Running with the Herd – Bison vs Peterborough Phantoms 6/12/14Posted: 07/12/2014
Basingstoke Bison 2-4 Peterborough Phantoms
Sheppard pp Pliskauskas (5on3pp)
Karpov pp Lack
J. Ferrara pp
Wipe it from the memory: The Bison headed into the game with a short bench; Matt Selby, Declan Balmer and Cameron Wynn were all off on GB under 20 duty and Joe Greener was suspended after his match penalty last week. The Phantoms were without Slava Koulikov through injury and added James White and Mason Webster whilst starting Janis Auzins.
The Bison started off well out of the gate and when James Hutchinson caught Doug Sheppard with a high stick, the Bison powerplay took just a few seconds to do the damage. Miroslav Vantroba put the puck into position for Ciaran Long to hammer a shot goalwards that was tipped past Auzins at 01:01 to give the hosts the early lead.
There was an almost immediate response from the Phantoms as Darius Pliskauskas rang a shot off the crossbar and when Andy Melachrino was sent to the box for charging, the powerplay saw the Lithuanian have another good shot that was saved down low by Skinns.
The game was lacking some intensity and Joe Rand tried to bring the home fans into it with a thundering hit on Edgars Bebris but the crowd were soon into the game for all the wrong reasons. Rick Skene was rightly called for slashing which sent the Phantoms to the powerplay but when Auzins came out of his net to play the puck he was chased down by Michael Wales. As the Latvian returned to his net, Wales gave him a tap as he went past and the Phantoms netminder collapsed to the floor. The home fans were calling for a diving penalty but only Wales was sent to the box which gave the Phantoms the extra space they needed when Pliskauskas finally got his goal as he blasted through traffic at 08:58.
Dean Skinns was called into making a couple of saves shortly after but it would be disaster shortly afterwards. Edgars Apelis hammered the puck into the zone and it went close to Skinns’ left post and off of the endboards. As Skinns dropped down to cover the angle, everyone lost sight of the puck, everyone that is apart from Alan Lack. The puck had stopped just behind Skinns and was sitting right on the line by the post and the diminutive Phantoms agitator raced in and poked the puck over the line at 11:48 for the 2-1 Phantoms lead.
Much like the opening night encounter, the game started to get a bit niggly and when Greg Pick grabbed a hold of Tomas Karpov it appeared the game might degenerate but calm was maintained. The Bison had another powerplay opportunity when Hutchinson was called for delay of the game but there was nothing falling for the Bison on the man advantage and the period ended with the Phantoms 2-1 ahead.
The Herd had an early chance to get back into the game when Grant Rounding was hauled back by Pliskauskas. Will Weldon’s short handed chance was rubbed out by Vantroba but the Bison just couldn’t get the puck to fall for them and Auzins’ net remained unscathed. The same happened on the next powerplay when Mason Webster was called for tripping but again the puck just didn’t fall for the Herd.
The Phantoms’ gameplan wasn’t complicated but was frustrating the Bison who were starting to look lost as nothing they tried seemed to work and errors crept into the hosts’ game. A bad outlet pass put the puck onto the stick of Milan Baranyk who fed Edgars Bebris but the touch Bebris needed to get the puck out of his skates allowed Skinns to get into the proper position to make the save.
The Phantoms were putting the pressure on and were having more of the chances. Another poor turnover from the Bison gave the puck to James Ferrara who was in acres of space to advance on Dean Skinns. Ferrara made a move and drew Skinns down and appeared to have poked it home but it was sat on the line and Tom Norton followed up and got the final touch over the line at 33:11 for 3-1.
The Bison needed a response and the Phantoms seemed to be giving them a chance when a mistimed hit from Cameron McGiffin on Grant Rounding followed by Milan Baranyk being called for tripping gave the Herd a 5on3 powerplay. The Herd were having a few chances and eventually the goal came. Rand won the faceoff back to Vantroba, the Slovak fed Karpov who walked into the slot and slammed the puck past Auzins at 36:18 sending the water bottle on a journey through the air to the ice.
When Luke Ferrara skated into Vantroba on the Phantoms blueline and the Slovak was called for tripping, the home fans were once again sent into apoplectic rage but it was the Bison’s poor defending that once again cost them; the Herd’s penalty killers were all bunched into one corner and slick passing from Pliskauskas to Norton to James Ferrara saw the later fire past Skinns who didn’t get a glove towards the shot and it was 4-2 at 38:27.
The period ended and the Bison were looking all over the place with the Phantoms good value for their lead.
The home crowd were clearly restless about the lack lustre Bison performance and were getting frustrated with the officiating as well. When Auzins took the net off on a save early into the third, the home crowd immediately voiced their displeasure. Whilst Auzins was guilty of many things (more on that later) this was just indicative of the frustration all were starting to feel as the Bison weren’t playing to their potential. It was highlighted even more when Rick Skene was rightly called for tripping Baranyk, the Bison defenceman mouthed off to Mr Matthews who was only too happy to give Skene a further 10 minute sitdown. With Sheppard choosing not to give Brendan Baird any shifts, the Bison were essentially running 3 defencemen.
The teams started trading penalties as the chippy undercurrent in the game continued. With Skene’s penalty ticking down, Alan Lack was called for tripping then Bebris for slashing then Rand for boarding then Bebris for slashing again. The Bison were trying to get something but they just seemed to be short on ideas. The Phantoms, comfortably ahead seemed to be happy to let the Bison just continue to frustrate themselves which was a smart strategy.
Another poor Bison drop pass gave Marc Levers the chance to break out but Skinns blockered his shot into the netting. Joe Baird’s shot at the other end was blocked by a diving Phantoms defender but the puck fell to Kurt Reynolds whose shot was tipped in front of Auzins but not enough to cause any danger.
With the game into the last three minutes and the Bison seemingly having puffed themselves out, there was a coming together behind Skinns’ net as the teams battled for the puck. Out of nowhere the gloves were off between Mason Webster and Miroslav Vantroba though it wasn’t much of a proper fight. Both players were given 2+2 roughing penalties but Mr Matthews saw something else to his distaste and gave Vantroba a match penalty for buttending. I must confess to having not seem anything of that nature nor did anyone I spoke to standing or sitting near the incident but Mr Matthews saw something and Vantroba’s night was done.
Bar a nice hipcheck on Baranyk by Joe Baird that was the game done with Bison fans heading to the bar in an attempt to wipe this one from their memories.
Flip/Reverse: Where the Bison didn’t get the bounces and lost last week against Telford, they were the worse side across the 60 minutes and rightly lost. It started well with a well taken powerplay goal but they got rattled on a controversial decision that gave the Phantoms the 5on3 powerplay and then gave up the poor goal to Alan Lack and it all seemed to come apart. There was a lack of cohesion and direction and it was one of those nights where nothing seemed to work no matter what Sheppard tried.
Some players had poor nights; Ciaran Long looked really out of sorts with his positioning and shooting and Dean Skinns had another night where he gave up a couple of goals he could have stopped. Whilst those are two names, the overall performance from the Bison was below par and they were rightly beaten.
A lot of plays seemed to be “give the puck to Karpov” and whilst Tomas Karpov is arguably one of the best players in the EPL, he wasn’t given the requisite support and even the magic man needs some support. Credit where it’s due to Karpov, he kept plugging away and should have been in the conversation for man of the match. Joe Rand got the beers and whilst the Bison could have done with him crashing the net more, again Rand kept going, kept putting his shift in so I can see why he was chosen. Grant Rounding again looked very solid but really just lacks that last touch to put the puck past people this season. Rounding’s speed makes him really dangerous with Karpov and statistically one of those rebounds has to fall onto the Basingstoke youngster’s stick to fly past a netminder more often.
It was a bad loss, one that given Bracknell’s defeat to Guildford last night sees the Bison unable to advance to the cup semi finals if my maths is correct. Where there were positives from last week to take in the loss, this is one the Bison need to move on from quickly. The mistakes need rectifying quickly as well.
It should also be mentioned that the Bison fans were guilty of two major errors last night as well. Reports of something being thrown at the Phantoms bench, if true are inexcusable to the nth degree and there should be a ban from the rink for anyone caught doing it. Also, and again more on Auzins in a but, you do not ever boo the man of the match announcement for any team. That’s classless and stupid. Walk out if you don’t want to applaud the other team off the ice as that’s your prerogative but the game’s done; don’t boo people. There’s a few in the crowd in Basingstoke last night who need to take a good look at themselves this morning.
A word on our opponents: I’m going to start by having my grump where I’ll give a detailed explanation of how I feel then I’ll get onto the positive things I have to say about Peterborough so bare with me because, to paraphrase a popular book; we need to talk about Janis.
I’ve seen a few bits and pieces about Janis Auzins from last night and this morning, his own tweet included, about the Latvian netminder being the man of the night last night. That Auzins was into the heads of some players and the crowd and that he was the star of the show and the stick he gets from Bison fans is hypocritical in some way because they applaud Bison players dishing it out but when Auzins gives it back, they boo him like he’s shot a kitten on Christmas Day during the Queen’s Speech.
Here’s my problem with Janis Auzins; most of his antics are entirely unnecessary. Let’s be honest here; as we approach the half way point of the season Auzins has made some great performances in net. I don’t think last night was one of them by any stretch but he’s been pretty good, we can’t deny that. Netminders as well are different from outskaters. They rightly get extra protection from the officials in a variety of circumstances and they’re not fair game to check like any other player. There’s some leeway given there and that’s entirely correct. Auzins should get that treatment as should all goalies.
The problem however is that there is a line and Auzins has now crossed it twice in two games in Basingstoke where he’s gone past what many (and I include myself in this) deem acceptable with his embarrassing embellishment when tapped on the pads by Michael Wales last night being the best example. There’s the constant gripping about forwards getting in his face, holding of sticks and generally just an unsavoury attitude that irks me. Hacks and whacks happen in hockey, the net comes off its moorings now and again, we can live with that and every team does it but there’s a limit to what’s acceptable. In two games in Hampshire, Auzins’ actions which range from slashing at a forward to having a large part in instigating a brawl to last night and they make me think surely someone in Peterborough needs to have a word in his ear and quickly.
Anyway, onto the Phantoms last night. Peterborough coach Slava Koulikov has a team that is more than the sum of their parts. I don’t think they’re a particularly good or high skilled team but last night’s game plan worked to perfection. They frustrated the Bison into a catalogue of silly errors and made them work hard rather than smart. The visitors clogged the passing lanes so that made the Bison resort to the dump and chase which the Phantoms were able to close down on. There’s no other way to cut it, the right team won last night over the course of the 60 minutes.
Auzins got man of the match and again for the second week at Basingstoke, the netminder is chosen for making lots of saves but they weren’t good quality saves. He wasn’t made to work for them. James Ferrara or Tom Norton for me were the standout players on the ice across both teams; the former taking his goal really well and just had a real captain’s performance where he led from the front and the later had a 1+2 night from defence whilst looking like a rock at the back which limited the Bison’s 5on5 opportunities.
The Phantoms are certainly not the most entertaining team to watch and in some ways remind me a lot of MK this season. There’s not a really high level of skill or excitement but they’re effective. The Phantoms seem to have found a way to come together and get wins where the Lightning can’t this season. Whatever it is that Slava Koulikov’s doing, it seems to be working and fair play to them for it.
Lowlight of the night: Everything, pretty much
Highlight of the night: I’ll say Karpov’s goal, bottle knocker for the win.