Running with the Herd – Bison vs Wightlink Raiders 23/11/14Posted: 24/11/2014
EIHA Challenge Cup
Basingstoke Bison 9-1 Wightlink Raiders
Rand x3 Tribe pp
Repel the invaders: The Bison made more changes heading into the second night of cup action against an NIHL opponent. Doug Sheppard, Michael Wales and Kurt Reynolds remained out of the lineup, joined on the side-lines by Joe Baird, Nicky Chinn and Tomas Karpov. Miroslav Vantroba returned to the lineup as did Matt Selby who had been given the all clear to return to on ice action. Alex Sampford continued on the roster though with the Buffalo playing, Ryan Sutton was swapped for Hallam Wilson. The biggest change for the Bison came in net as Dan Weller-Evans made his debut between the pipes, seeing Dean Skinns not ice in a Bison game for the first time since his return to the Herd in September 2013. The Raiders headed in at full strength but with cup progression out of their grasp, Wightlink coach Jeremy Cornish started backup netminder Shannon Long, brother of Ciaran.
Right from the get go, the Bison had the upper hand in the contest and had a dearth of early chances. Greener, Wynn and Mogg all went close and Miroslav Vantroba went for a skate around the defence to set up Ciaran Long but he couldn’t get the puck past his brother in the early going.
However it didn’t take long for the Bison to score. Stand in skipper for the night, Joe Rand took a feed from Grant Rounding and some neat dekes moved Shannon Long the wrong way in the net allowing the Canadian to poke the puck over the line at 05:50 for 1-0.
The Raiders responded with a few challenges of their own and Dan Weller-Evans was being called into action, first making a glove save on Ben Paynter and then denying Craig Tribe who was camped right on the doorstep.
The Bison weathered the storm and eventually struck again. Joe Rand turned provider as he took the zone at speed, drew the defenceman across then fed the puck to the far post where a speeding Grant Rounding was on hand to tap past Long at 10:00.
The hosts kept the pressure on with Ciaran Long having another chance to score past his brother but Shannon got just enough of his glove to it, the puck scuffing off of the edge and drifting away into the corner of the rink. Long was getting some help from his defence as well as a flowing passing move from the Herd fed Aaron Connolly but his shot was neutralised by a sprawling Chris Cooke.
The Raiders started getting more chances as the period wound to its conclusion. Steven Balmer had a shot saved and when the Raiders sprung a 2 on 1, Craig Tribe released former Bison, Jaroslav Cesky who despite some fancy stickwork couldn’t get the puck past Weller-Evans in the Bison net.
Sadly Weller-Evans would be beaten moments later. With the Raiders on the powerplay thanks to a delay of game penalty to Declan Balmer, a shot by Cesky from the point seemed to rebound off of all and sundry in front of the net before nestling in the bottom corner, with Craig Tribe accredited to having had the final touch at 19:15.
Rick Skene was called for crosschecking as the Raiders scored and the penalty carried over into the second but the visitors found no way past Weller-Evans and were punished shortly afterwards.
Ciaran Long teed the puck up for Miroslav Vantroba whose booming shot was saved by Shannon Long but the rebound fell right to Joe Greener who took a moment and rifled past the Raiders goalie at 22:20 for 3-1. It was 4-1 less than 2 minutes later when a Grant Rounding pass split the defence and Joe Rand raced in at speed and wristed a shot in off the crossbar at 24:12.
The Bison were fully in control of the game at this juncture and it only got worse when Aaron Edwards was called for slashing sending the Bison to the powerplay. Whilst Jeremy Cornish’s big hit on Vantroba pleased the visiting fans, Vantroba would have the last laugh moments later. With Vantroba remaining high up the ice, he took the puck from Stuart Mogg and played a lovely saucer pass into Cameron Wynn. Wynn, reeled the puck in, took a step and slotted past Long for 5-1 at 26:40.
At the other end of the ice, Dan Weller-Evans could have been forgiven for taking it easy but the Raiders were still trying to spring a surprise for an unlikely comeback and the young Bison goalie was forced into a spectacular save when Jaroslav Cesky raced to the net, the Czech forward trying to coax Weller-Evans into dropping into the butterfly but Dan didn’t bite and made the stop.
The Bison would once again punish the Raiders for their wastefulness as some excellent passing inside the zone saw a lovely tic, tac, toe goal as Ciaran Long set up Andy Melachrino for the one timer at 30:58 and it was 6-1 Bison.
Moments later it was 7-1 as Grant Rounding added his second of the night. A stretch pass from Matt Selby set Rounding away up the central channel with nobody on the ice able to keep up with him. Rounding blasted past everyone around him and had the puck past Shannon Long at 32:31.
Weller-Evans was forced into another save when Ben Paynter took the pass in the slot and span on a penny to fire on net but the puck didn’t leave his stick at speed and DWE easily kicked the puck away into the corner.
Many people were starting to wonder if Shannon Long would ever suffer the indignity of his brother scoring on him and unfortunately when it did happen, it was worse than he could have imagined; Vantroba fed the pass to Ciaran in the slot who fired goalwards. Shannon appeared to have a hold of the puck but it squeezed through and trickled slowly towards the line. Shannon realised a bit too late as he turned around and reached for the puck but it was over the line before he could sweep it clear at 37:23.
That was the last bit of action of the second period and having conceded 6 goals on 15 shots in the frame, Shannon Long was replaced for the third by Raiders’ starting netminder and former Bison, Matt Colclough.
It was Weller-Evans who was tested first in the final stanza; Joe Rand turned the puck over to Craig Tribe but the shot was right into the Bison netminder’s midriff and the score was unchanged.
The Bison played their younger players more and more as the period progressed and a mild shoulder injury to Declan Balmer saw him rested and Joe Greener take shifts on defence.
The chances kept coming for the Herd; Alex Sampford’s tip on a Brendan Baird drive was saved by Colclough as was Hallam Wilson’s effort off a feed from Ciaran Long. Weller-Evans forced away efforts from Paynter and Cesky.
The Herd’s final goal came with just under 9 minutes to go; some neat passing around the net set up Joe Rand for the tap in and his hattrick at 51:01 to kill off what was left of any momentum in the game.
Both teams had a couple of chances but even the rare sight of an end to end rush by Carl Graham couldn’t yield any more offence in the game. Dan Weller-Evans would celebrate a debut win, shortly after former team mate and friend Corey Watkins gave him a little knock to the helmet on his way in for a loose puck. The Herd finished off their cup weekend at a canter with a large win that gave would give confidence to the younger members of the side.
No man an island: In some ways whilst the game against Chelmsford was a better game of hockey, this was the better team performance from the Herd particularly from the younger forwards on the roster. Where they seemed a bit on edge and relegated to a checking line role, they appeared to have been let loose to do whatever they wanted and they looked better for it. Neither Wilson nor Sampford scored but both got good ice time and looked useful with Wilson getting a lot of minutes alongside Ciaran Long. Cameron Wynn took his goal superbly off of a delightful feed from Miroslav Vantroba and Stuart Mogg just did what Stuart Mogg does; cover both ends of the ice and his role as a developing two way centre and penalty killer is clearly coming on leaps and bounds.
On defence, Brendan Baird once again played major minutes and had a better game than the night before. While he looked like he needed to ease into the Saturday game, on Sunday he looked much more at ease right from the start. Any errors he did make were quickly addressed on the bench by big brother, Joe.
Dan Weller-Evans had a relatively comfortable night for his first start in a Bison jersey but was forced into a couple of saves that were certainly of the quality required, particularly when he was tested by shots from Cesky. On the way out of the game I heard someone say “I feel a lot more comfortable about our backup having watched him play” and I think that’s fair; Dan more than justified the faith being shown in him.
Grant Rounding for his 5 points was a fair enough choice for man of the match in a game that it was clear early on that the Bison weren’t going to lose. Overall for the Herd it was a game that served many masters and nobody got seriously hurt. Mission accomplished; next weekend will be a bit tougher.
A word on our opponents: The Wightlink Raiders, arguably Banners On The Wall’s second team for the amount of times this blog has visited Ryde, visited Basingstoke in something of a quandary. Usually much more up and running by this stage of the season, the Raiders have struggled for consistency and this game arguably could have been designated as a distraction for them. After a decent 6-1 win over the Bracknell Hornets the night before, did this game do anything for them?
Shannon Long’s goalie numbers will look terrible, especially the second period but apart from the goal he conceded to his brother that will be saved on YouTube forever, there was little he could have done about most of the goals. The Bison’s superior passing negated a lot of the work that the defence tried to do. Damon Larter and Niall Bound made some good plays and Simon Hobbis is certainly worth keeping an eye on but this was not really the best night to judge defensive performances.
Up front was really where the Raiders seemed to struggle. Yes, that sounds easy to say to a team from a league below after a 9-1 loss but I think the bigger issue was lack of offensive direction. They had chances and Ben Paynter and Jaroslav Cesky certainly kept Dan Weller-Evans busy but there wasn’t much cohesion going forward at times. I hate to compare the Raiders to Chelmsford because they’ll likely be sick of it but what served Chelmsford well was that they had much more structure to their game both in defence and going forward. The Essex side were also easily outclassed but the scoreline, if anything reflects the flip side of what I said above about the Bison; whilst the Herd played better, at times the Raiders made it it that much easier for them to do so.
There’s a lot of talent and potential in that Raiders side and when it really clicks, they’re going to cause teams at that level a lot of problems especially with their deep bench. Last night wasn’t really the night to witness such things, nor was a miracle in the offing.
Lowlight of the night: No shutout of Dan Weller-Evans thanks to a puck that rebounded off of more players and sticks than I thought physically possible.
Highlight of the night: I’ll say a toss up between Rounding’s second goal and DWE’s overall performance because I’m biased as he’s my mate and shush you, it’s my blog!