Running with the Herd – Bison vs Guildford Flames 12/9/15Posted: 13/09/2015
Basingstoke Bison 3-2 Guildford Flames after OT
Thompson Eriksson (pretty certain it was Duggan)
Start the fire: The Bison headed into the game still without Grant Rounding and Doug Sheppard remained on the bench. Jacob Ranson remained in the line up as Invicta did not have a game and Ryan Sutton was once again in the line up after his impressive showing in the last two pre-season games. Guildford were without Rupert Quiney thanks to a shoulder injury and started Gregg Rockman.
The Bison had the better of the early chances with Shaun Thompson going close inside the first minute but the following shots lacked the same vigour. The Flames had their first good shot through Jens Eriksson.
The hosts were having the better of the play but all the early Bison chances all seemed to follow something of a similar pattern; player would have a shot, Rockman would make the initial save and the rebound just wouldn’t sit up nicely for anyone from the Herd to do anything with it. Joe Greener and Ciaran Long both missed out on assists because a mixture of Rockman’s rebound control and poor fortune didn’t go the Bison’s way.
However eventually there was a shot that Rockman had no answer to. With the Bison moving at speed Tomas Karpov fired a superb cross ice pass through the neutral zone that Shaun Thompson controlled. Thompson took a step over the blueline and blasted the puck past Rockman at 10:18 to give the Bison their first goal of the season.
The teams continued to trade chances with Lack, Long and Kristofferson all going close. The Bison were having occasional issues dealing with the Flames’ speed and got caught. The play looked offside but wasn’t called and Tom Duggan sprinted up the middle and beat Hidalovsky in the gap between pad and blocker as he went to his right at 15:00 to tie the score.
The Bison looked a bit rattled after that goal and found themselves camped in their own zone. The Flames looked to be taking the momentum of the game right up until Jez Lundin crosschecked Tomas Karpov which put the Bison onto the powerplay. The powerplay was cut short when Vantroba and Matic Kralj clashed behind the play which evened the teams up as the period ended.
Both teams were back to full strength early into the second and the chances continued to fall for both sides but it was the hosts who got the early goal. Tomas Karpov took the zone but unfortunately fanned on the shot. Doubling back around on himself, Karpov passed to Miroslav Vantroba who had pinched in and the Slovak slap passed the puck right to the top of the crease for Ryan Watt to tap home at 22:39.
From there the period became really open and end to end but it was turnover after turnover as neither side managed to really connect with the killer pass. The neutral likely enjoyed it as the actioned was fast paced but for fans of either side it was like watching a game of table tennis as the sides turned the puck over and zipped from end to end. It likely won’t make the highlights but the moment where Matic Kralj picks the pocket of Ciaran Long was first class.
There was also some of that aggression that had lingered over from the two pre-season games between the two sides with frequent cross words exchanged off the play. One such incident led to a Flames powerplay as despite Eriksson and Connolly grabbing at each other, only Connolly sat for the penalty. The Flames powerplay was of very high quality but couldn’t find a way past Hiadlovsky who made a string of fine saves.
The teams traded powerplays as the period wound down but the Bison’s powerplay certainly wasn’t firing on all cylinders as it couldn’t quite get itself into the killer positions. Both penalty killing units were both doing well.
The period ended with the Bison 2-1 up and as they’d had the better of the first two periods it seemed a fair enough scoreline at that stage.
The third period started with both keepers making saves before the Flames headed back to the powerplay thanks to a hooking call to Joe Baird as Eriksson rung a shot off of the post. The Flames powerplay was in fine working order but Hiadlovsky was turning all the shots away; Kralj, Eriksson and others were all turned aside. The best chance the Flames had didn’t go in because despite Hiadlovsky being down at full stretch, Kevin Phillips couldn’t find a way to lift the puck over the netminder’s pad.
The aggression level kept rising; Ryan Watt levelled Tom Duggan with a massive hit and a after JJ Pitchley chased down a puck that got covered by Rockman, Kralj knocked the Bison forward over the netminder. Kralj, apparently thinking this was Pitchely’s fault decided to get in his face and drew another crowd.
Jez Lundin was called for boarding shortly afterwards but the Bison powerplay just didn’t fire at all with it being an easy job for the Flames’ penalty killers. The one moment of discussion was a collision in neutral ice between Ryan Watt and Marcus Kristofferson that left the Flames import face down on the ice for a few moments before eventually getting up and off the ice under his own power.
The Flames had been controlling the period and eventually found their equaliser though it came in somewhat controversial fashion. One of the linesman waved off an icing despite Joe Baird being in no position to even attempt to make a play at the puck. The play continued and the Flames started to pepper Hiadlovsky’s net. The Slovak stopped the first and the second shot but the Bison didn’t clear and eventually Kevin Phillips tapped home at 54:53 to tie the scores.
The final minutes of regulation played out with neither side seemingly wanting to make a mistake and the buzzer sounded for the end of the 60 minutes meaning that both sides were guaranteed a point and the fans got their first look at the new 3 on 3 overtime.
Overtime began and the Bison seemed happy to let the Flames come at them which, given how the momentum had shifted in the final period didn’t seem like the greatest idea. With so much open ice and facing a team with the momentum and a lot of speed, the Bison’s initial game plan in OT seemed odd.
Then a moment of magic; Ryan Watt pressured Matic Kralj and turned the puck over and fed it towards the net. For reasons that may never become clear, Kurt Reynolds was deep inside the Flames zone. Watt’s pass was right onto Reynolds’ stick who fired over Rockman’s shoulder at 61:45.
1 down: I think many expected a closer game than we saw last Saturday in pre-season action but this one was a lot closer than many of us will have wanted. The old adage seemed true; there’s the easy way, the hard way and the Bison way. The Bison had the best of the first and the second but were on the backfoot for much of the third to the point where you wondered if the Flames would steel it before a moment of class from two players in this new overtime format did the business.
There’s still some issues to be worked out in this Bison roster; the powerplay ranged from OK to woeful at times and hopefully training will work that issue out. The other is with Hiadlovsky. The players still seem so used to how Dean Skinns played that the fact that their new netminder not only plays the puck but plays it so confidently and with purpose is almost confusing them as the Bison keep risking getting in each other’s way.
On the plus side there was a lot of character shown by the Bison to be knocked onto the back foot but find a way back. Tomas Karpov got man of the match and it was certainly an industrious performance by the Czech man who had 2 assists on the Bison’s first 2 goals. If I was choosing I would have probably given it to Ryan Watt who had his first goal in over a season, made the move that helped the Bison win and just generally put himself about well. The other option for me was Tomas Hiadlovsky. We were told that he would steal the Bison games and keep us in contests, I think we saw that tonight. At EPIHL level, he does look like he could be the business.
53 games to go and there will be a lot of twists and turns to come. There were certainly a fair few in this game but it’s one win down. The Bison are off and running.
A word on our opponents: This was a much better performance from Guildford than last weekend and they seemed to have gelled well over the last week. The result in the end was a fair enough one as both sides got something out of it but as I said above, I think Guildford only really controlled the last period and over the 60 (and a bit) minutes I think the Bison would have been hard done by to lose.
The Flames are certainly an interesting side to watch. The changes have made this side have a different focus and they seem cohesive but the thing they haven’t quite got everything working yet. They seem to be able to do it on the powerplay and get a ton of shots off but at even strength they still seem to hit the blueline and don’t really know what to do next. They have a team at the moment where 99 times out of 100, pass is the first option. They need someone to show a bit more of a killer instinct in front of goal. You assume that this will happen when things settle down a bit more.
Ben Campbell was given the man of the match and with all due respect to Ben, Jens Eriksson got robbed as for the second time in a week he was the best Flames player on the ice. He has a bit of the Greg Chambers about him at times in the sense he seems to float about then step into the play when required but he has a bit more direction and drive about his play to go with that skill level. He is really going to be dangerous for them. The other person who might have been worth the discussion was Erik Piatak who despite not registering a point was one of the best players on the ice for both sides.
As predicted, there’s a lot of potential there for the Flames but they need to show it for more than 1 period consistently and need to find more bite to their offence. That said there’s no reason to worry about that one game into the season and when they got a point from the contest.
Lowlight of the night: Flames’ 2nd goal; aside from icing should have killed the play, it was poor defence to not get that puck clear and support the netminder.
Highlight of the night: Thompson’s goal was pretty but it has to be the overtime winner. I’m still wondering how Kurt Reynolds got so far up the ice.