Running with the Herd – Bison vs Swindon Wildcats 25/10/15

EPIHL League/Cup

Basingstoke Bison 5-1 Swindon Wildcats

Greener                        Bullas

Mogg

Long

Thompson

Vantroba

Stuart Mogg fires home to give the Bison the lead over Swindon. (c) 5 Hole Photography

Stuart Mogg fires home to give the Bison the lead over Swindon.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

Remaining pur-fect: Fresh off of their Saturday night win in Sheffield, the Bison headed home minus the still missing Grant Rounding and Alan Lack who missed the Sheffield game. Ryan Sutton was back in the line up after playing for the Buffalo the previous day. After one of the more chaotic weeks in their recent history, Swindon left Sami Ryhänen out of the line-up in favour of the returning Jonas Höög with Liam Maguire added as the backup netminder in place of the departure of Stevie Lyle meaning Jordan Hedley took over as starter.

After conceding inside the first minute on Saturday, the Bison gave up yet another early goal as the teams tested the waters early. A bit of poor defending from the Bison led to a two on one and Corey McEwen fed Sam Bullas whose shot beat Hiadlovsky as the netminder went from post to post at 02:03.

It looked like it was going to get worse for the hosts as Ryan Watt was called by Mr Pickett for hooking as he battled with McEwen behind the Wildcats’ net. The visitors got some decent movement of the puck on the man advantage but the shots could not find their way past Hiadlovsky. As the powerplay wound itself down, Joe Greener and Ciaran Long forced the turnover and broke down the ice. They couldn’t get the picture perfect breakaway goal but stuck with the play in front of Hedley as the powerplay expired. Eventually the puck fell correctly for Greener who managed to shovel the puck over the line at 06:29 to even the scores.

However the Herd found themselves on the penalty kill again shortly afterwards as Aaron Connolly was called for interference in a call that confused the crowd and the Bison roster. The Wildcats had a golden chance out of nowhere; Jan Kostal fanned on a shot but Hiadlovsky’s efforts to square himself to a shot that didn’t come left him out of position but the visitors conspired to not put the puck in. Stuart Mogg broke out with Shaun Thompson, the former’s shot being saved by Hedley.

With the score even, so was the play as the teams traded the puck frequently but neither side was really having any clear cut chances. When both keepers were being called into action, it was for easy shots that weren’t troubling them.

Eventually a moment of skill broke the game open for the Bison. With the puck on the half boards, a hit from Joe Greener on Stephen Whitfield freed the puck and allowed Greener to pass to Stuart Mogg in space in the slot. The Bison utility man took the shot which took a heavy deflection off of Hedley’s shoulder and over the line at 16:50 for the 2-1 lead.

Another penalty on the Bison followed as Joe Baird was called for cross checking which gave the Wildcats a powerplay that would span the first break. Hiadlovsky was called into action twice in quick succession but there was no way past the Slovak before the first buzzer sounded.

There was no extra spark to the Cats’ powerplay as the second started and they were stung shortly into the middle frame by a familiar face. Ciaran Long was set away by a pass and fired an absolute laser of a shot past Jordan Hedley into the back of the net for 3-1 at 21:29.

The visitors were looking for ways to come back into the game; both Finucci and Malasinski went close but neither could connect with their chances. The Bison seemed the more direct and the side more determined to score and were given the chance when Neil Liddiard was sent to the box for tripping. It looked like it was 4-1 when a neat passing move found Joe Greener at the back door and people leapt out of their seats but somehow, with the goalmouth gaping, the puck went wide.

It wouldn’t matter shortly afterwards as, with the penalty expired, the Bison continued to press and Shaun Thompson found the back of the net off of a pass from Kurt Reynolds at 27:57 which forced the visitors to take their timeout.

The break didn’t seem to do the visitors much good as the hosts continued to have the better chances. Both Connolly and Greener showed good hands to create scoring opportunities that were both saved by Hedley.

It went from bad to worse for Swindon as Corey McEwen, who had been having an industrious game, lined up Kurt Reynolds and left the Bison man down in a heap which saw Mr Pickett’s arm immediately go into the air. Whilst many (including myself) thought only a minor penalty was coming, McEwen was sent to the showers as he was given a game for high sticks.

The ensuing 5 minute powerplay saw some really excellent passing from the Herd but somehow they just couldn’t get that last touch past Hedley. Greener tipped a shot from Reynolds that was saved, Ryan Watt hit the crossbar, Shaun Thompson tapped Joe Rand’s centring feed wide of the post. The chances were there but they just didn’t fall.

An elbow on Aaron Connolly went unpunished but Ryan Sutton’s follow up was rightly called as boarding which put the visitors back onto the powerplay that would again extend over the period break. The second buzzer was a welcome noise for a Wildcats side who had a chance to regroup having conceded 2 goals and were not credited with a shot on goal in the frame.

The Bison killed the powerplay off early in the third and spent long periods camped in the Wildcats zone but still lacking that final shot past Hedley. Swindon were having occasional chances on the break through Malasinski and Finucci but were seemingly playing not to concede any more goals and the game lost its gusto as a result.

Despite parking the bus, it wouldn’t stop the scoring as the Bison rounded out the scoring. Tomas Karpov’s centring feed was laid off by Aaron Connolly and Miroslav Vantroba’s stretch and swing sent the puck up over Hedley’s shoulder at 54:06.

The game seemed to be petering out until Carlo Finucci’s slash to Joe Greener drew a few flailed fists and drew a crowd that saw the teams both take 6 minutes of penalties a piece and make the penalty box rather crowded.

There was no bearing on the result however as the Herd’s home winning streak was extended by another game.

I have no particular reason for adding this image. It just made me laugh. (c) 5 Hole Photography

I have no particular reason for adding this image. It just made me laugh.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

De-clawed: This game was somewhat similar from the Bison’s last home game against Guildford. There was also an early goal but the visitors fell off the wagon a bit and were ground down by a sensible game plan from the Herd albeit the Bison turned this game around much faster than the one against the Flames. The game was well poised at the end of the first (although the Bison were on top) but from there on in there was only really one winner.

Aaron Connolly was given man of the match for playing like Aaron Connolly The entire line of Connolly, Rand and Thompson was allowed to run roughshod over the Wildcats until it was split up later in the game with the change to the more shutdown style. Aaron was as good a choice as any and, as I’m always at want to point out, sometimes you need to reward consistency.

Until his injury late in the second, it was another very good game from Stuart Mogg. Mogg took his goal well and is looking the most confident he has ever looked on the ice. The question of whether this will be the breakout year for Mogg is at an end. The breakout for Mogg is well and truly on.

Tomas Hiadlovsky, who wasn’t at fault for the goal, made a string of good saves when called upon all throughout the night. Where Hiadlovsky shines is in the scramble in front. He seems to not look panicked making saves in quick succession. The fact the defence are starting to get better at understanding how he plays is helping greatly.

Whilst the Wildcats played poorly, the Bison did play well. Sheppard’s game plan worked, the team executed well and ultimately weren’t challenged. Roll on, Manchester.

A word on our opponents: To say this past week has been an unusual one for Swindon is something of an understatement. It did seem that the roster had absorbed the issues that had befallen them, Lyle’s departure was only announced on Friday, by beating Guildford but they turned up on Sunday in Basingstoke, started well then spectacularly flopped.

Whether there was a shot on goal in the second period or not, it was a Wildcats performance devoid of energy or direction. Hiadlovsky was occasionally called into making some good saves, the first goal was extremely well taken by Sam Bullas, but it never felt like that Wildcats had that goal in them that would spark the comeback. The big players for the Wildcats were next to invisible and not even the returning Jonas Höög could have any real impact on the game.

Jan Kostal took the man of the match beers. His bravery for getting in the way of Vantroba’s slapshots aside, tried to make things happen but they didn’t come to pass.

I’d been interested Corey McEwen in action and he certainly made an impression before being lost to the ludicrous penalty that comes for high sticks that draw blood in the EPIHL. McEwen is no angel by any means but he’s that sort of player, almost a Joe Greener/Joe Rand cross that could prove very useful to Aaron Nell in the coming campaign.

If the worst is over for the Wildcats then this entire weekend was a learning experience. They need to find a way to be more consistent across the season and take the sort of performance they gave against Guildford and replicate it. That said, if they’d like to do that after next Sunday that would be great.

Lowlight of the night: Scuffle at the end; slash was stupid, pushing and shoving was needless. The game was done.

Highlight of the night: I’ll say Long’s goal which was just beautiful.

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