Building the Herd – Ciaran Long

#89 Ciaran Long

Position: Forward

Born: Birmingham

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 2nd April

Top points scorer Ciaran Long returns to the Bison for 2015/16 (c) 5 Hole Photography

Top points scorer Ciaran Long returns to the Bison for 2015/16
(c) 5 Hole Photography

Combined with the announcement that Joe Greener was back for another campaign was the added worry for the EPL that joining Greener on the Bison roster for the 2015/16 season was “the youngest veteran in the EPL”, Ciaran Long.

Now in his second spell with the Bison, Long returned to Basingstoke in December 2013 in the midst of a crisis at Slough. Long came in, scored 25 points in 27 games then scored 6 points in 4 games in the cup and 6 in 4 in the playoffs as the Bison won the double. This season has seen Long explode in the EPL scoring charts; the club credits him with 39 goals and 37 assists for 76 points in 51 games making him the club’s top scorer. With 62 points in league play, Long was 7th in the scoring charts and was named to the second all star team.

Having started in the Swindon junior system, Long excelled in junior hockey with the Wildcats before his breakout season in 2008/09 where he scored 32 points in 48 games at 17 which saw him called up for Great Britain at under 18 and under 20 level. Since that time, Long has bounced around somewhat; a year at Slough, a year in Basingstoke, 18 months in Manchester, 18 months in Slough and now 18 months in Basingstoke that’s been extended by another year. No matter where he’s played, Long has been a point scorer and averages 0.75 points per game and, if he isn’t hampered by injury could reach the 500 EPL game marker by around the time he hits 27.

I won’t lie, when I woke up to a message alerting me of this double signing I was pleased. As I said in Greener’s piece it was some very smart PR work by the Bison to get these two guys announced early. The Bison’s top line look frightening at times so to get both Greener and Long back, especially with Longstaff leaving Guildford and that rumour doing the rounds almost instantly, is fantastic news for all Bison fans.

Long had a couple of games where he seemed to struggle to score, the whole team did in December, but overall this has been a big year for Ciaran Long. It’s been his first full season with one team for a couple of years and he absolutely smashed it out of the park; top goal scorer and point scorer on the team, a go to point for the offence, part of one of the most devastating lines in the EPL, an all star into the bargain.

Long’s game has always been about being good at a variety of things and he is a British player that can do a lot of things really well. He passes, he scores, he has natural skills (though that penalty shot routine makes us delighted when he scores and furious when he doesn’t), he can be physical, he’s dynamite at the point on the powerplay and on the penalty kill.

How Ciaran moves forward from here is an obvious question; when you’re already at the top of the heap, where do you go? Focussing on a repeat of this season from a personal standpoint would be the obvious place. Maintaining the points totals of the last couple of years, moves and all, should be the minimum but this is a more grown up Ciaran Long, a more settled one who has found a place where he apparently enjoys playing hockey. Could Long break the 70 or 80 point barrier next season? With the right linemates and some good fortune, you have to believe that it’s a possibility given the vast skill set the young man has.

There’s also focussing in on the Bison’s collective goals and getting a trophy back to Basingstoke next season after coming up short this time. Long and Greener join Tomas Karpov and Kurt Reynolds in being signed up already for the 15/16 campaign. That’s not a bad place to be starting from if we’re honest. If Sheppard decides to play another year as we suspect he will, that’s the entire top line back on the ice with more to come.

We know that if he stays fit that Ciaran Long will be a star for the Basingstoke Bison next season. It’s not blowing smoke up his or Joe Greener’s backside to comment on the fact that at EPL level they are two of the top players in the league at what they do. Doug Sheppard has made a point of getting a chunk of the heavy artillery in place for next year early. It’s now up to Coach Sheppard to provide the supporting cast.

Welcome back Ciaran, we look forward to more penalty shot based heart attacks for the next year.

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