Running with the Herd – Bison vs Bracknell Bees 14/2/15

Basingstoke Bison 5-1 Bracknell Bees

Rand                            Ivan Antonov

Greener x2

Vantroba x2

All it’s cracked up to bee: The Bison welcomed back Joe Baird which saw Michael Wales return to playing as a forward but remained without Selby, Rounding and Brendan Baird which left Stuart Mogg on defence. The Bees were without Lukas Smital who coached from the bench and added Thomas Relf, Ilya Antonov and former Bison, Danny Ingoldsby whilst starting another former Bison in Tom Annetts.

The game didn’t start well for the Bison; off the faceoff the Bees had the puck in their zone and Aaron Connolly lined up his man for the hit, bounced off his man and was flat on the ice. Play was stopped as players from both sides alerted the referee to the issue and Connolly was helped to his feet and helped from the ice, the Bison alternate captain clearly in no state to continue. It was followed up moments later with the Bees on attack by Stuart Mogg taking a puck off the throat but that was not enough to remove the makeshift defender from the game.

The game had a bit of a funny edge to it following the Connolly incident and the play was scrappy as Bracknell tried to play the same disrupting game they had a fortnight ago but were playing with much more purpose than the previous encounter. Sam Waller had a fantastic chance when he managed to dance through the entire Bison team but his shot went wide. However the Bison were the ones making more of the running; Karpov, Baird and Long all had chances either stopped by Annetts or, in the case of Karpov, Pavel Strycek.

The goal was coming and come it did in the form of Joe Rand; the Canadian took the feed from Nicky Chinn and snapped a shot short side over the glove of Annetts into the top corner of the net at 06:39.

Cameron Wynn’s big hit on Harvey Stead that left the Bees man with a bloody nose when he hit the floor showed that the Bison were not going to shirk the physical battle but the Bees were having a fair bit of pressure themselves. Danny Ingoldsby’s shot was blockered away by Skinns and a rare moment of panic in the Bison defence saw the net under siege but the hosts would eventually clear the danger.

Ingoldsby was trying to put himself around as much as possible and was drawing the ire of his former team mates. Vantroba hammered the young Bees forward that earned the Slovak a few choice words and a dig. Sadly for Ingoldsby he then got turned into something of a pinball as Vantroba gave him another knock only to be hammered again moments later by Declan Balmer.

The first drew to a close with the game poised at 1-0 but less than a minute into the second would see the Bison start to pull away. The Herd broke out and Doug Sheppard fed Joe Greener for a drive to the net and he would chip the puck through an available gap in Annetts for 2-0 at 20:52.

After Ryan Watt recovered from an awkward hit from James Galazzi that owed more to bad timing than genuine intent, the Bison thought they’d extended their lead when a Miroslav Vantroba drive saw the light come on after the puck hit the post but Mr Cloutman was insistent that the puck had hit two posts and rebounded out before being smothered by Annetts.

He could not do much about what came shortly afterwards as Greener added his second. Again Sheppard set his coaching assistant away and the former Bee bared down on goal and fired past the netminder for 3-0 at 22:20.

A brief period of 4on4 after Greener and Turner were both given roughing penalties yielded no goals as the teams traded chances; Wynn and Hubacek both going close. The Bison were called for too many men which gave the Bees their first powerplay of the night but they never got a chance to do anything with it as the Bison’s penalty kill frustrated and confounded the visitors, given them no chance to mount a proper attack.

Play wound on and when Tomas Karpov gained the zone on a 1on4 rush, the Bees initially struggled to contain him. Scott Spearing caught a hold of Karpov and when the two fell to the ice and the Bees man held on a little too long, Mr Cloutman sent him to the box to put the Bison on the man advantage.

It wasn’t the best of powerplays from the Herd as they struggled to get the puck moving with any great fluidity but as the man advantage ended, Cameron Wynn took the zone and laid the pass off to Ryan Watt. With all the Bees defenders converging on that side of the ice, Miroslav Vantroba started moving into the space left by the Bracknell defenders. Watt saw the space open up and fed the puck through the defenders for Vantroba to slap it past Annetts at 31:51 to make it 4-0.

The game suffered from a lack of chances for a bit as the Bison seemed content to just hold the Bees at bay, minimising their chances as the Bracknell game plan failed to make a breakthrough though Ilya Antonov came close with a stuff in attempt.

The Bison seemed content to sit back and take the chances as they came and they forced one out of the Bees. Forcing the turnover in the zone, Michael Wales found the puck on his stick in hopefully fired the puck towards the slot. Vantroba popped up again, stepping into the slot and hammering the puck past Annetts for the Bison’s 5th at 36:27.

The second wound down and the Bison had stamped their authority on the game which now felt beyond the reach of the visitors.

The third period started with a dump in off the boards falling to Ivan Antonov who drove the puck goalwards but it was an easy save for Skinns.

Ingoldsby hit Balmer that sent the Bison defender into the boards that saw him stay down briefly. It was a hit that saw the nearest Bison go straight to Ingoldsby to have a few choice words. As that was Tomas Karpov, necessarily all the other Bison raced towards the incident because you don’t want your star import potentially fighting at all, let alone an under 18 in a facecage who has been the opposition’s most physical player. The only outcome was a boarding penalty for Ingoldsby but the powerplay came to nothing.

The Bison had reverted to their shutdown plan; play solidly and hold the Bees at bay and any shots that come in will be ones that Dean Skinns will stop and this was the pattern that followed as Ingoldsby and Towalski came close. The Bison had chances through Karpov, whose first chance was a blast that was frozen into Annetts’ pads by Lewis Turner and a second where he was sprung behind the defence by Annetts made the initial save and that off the rebound from Ryan Watt.

Then out of nowhere, the shutout for Dean Skinns was gone. Ivan Antonov took the zone, spun and fired and somehow the puck ended up going through the five hole of Skinns at 51:16. Antonov seemed shocked that the puck had gone in but he wasn’t going to argue.

The Bees then had a powerplay chance when Declan Balmer was called for elbows, the best chance falling to Hubacek but Skinns was equal to the shot.

The game started to die out, both teams more than aware of the result of the game and final buzzer sounded to herald the continuing good run of form as the Bison head into a big game in Peterborough on Sunday night.

Wins and losses: The biggest loss from last night is of course that of Aaron Connolly. The Bison alternate captain was taken to the room and was on the bench at the end of the game for the handshakes. Connolly should be rights be missing the game with Peterborough and possibly the midweek game in Guildford but most important is that Aaron rests up and gets well soon.

The game on the whole for the Bison was, as the previous Bees game and the Steeldogs game last week, a professional job well done. The Herd didn’t need to get out of second gear for the most part and when they did in the second period, they blew the visitors away with comparative ease.

Miroslav Vantroba was a fair choice for man of the match; a rare two goal outing from the big Slovak and denied a third by the width of the pipe. It wasn’t a game where he and his colleagues on the blueline, excellent though they were, needed to be excellent and his added offensive outburst helped by some excellent vision by his team mates is what pushed him over the line. Rarely is a defender on course for a natural hattrick.

Joe Greener as well took his two strikes very well and the link up play of that line with Sheppard and Long is still firing on all cylinders. If the Bison are going to come close to retaining the playoff title, you have to think that this line will be front and centre to achieving that.

The loss of Connolly early obviously resulted in some shuffling of the lines and positions but the lines managed to make something work. Rand, Chinn and Wales wasn’t the fastest line ever seen but it was gritty and frustrated Bracknell’s attempts to frustrate them. The line of Wynn, Karpov and Watt came very close to scoring but sadly never got the final touch but Watt’s pass to Vantroba for his first was an absolute beauty.

The loss of Connolly is a bad one but two defencemen down, the Bison found a way to survive and make it through. It’s a blow and we want Aaron back quickly but this team has found ways to adapt before and they will again.

A word on our opponents: The scoreline may not reflect it but this was much better from the Bees, particularly the first period. There was positivity, energy and some element in direction in their play that was lacking a couple of weeks ago. The problem of course was the same problem as two weeks ago; the lack of quality told.

Danny Ingoldsby was given man of the match for an energetic performance. He was given a few bits of stick from the crowd upon his return and I’m not entirely sure why. Bar one badly timed hit, he did nothing that he didn’t do in a Bison jersey. Between himself and the Antonov brothers, they were the majority of the Bees’ offensive energies.

I actually thought man of the match should have gone to Lewis Turner who, despite the Bees conceding five goals I thought had one of the better games on the Bees side. He made a variety of defensive plays that helped stop the scoreline creep up. Where I thought Strycek did that job a couple of weeks ago, Turner did last night.

Otherwise there’s not a great more to say about the Bees that hasn’t already been said. With Milton Keynes winning last night against Peterborough, the Bees are now 14 points adrift at the bottom of the table. Even the most optimistic and hardened Bees fan probably has to admit that the playoffs are now out of their reach. They just don’t have the talent on the roster at the moment to compete. It’s a crying shame given the effort that they put in as a team.

Lowlight of the night: Connolly’s injury; unfortunate and an utter accident.

Highlight of the night: Vantroba’s first goal; great bit of vision from Vantroba to find the space, Watt to make the pass and a great finish to boot.


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