Building the Herd – Tomas Hiadlovsky

#?? Tomas Hiadlovsky

Position: Netminder

Born: Trenčín, Trenčiansky kraj, Slovakia

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 28th May

Bison coach Doug Sheppard has fired a shot across the bow of the rest of the English Premier Ice Hockey League with the signing of the Bison’s first import netminder in their tenure in the EPL with the capture of Tomas Hiadlovsky from the Edinburgh Capitals.

26 year old Slovak, Hiadlovsky has spent the last 3 seasons in Scotland and has regularly impressed fans across the Elite League. Whilst the Capitals have not set the league alight, making the playoffs just once in the last 3 seasons, Hiadlovsky has been a regular recipient of praise from fans and pundits alike getting a couple of EIHL player of the week awards along the way. In the 3 years with the Capitals he made 164 appearances facing a combined 5634 shots and a combined .891 save percentage posting 5 shutouts across that spell.

Hiadlovsky came through the youth system at Dukla Trencin, the same youth system that bred long time EPL forward and Guildford legend Milos Melicherik. After appearances at under 18 and under 20 level, Tomas got his senior debut in the Slovak 2nd tier with HK 95 Povazska Bystrica at the end of the 2006/07 season.

Tomas made a brief move to the Czech Republic to join Slovan Usti nad Labem but returned to his native land to join the Slovak under 20 national side who play in the country’s top flight in an attempt to aid their development.

From that point on, Hiadlovsky split his time between the Slovak top flight and second tier playing for a variety of sides; Senica, the u20s, back to Trencin, Prievidza, Trencin and Senica again, a brief loan spell at Puchov before finishing his time in his homeland with home town Trencin in the 2011/12 playoffs. Hiadlovsky was recommended to then Capitals coach Richard Hartmann by former Czechoslovak international and a member of the 1994 Slovak Olympic Squad, Eduard Hartmann (no relation). Hiadlovsky iced in 88 games in the Slovak top flight and 58 games in the second tier before his move to Britain.

Hiadlovsky represented Slovakia 4 times internationally at under 18 level and was once named to Slovakia’s World Junior Championship squad but did not ice.

So…this was rumoured but somewhat unexpected. When the rumour was leaked by British Ice Hockey, the club even had Sheppard address it in the Basingstoke Gazette article announcing Declan Balmer’s return saying “it’s just a rumour”. Given how little the club ever comment on stuff and the fact Hiadlovsky is now a Bison player, I put this to the club. Their response? “Well Anthony, we never said we hadn’t signed him.” Cheers guys.

This is a big signing for the Bison. For the club to go down the import netminder route is a change of direction for the club but one that it appears they feel necessary. Hiadlovsky is a proven netminder in British hockey in a tier above the EPIHL so for Doug Sheppard to commit to making an import his number one goalie (because let’s face it, he’s going to be the starter) meant that he was going to sign someone good. Whilst Hiadlovsky’s numbers in the EIHL aren’t world beating, he was the netminder on one of the lower budget teams in the weaker conference but regularly stole games for them. In terms of netminders in the league, he’s played at levels above the current announced import netminders with the only named starter playing at a higher level being Stevie Lyle. Hiadlovsky is 26 and still arguably on the upswing given that netminders peak later.

Nearly every EIHL fan I know has sent me a message today saying what a good netminder Sheppard has signed. Hiadlovsky has been stealing games at EIHL level for three years and somehow has been convinced to join one of the EPL front runners. This of course brings up the big question; why not sign a British netminder? I’ll answer a question with a question that none of us may know the answer to; who was available and at what price? There is that argument that the Bison as a club need to do better at bringing netminding and defensive prospects on but if someone like Jordan Lawday isn’t quite ready and there’s nobody immediately on hand to sign or bring in then

We also need to look at the uncomfortable hard facts; the Bison allowed the second fewest shots in the league but Dean Skinns had a save percentage below .900. I have a lot of time for Dean Skinns, we all should because not only is he a very good netminder on his day but he clearly loves being a part of the club. He wasn’t the same after being concussed in the home game against Guildford and staying in when he should have been pulled. The defensive corps has been kept the same because there is no reason to change that much, the place that needed strengthening was in net. Now what happens with Skinns is currently unknown and Sheppard confirmed today that they are still negotiating with Dean but imagine if he stays. That’s a hell of a 1-2 punch even if 14/15 wasn’t Skinns’ best year. There’s a bunch of permutations that we could get in to but we’re straying from the main point here.

Tomas Hiadlovsky joining the league’s netminding ranks is the biggest signing since Stevie Lyle came to the league. He gives the Bison the chance to win every night in this league. The defence has firmly taken shape, there’s a decent amount of fire power already announced and now we have an EIHL quality netminder starting in net. It changes the Bison’s structure somewhat and places a lot on the shoulders on Hiadlovsky to perform being an import netminder but this is not someone new to Britain and some of its quirks, this a goalie established in this country. The phrase “statement of intent” is used a lot, maybe even overused but how else do you describe this?

Welcome to the Herd, Tomas; if you save shots like Janis Auzins but don’t start fights like Janis Auzins then we’re going to be just fine.

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