Running with the Herd – Bison vs Milton Keynes Lightning 15/3/15


Basingstoke Bison 6-4 Milton Keynes Lightning

Greener x2 (1 dpg)       Hook x3 (1 pp)

Connolly x2                   Kostourek

Long sh


Stormy ends: Both teams headed into the game with players missing. The Bison remained without the trio of Selby, Balmer and Karpov and the Lightning headed in missing Jordan Cownie, Ross Green, Curtis Huppe and Grant McPherson as Jordan Hedley took the start in the MK net.

The Bison had the better of the early chances as both Sheppard and Connolly both had chances to score. Play had to be stopped when Milan Kostourek went down in a heap after a coming together, the MK import skating off holding his wrist. Off of the ensuing faceoff the Bison attacked and with Mr Pickett’s arm in the air for holding on Ross Green, the Bison worked a nice move with Ciaran Long drawing the defender and feeding the puck to Joe Greener to fire home from close range at 04:47.

It didn’t take long for the home side to press home their advantage either as the relentless Bison attack yielded a second goal. Ryan Watt fed the puck to Aaron Connolly who fired a powerful wrist shot at the gap between the left arm and pad of Jordan Hedley. The GB u20 netminder got a piece of the shot but not enough as it nestled into the back of the net at 06:53 for the 2-0 Bison lead.

The Lightning were very much on the back foot, seemingly having no real answer to the sustained and trademark Bison pressure. Leigh Jamieson tried to feed Adam Carr at the backdoor but Dean Skinns was able to deflect the puck away from the MK captain.

The hosts were very much the side in the ascendency, looking dangerous even without the puck. When the Bison forced a turnover inside the Lightning zone, Watt again would find Connolly who this time fired high over the shoulder of Hedley for 3-0 at 11:37 forcing Nick Poole to call for the timeout to settle the troops.

It didn’t immediately help; Connolly again was released down the wing and his shot again took a piece of Hedley on the way past but the Bison alternate captain’s hat trick was denied by a Lightning defender on the line. However there was nothing that could be done a moment later as the Bison worked the puck to the outside and former Lightning favourite Michael Wales had his drive superbly tipped past Hedley by Greener for his second of the night at 14:56 for 4-0.

The Bison were fully in control but as the old adage goes on BOTW, never count out the Lightning who made the most of Bison error in the offensive zone. Ross Bowers and Lewis Hook led the breakout, the former fed the later and Hook got just enough on the puck for it to make it past the outstretched leg of Skinns and into the bottom corner of the net at 16:22.

The Lightning took some solace in the goal and proved more of a threat to the Bison goal as the chances evened up with the period running down. When Miroslav Vantroba was called for hooking, the Lightning set about trying to claw themselves back further into the tie, a cross ice feed from Petr Horava being poked away by Skinns with Adam Carr on the back door being the best chance.

The first ended with the Herd comfortably in front but the Lightning were always going to refuse to go quietly.

The teams traded chances at the start of the second period with Rand and Long going close for the Bison and Hook having a couple of chances for Milton Keynes. The Bison would get the first opportunity to have some sustained pressure when Petr Horava tripped Ryan Watt then when Vantroba was slashed by Lewis Christie the Bison had 50 seconds of 5on3 but couldn’t make the advantage count as they powerplay was spent trying to set up Ryan Watt for his first goal since joining the Herd. The Lightning had a powerplay chance of their own when Chinn was called for crosschecking but again, no goals were forthcoming.

Chris Wiggins had been subject to a lot of booing all night but this didn’t stop the former Bison man going about his business. A hit on Joe Greener that looked a little bit close to elbows in this writer’s opinion wasn’t called and when Wiggins clashed with Miroslav Vantroba it appeared that all hell would break loose as the two big men hacked and whacked at each other till it drew a crowd. Wiggins ended up with 2+2 roughing and Vantroba only 2 for roughing (which given he gave Wiggins a pretty stiff elbow to the face was surprising) but reports of a kick from Vantroba to Wiggins emerged after the fracas. I personally didn’t see a kick but as I’m positioned a fair distance from where the incident took place, hopefully the highlights will shed more light.

The game took on a really niggly edge; Jamieson stuck his knee out on Vantroba that saw Ryan Watt steam in and both men take penalties along with a variety of hacks and whacks off the play. Mr Pickett seemed content to let the game flow as much as possible.

The teams traded chances as the period came to a close; Long and Vantroba had the best one and seemed to take too many touches and eventually managed to miss an almost open net. Chinn was called for hooking towards the end of the period leaving Milton Keynes starting the third with the man advantage.

The Lightning started the final frame the better of the two sides as Lewis Hook again danced around the Bison defence but was denied by the left pad of Skinns but Milan Kostourek would get the Lightning within two when his shot at the narrow angle went into Skinns’ shoulder and rolled down the arm of the Bison netminder and over the line at 43:04.

Shortly after, the game took another ugly turn; a high hit from Wiggins from behind on Connolly saw no call from Mr Pickett which saw Michael Wales step in to have a few words with Wiggins and off came the gloves. With the height, reach and pretty much everything advantage it was an easy win for the Milton Keynes man who was booed into the penalty box. Wales was given the extra 2 minutes for instigating and MK found themselves on the powerplay.

The Lightning took the faceoff but eventually Greener and Long broke out shorthanded. Greener fed the puck into Long’s wheelhouse and blasted it by Hedley for 5-2 at 44:41, bringing the home crowd to their feet.

The aggressive nature of the game continued; Melachrino and Kostourek clashed then Connolly, Wales and Jamieson. Both sets of players and fans were getting riled up as it seemed very few penalties would be forthcoming.

The game was scrappy but the next goal opened the game up slightly; Adam Carr won the battle in the corner and fed Lewis Hook. The GB u20 international made the move, avoided the pokecheck of Skinns and slotted past him at 54:20 to make it 5-3.

When Stuart Mogg took what can only be described as a necessary hooking penalty to stop Blaz Emersic, it was Hook who would punish the Bison again. The Lightning powerplay worked the puck around to the youngster who blasted his hat trick goal under the arm of Skinns at 56:24 for 5-4 to leave the Bison in a tighter position than they wanted.

Milan Kostourek chased the puck into the corner and was chased down by Ciaran Long. Kostourek ended up in a head on the deck much in the same way he had in the first period. Mr Pickett held off on blowing the whistle but when it emerged that no penalty was coming, Kostourek lost his temper. The Czech forward screamed at the ref, the Bison players on the ice, off the ice and was eventually man handled away by linesman Cook and onto the MK bench before he could do any damage. The Lightning forward kept raving and eventually Lightning assistant coach Lewis Clifford was thrown out of the game for his remonstrations.

The Bison’s response to this? Some neat setup play from Reynolds to Sheppard and eventually a goal from Nicky Chinn; 6-4 Bison at 58:25 and the Bison saw out the home part of the 2014/15 season with a win and the securing of third place in the table.

Home and dry: So that was the regular season in Basingstoke and the Bison go out with a win. As I discussed with someone after the game, the Bison ended the season as they started it; a 6-4 home win in an ill tempered game with an aggressive undercurrent that the Bison scored a lot early then slightly let the visitors back into it at the end.

Joe Greener was a fair choice for man of the match given his two goals and his general all around play but it was actually a decent all round performance by the Bison. With the lack of Karpov, the scoring line of Greener-Long-Sheppard was joined by a line of Chinn, Melachrino and Wynn/Rounding so a line with speed and someone to set people up and a line of Rand, Watt and Connolly which is so gritty it would make your driveway jealous.

In the first period, the Herd could and probably should have been 5 or 6 ahead when any good move they seemed to be setting up went in. It was disappointing to see the Lightning allowed back into the game (though that’s partly down to how well MK played once the physicality of the game was raised as well) but overall, it’s a promising weekend heading into the post season with two very good wins over dangerous teams.

Whilst it would have been nice if some of the antics of both sides could have been avoided, the Bison gave as good as they got and heading into the playoffs it’s useful to know that the side feels and shows that it can’t be pushed around.

It seems the Bison playoff title defence needs to be taken seriously after 14 goals in two games. Whilst the Bison will concede goals, they’re going to score them and add Karpov back into the lineup if fit, it’s up to teams to shut that down.

A word on our opponents: Milton Keynes will be happy with the last 25 to 30 minutes. The only problem was that with a short bench they just didn’t show up for the first quarter of an hour and they got seriously burned. It’s not something they could do without one of their import forwards and one of the best up and coming players in the country.

Without Jordan Cownie, a lot of the attacking threat from the Lightning needed to come from somewhere and Lewis Hook more than stepped up with a superbly taken hat trick. Hook really is one for the future and I live in hope that an Elite League side takes a chance on him.

Blaz Emersic provided adequate support and credit to Petr Horava for playing forward and showing the quality that he has by not looking out of place.

I’m quite a fan of Jordan Hedley but unfortunately for the young man, I don’t think this was his best game. Whilst he was beaten by some good shots, I feel he will want a couple of them back.

Whilst he laid a couple of hits that I didn’t think were legal, I don’t have a whole lot of problem with what Chris Wiggins did. Again, he got booed in Basingstoke for doing what he did for Basingstoke a couple of years ago.

I had a bigger problem with Milan Kostourek; yes he took a couple of whacks (so did every player) but the temper tantrum worthy of a 13 year old was just ludicrous. When your own team mate has to pull you away, take the hint.

I don’t think MK can really argue the result and sadly in a way it was indicative of their season; they had a lot there but not quite enough across the 60 minutes.

Lowlight of the night: A bunch of stuff but at the end of the season, I’m not even in the mood to complain about the same problems again and again.

Highlight of the night: Long’s short handed goal was pretty sweet.


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