov seemed to be on a mission to dance around the entire defence on his own at times and his goal was an example of the sort of hard work that makes the Czech so popular. Wales’ goal was a nice way to get him back into the swing of things now his ankle injury seems to be firmly behind him.

Dean Skinns and the defence, despite probably wanting all the goals back played very well and it was good to see Brendan Baird get some extended ice time when the situation allowed. Skinns made a range of good saves though the 3 goals on 16 shots won’t do his numbers any favours.

Overall, Doug Sheppard will be happy with the result against a side that whilst not at the top of their game last night, can easily do damage.

A word on our opponents: After an impressive win over Manchester on Thursday night, this is a game that Steeldogs players and fans will likely want to forget. Whilst they managed to score 3 goals and in the last 5 minutes had the Bison on the back foot, the scoreline flattered the visitors and they looked distinctly average at times.

Andre Payette benched himself during the second period, the Steeldogs were chasing the puck, leaving the centre of the ice open for easy passes and at times the Bison were passing around them at will. The attempts to up the physicality got them nowhere and it left them devoid of a plan until they upped the pace of the game and even then it was too late for them to come back.

Tom Squires was the only choice for man of the match for the visitors. Whilst Sedlar made some decent saves, he was only decent. In the absence of Jeff Legue, Squires stepped up and tried his best to lead from the front. The former Hull Stingrays forward was constantly working, constantly trying to create chances and was justly rewarded for his efforts and some really good play to pin an inexperienced line in their own end by getting the goal his work deserved.

Lubomir Korhon took both of his goals well but they’re goals an import of his quality should be scoring when presented with such opportunities. Bar them and his one dart through the team, he wasn’t overly noticeable.

Dalibor Sedlar did OK rather than great in net. He stopped another plethora of shots but at times didn’t inspire a lot of confidence. He wasn’t helped by a defence that was at times static and at others being stretched all over the shop. It wasn’t a very settled game from the back end and that cost them.

The quality in the Steeldogs is obviously there. It would have been interesting to see how Jeff Legue fits into this system and if Payette had played well enough not to bench himself in the process. I’ve said to many that you can’t sleep on the Steeldogs and many have learned that this season already but if they play like this against the Bison in their remaining 5 encounters this season, they won’t get a point against them.

Lowlight of the night: Reports of a headbutt are never nice.

Highlight of the night: For me, the Bison’s second goal; just a textbook move well finished.

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