Running with the Herd – Bison vs Guildford Flames 21/12/14

EPL
Basingstoke Bison 2-3 Guildford Flames

Greener                        Tvrdon

Karpov                          Lundin pp

                                     Longstaff

Not great, but better: The Bison headed into the game without Matt Selby who according to Doug Sheppard’s recent diary in the Basingstoke Gazette will be seeing a neurologist in the new year. We should his absence from the line-up to continue for a little while. The Flames started James Hadfield in net whilst missing David Savage, Tom Duggan and Jozef Kohut.

Both teams started brightly and had a couple of chances. Then out of nowhere Guildford were 1-0 up. The Bison were caught high up the ice and Matt Towe’s outlet pass sprung David Longstaff and Roman Tvrdon for the 2 on 1. It was a textbook play as Longstaff held then fired the pass for the Slovak for the one time redirect past Skinns at 01:32.

This of course is nothing new to the Bison, they’d given up early goals before and put the pressure back on the Flames with Rand and Vantroba having shots but it was the Slovak who would put the Bison on the back foot when his attempt at a hipcheck on Vladimir Kutny went into the realms of interference and put the Flames on the powerplay. The Flames special teams unit put together some good passes and shots but eventually Marcus Kristofferson found Jez Lundin unmarked pinching in and the Flames’ defenceman’s shot went through Skinns’ five hole at 07:19 for 2-0.

It got worse for the Bison as all of a sudden, Grant Rounding was down behind the play in a heap on the floor. When play was eventually stopped, Rounding was helped from the ice and wasn’t weight baring on one of his legs. His night was over.

The game itself became a bit scrappy, the Flames were comfortably protecting their lead and were sitting back making the Bison do all the legwork. There weren’t many clear cut chances but the Herd were having a few chances, scrappy though they were. With the period running down, the Bison didn’t seem to be able to make a crisp pass in front of James Hadfield then out of nowhere, Joe Greener made a step away from the defenceman at the side of the net, Ciaran Long made the pass across the crease and the Bison’s player/assistant coach fired into the net at 19:53 to change the dynamic of the game as the first period expired.

The Herd started the brighter to start the second but it came to a screeching halt when Dean Skinns took a heavy shot right to the front of his mask that left the Bison netminder down on the ice for an extended period. It took a while but the Herd backstop got up and stayed in the game.

The Bison decided that the best way to protect Skinns was to go on the offensive; shots from Joe Baird, Doug Sheppard and Vantroba caused issues for Hadfield. The Bison kept pressing and Joe Greener fed Ciaran Long in front who rang a shot off of the crossbar.

Then disaster; as the shot flew off the bar, the Flames broke and once again Matt Towe fed David Longstaff but this time the former Great Britain captain would go it alone and would slot past Skinns at 32:02. The Bison could have been 2-2 up but instead were 3-1 down.

Just after that, Skinns took another shot to the mask which saw the trainer called for again but again the Bison netminder refused to leave the ice and continued.

The Bison kept at it and were given a powerplay chance when Jez Lundin charged into a Bison player after the whistle but they couldn’t find a way to close the gap and as the powerplay was winding down, Joe Greener was called for tripping Matt Towe on what will go down as one of the more innocuous calls of the night. The second period ended and on the balance of it, the Bison had a right to feel a bit aggrieved at being two goals down.

The Flames had been playing the perfect road game and as the third period started again they were happy for the Bison to come at them and come at them they did. Long, Karpov and Sheppard had chances but either Hadfield saved them or they went wide.

The ire of the Flames fans was drawn when Joe Greener hit Matt Towe. Flames fans felt the hit was high but no penalty was called on the play but this didn’t stop Danny Meyers having a stern word with Greener. Personally I didn’t see the hit as being high from my vantage point the other side of the rink. It happened below the Flames fans block and they think it was high. They are entitled to think that, I remain unconvinced by their arguments and await the video tape on it. I’ll gladly reverse my position if the tape says otherwise.

The Herd kept coming forward, Sheppard had a shot zip past Hadfield’s right post, Chinn and Liddard exchanged chances. Marcus Kristofferson picked Declan Balmer’s pocket and fed Stuart Potts but it was an easy save for Skinns.

Time was running out for the Bison. Tomas Karpov shot at Hadfield which was saved but a hit long after the whistle from Liddiard wasn’t called. It was getting desperate for the hosts as the final 2 minutes came up. Then the final 30 seconds arrived and the Bison called the timeout as Skinns had made his way to the bench.

Doug Sheppard discussed tactics with those he was sending out but the Herd kept losing faceoffs in the offensive zone. They did win the puck back and with 8 seconds left managed to bundle the puck of the line, Tomas Karpov getting credit for the 2-3 goal at 59:52.

Off the faceoff, Bison charged through the faceoff circle and got a faceoff with 2.8 seconds with the puck to Hadfield’s left. The puck dropped and the Flames flooded the circle with bodies to take away and chance and walk out of Hampshire with the 2 points.

Take what you can: Having slept and thought about the game as I was writing this, I think I agree with the consensus which is that the Flames were the better team on the night. I don’t think they were miles ahead of the Bison but the right team won on the night.

The loss of Grant Rounding combined with two large shots to the head of Dean Skinns that saw the later somehow stay in the game will be talking points. There’s no word on Rounding’s injury but many were saying that Skinns should have been pulled from the game last night and I sympathise with the argument. After the first headshot, if Skinns felt he could go on then he should have been given the benefit of the doubt but after the second one, I agree that there should have been some period of assessment off ice for Skinns. Dan Weller-Evans is there for a reason and that’s to play when required. A minute, 2 minutes off the ice for assessment purposes when a player has taken a massive shot to the head is more valuable than conceding a goal.  Dean’s a tough guy and a proud goalie. He wants to play every minute and that’s understandable and fine but given the recent issues with Matt Selby, I expected the Bison to be a bit more cautious on such things.

That said, given the rut the Bison have been in recently this was a much better performance especially compared to the loss to Peterborough which was dire. Kurt Reynolds was a good choice for man of the match and gave a good performance all the way through the match where he was a defensive rock and constantly tried to be a spark that the Bison needed.

Up front, it just didn’t fall for the Herd. The effort was there, the huff and puff was there but it just didn’t fall. Ciaran Long looked much more like himself and had his shot skimmed the crossbar and gone in, this might have been a very different piece. Joe Greener had a decent game as well and, controversy about high hits aside, took his goal really well and it was a very needed goal at the time.

I wouldn’t blame some Bison fans being frustrated with how things are going at the moment because in actuality all the pieces are there for success but something is just not clicking at the moment. What it is, is hard to put a finger on at the moment but the lack of scoring given the firepower the Bison have is one of them. The Herd need to find a way to score more goals, especially at home. How they do that is a question for Doug Sheppard to muse over his turkey. Happy Christmas, guys.

A word on our opponents: As I said, the right team won the game. I tip my hat to Guildford on that one. They played a superb road game; they clogged the passing lanes and didn’t allow the Bison to pass the puck around which neutralised the biggest threat the Herd have and were that little bit more clinical than the hosts on the night.

James Hadfield was a fair enough choice for man of the match, more so than Murdy and Auzins were when they won them because at least the Herd made the Flames’ netminder work a bit more for the beers.

The new imports for Guildford look like solid acquisitions as both Vladimir Kutny and Roman Tvrdon, the later especially, put in some good performances and both appear to be shrewd bits of business by Paul Dixon. The other impressive performance was a solid defensive leadership job by Danny Meyers. Whilst he didn’t impress earlier in the campaign, he seems to have found his feet back in the EPL and that only bodes well for the Flames.

Guildford appear to be back to what many expect of them. As I said, I don’t think the Bison were that far behind the Surrey side on the night but behind them they were. With the Flames apparently in an upswing form wise, it’s a bad time for other teams to be playing them.

Lowlight of the night: Lundin’s goal; just one we all saw coming and it couldn’t be stopped.

Highlight of the night: Greener’s goal; right in his office and came at a needed time.

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