Running with the Herd – Bison vs Sheffield Steeldogs 7/2/15

EPL
Basingstoke Bison 6-1 Sheffield Steeldogs

Connolly pp                  Calvert pp

Rand pp

Long sh dp

Greener 4on3 pp

Karpov

Wynn pp

Put a muzzle on them: The Bison line-up was the same as it has been in recent weeks; Wales and Mogg continuing on defence in the absence of the Baird brothers with Rounding and Selby still out. The Steeldogs headed into the game as expected with Dalibor Sedlar starting in the net.

That wasn’t the first major talking point however as the warm-up saw the teams nearly come to blows. Words exchanged between the sides which lead to Steeldogs player/coach Andre Payette taking a shot at Aaron Connolly. The players slashed at each other’s sticks but eventually sanity and warm-up drills were restored. It sort of set the tone for the evening.

When Craig Elliott got called for crosschecking off of the faceoff, the Bison needed to make the early man advantage count and did so. The Steeldogs cleared the puck and the Herd advanced up the ice; Melachrino hit the blue line, laid off the pass for Aaron Connolly who took a couple of steps and riffled a shot past the glove of Sedlar at 01:18.

Then we all blinked and there was Callum Pattison punching Michael Wales on the floor. Nobody really saw where it came from and it didn’t last very long but the Bison were back on the powerplay as a result and just over a minute later it was another goal. A large scramble in front of Sedlar’s goal saw a couple of people take a swing at the puck but it was Joe Rand who was eventually credited with getting the key final touch over the line at 03:59 for 2-0.

The Bison kept the pressure on but soon had to face off their own penalty killing situation when a big hit from Chinn was called as elbows but there was nothing coming for the visitors. They did have a massive chance after the powerplay expired when Balmer and Vantroba fell over each other giving Greg Wood all the time in the world in front of Skinns but the Steeldogs captain couldn’t find a way past the Bison netminder who maintained his composure.

The Bison went forward again but when Joe Greener barrelled through Dalibor Sedlar as he crashed the net, the Bison forward was called for interference as the Steeldogs netminder was sent sprawling to the ice. The visitors however would secure their own undoing when some poor play in their own zone turned the puck over to Tomas Karpov who fed Ciaran Long in front who found a way to get the puck over the line past Sedlar for 3-0.

The Steeldogs seemed to be determined to be the masters of their own demise in the first period; when Tomas Karpov was called for tripping, rather then let the situation lie, Payette steamed into Nicky Chinn getting himself called for charging which put the teams to 4on4. The Steeldogs sent out Korhon and Ozolins for the 4on4 situation but with Payette in the box and Sedlar still in goal and some Bison shouting, Mr Thompson was alerted and called the Steeldogs for the infraction. The extra space of the 4on3 powerplay allowed the Bison to move the puck about and in his usual space to the keeper’s left, Joe Greener was found and lifted the puck over the pad of Sedlar at 19:21 to make it 4-0 and end the first period with Bison fans in a good mood and everyone connected with Sheffield scratching their heads.

The second period started off with more chances for the Bison, Long and Sheppard going close before Tom Squires was called for tripping. The Bison powerplay couldn’t find a way past Sedlar but the visitors first crosschecked Karpov onto their netminder then Steve Duncombe crosschecked Long onto his own netminder, earning himself a crosschecking penalty. Despite the extended time on the man advantage, no goals were coming.

The teams traded penalties as Connolly then Wood were both called for slashing with no goals coming. The Steeldogs came close when Korhon fed Gibson but the shot went wide and Gibson was hit into the boards by Greener which was called as tripping giving the visitors a powerplay that would last into the final period, the Bison still leading 4-0 as the buzzer went.

The physical edge of the game was on display in the opening moments of the third period; Connolly laid a big hit on Duncombe and Payette had words with Michael Wales and even a hug with Nicky Chinn as the opposing coach and captain sought to prove to Mr Thompson that yes, they could get along.

Ciaran Long was called for hooking and the Steeldogs finally managed to break down the defences of the Bison as some neat passing set up Ashley Calvert for a blast from the hashmarks that beat Skinns at 44:02 leaving the hunt for the club shutout record ongoing.

The teams traded chances as Squires, Karpov and Gibson all went close but no dent was made on the scoreboard. The time was ticking down and the Steeldogs were still in the game and the next goal was going to prove crucial to the outcome of the game.

After Miroslav Vantroba rang one of the post, the Bison put an end to the Steeldogs’ attempts to revive the game. Tomas Karpov got the puck in the corner, walked out on net and used his patented toe drag move to draw Sedlar down and fire past him at 53:46.

The penalty minutes were still being handed out with frequency as Andre Payette continued on his mission to get somebody into the penalty box with him. Eventually Ryan Watt decided to briefly engage and the two chatted and whacked away at one another, Watt taking an extra two minutes to give the Steeldogs the powerplay which was negated almost immediately when a clumsy open ice hit from Janis Ozolins caught Greener high and the former EPL player of the year was given 2+10 for checking to the head.

With Ozolins still in the box, the Bison rounded out the scoring. Joe Rand won the faceoff to Cameron Wynn who managed to slide the puck past Sedlar at 58:58 to send the Herd fans home happy and continued the Bison’s recent excellent run at home.

Take it as it comes: Last night’s game was weird to watch but it was a game that was a microcosm of what the Bison have been in recent weeks; successful through being professional. Now that’s not to say there haven’t been wobbles and setbacks along the way but in games of various shapes and styles the team puts their head down and work out the win. In a game like last night’s where their opponents’ play ranged from good to “what the hell are they doing?” this was really the only approach to take. It worked.

Aaron Connolly was a good choice for man of the match on the whole for another workmanlike performance and a very well taken goal that seems to see the Bison alternate captain returning to goalscoring form at the right time of the season. His upswing in performance couldn’t be coming at a better time with the playoffs in sight.

Dean Skinns will feel unlucky not to have gotten the shutout on the night having faced only 16 shots but he did make a variety of good saves when called into action. The whole defensive corps had a decent night, bar Balmer and Vantroba falling over each other but this makeshift blueline unit seems to be working. Stuart Mogg has looked better with every game and Michael Wales was at his agitating and penalty drawing best, even taking Pattison’s fist a few times for his troubles.

Tomas Karpov’s goal was a thing of beauty and whilst many have argued he’s not the player he was last year (I disagree for a variety of reasons and I’ll explain why another time) he showed with the goal what the real danger of taking your eye off of him is. Combined with the usual danger of the Greener, Sheppard and Long line, there was trouble wherever the Steeldogs looked.

It was the Bison’s only game of the weekend so they left it all out there. They spend today watching and waiting to see what Bracknell team appears next week.

A word on our opponents: I’ll be literal on this if I may; bizarre. The first period was the reminiscent of a game against the Steeldogs a while ago where I described it as having paid to have a brick thrown in my face, the second saw the visitors play some half way decent hockey that resulted in only 3 shots and the third was a sort of mixture of the two.

Andre Payette’s antics aside, if I was a Steeldogs fan I’m not happy with the performance overall. There was no real direction, at times no cohesion and it left me with no idea. I joked to a couple of people that the report for this game was going to be a picture of me shrugging my shoulders because I had no real idea as to how to write up what I was watching.

Steve Duncombe was as good a choice as any for man of the match. Korhon and Ozolins were ineffectual, the Bison effectively ended the game as a contest in the first period as nobody was really supporting Sedlar who was at least trying but yeah, I’m stumped. There’s no way to really analyse what I saw.

Last week it was obvious watching Bracknell that they had the drive but not the ability. Sheffield have the ability and instead gave us that. I’m not sure which is worse.

Lowlight of the night: The Steeldogs goal; well taken but we were willing on Deano for the shutout.

Highlight of the night: Nice to watch us properly put a team to the sword, or as close as Sheppard hockey will get us to.

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