Running with the Herd – Bison vs Sheffield Steeldogs 7/11/15

EPL League/Cup

Basingstoke Bison 5-0 Sheffield Steeldogs

Karpov x2 (1pp)

Long

Lack

Greener pp

All hoof, no paws: The Bison looked to continue the excellent run of home form with pretty much the same team as in recent weeks. Grant Rounding edged closer to his comeback on the bench and Ryan Sutton remained in the line-up. The Steeldogs added Charlie Thompson and Thomas Barry to the squad and started Dalibor Sedlar.

The Bison were on top early and were nearly on the scoresheet straight away when Stuart Mogg’s floated dump in took a wicked bounce and Sedlar had to scramble to stop the puck going into the net. The trend continued and soon the Bison’s physical play earned them the first goal of the night. Alan Lack steamrolled into Lee Haywood and hit him so hard that he nearly put him back into the Steeldogs bench. As the visiting players moved towards the incident on the boards Tomas Karpov picked up the puck, skated into the zone and proceeded to backhand a shot past the visiting netminder at 02:03 to put the hosts ahead.

That hit from Lack sparked what would be a really physical undercurrent to the game. Craig Elliott seemed keen to get in on the action and his hit on Tomas Karpov drew a crowd. The home side (and I confess this writer as well) thought the hit was a crosscheck but Mr Thompson was unmoved, only stopping play when a crowd formed.

However the official would use his whistle to send Stanislav Lascek to the box when the Steeldogs forward slashed Miroslav Vantroba’s stick from his hands. The Bison powerplay didn’t start brilliantly as it took a while to set itself up but when it did, it paid dividends. Ryan Watt’s sterling work on defence and then to gain the zone helped set up the play. He laid it off to Ciaran Long, slap pass to Joe Greener and one time pass into Karpov at the top of the crease for 2-0 at 06:33.

The game became scrappy for a short while as neither team seemed to be able to string their passes together with any great consistency but chances still fell for both sides as Aaron Connolly had a shot that got through Sedlar but went wide and Alan Lack was sprung behind the Steeldogs defence but his shot was at Sedlar. Arnoldas Bosas had a good chance where he shot wide, picked up the rebound but failed to secure the wrap around goal.

The Herd had set themselves up like they had regularly done so in their home games this term as they had the chances and the possession but found themselves a man down when Declan Balmer’s massive hit along the boards was called for checking to the head earning the Bison man an extended sit down thanks to the 2+10 penalty. It was a good powerplay from the visitors who had some good chances but Tomas Hiadlovsky, never one to shy away from poking the puck off an opponent’s stick, was busy in net shooing away any came that came near.

Hiadlovsky was called into action again shortly afterwards when some neat play by the visitors sent Craig Elliott away in between the defenders but his advance to the net was stopped by Hiadlovsky himself as the Bison’s netminder came racing out of the net and dived on the puck sending Elliott and the backtracking Ryan Watt sailing through the air in an attempt to avoid him.

The first period wound down but another hit on Tomas Karpov that wasn’t called caused a crowd to form at the buzzer and some hugging and grabbing rather than any actual fighting. It also saw Tim Smith skate off holding his wrist and Steve Duncombe bite and pull Dan Weller-Evans’ blocker off of his hand with his teeth. It was shaping up to be an odd night.

The Herd’s dominance of the game was carrying on into the second period as more and more chances fell their way through Connolly and Karpov. The Steeldogs had a brief period of pressure as Lubomir Korhon and Lascek went close and they were given a powerplay opportunity when Ryan Watt’s hit on Lascek was called as boarding. This was greeted with derision from the Steeldogs bench as they felt it should have been more. More bodies worked their way into the box as Korhon and Joe Greener (who had been niggling at each other all evening) clashed off the puck to the point that Mr Thompson ordered them to take a seat. The puck was getting moved around but it was a case of close but no cigar; everything was set up for Bosas to fire a blast but Watt sped out of the box and got enough of his stick on the puck to cause the shot to trickle harmlessly wide.

The Bison had their powerplay opportunity shortly afterwards when Liam Charnock was called for tripping but the real story came after the powerplay ended when Craig Elliott and Alan Lack’s acquaintance over the course of the evening boiled over and we got a short but entertaining fight. Lack probably edged it but it was a good even tilt.

The fight seemed to spark the hosts more than the visitors; Greener, Karpov and Connolly had chances, the later set up by Joe Rand from his knees but it was Ciaran Long who would add to the Bison’s goal tally when a turnover saw Stuart Mogg feed Greener who fed Long and his somewhat scuffed shot found its way past Sedlar at 35:14 for 3-0.

Callum Pattison’s presence was welcomed into the game and it was a short lived affair; after a clean hit from Declan Balmer he slashes the back of Balmer’s legs which got him 2 minutes. Then, after the Herd couldn’t take advantage on the powerplay, came out and took a whack at Ciaran Long which earned him a misconduct penalty.

There was a brief scare for the visitors as a puck in the air saw a crowd of players jump for the puck and Sedlar was sent crashing down in a heap but the Steeldogs netminder was up and OK. The second period finished with more chatting and coming together but the Bison firmly in command.

The Bison started the third well but so did the visitors. Coach Greg Wood had seemingly put a bit of a rocket up the backside of his players and the first few minutes of the final period saw the Steeldogs play with much more purpose and direction than they had in the first 40 minutes. The best chance fell to Bosas as he and Lascek sprung a 2on1. Bosas went it alone and Hiadlovsky was equal to the chance.

However the Bison wrestled back control of the game and soon the game resembled the previous two periods. Joe Rand had a couple of chances and Tomas Karpov went close but it was the Czech man who would help provide the 4th goal. Karpov and Lack advanced up one wing and in a move that resembled the Bison’s 2nd goal the puck went across to Ryan Watt, came quickly back into the centre and Alan Lack put the puck past Sedlar at 50:07 for 4-0.

The teams traded penalties as Vantroba went for slashing and Bosas for crosschecking but neither side could add a goal. The visitors kept piling the pressure on as they looked to break Hiadlovsky’s shutout attempt but couldn’t find a way past the Slovak.

Another late penalty for Callum Pattison for tripping game the Bison a powerplay inside the final 2 minutes and the Herd took advantage. Ryan Watt put the puck to Joe Greener in stride and he fired home past Sedlar at 59:16 and the Steeldogs netminder hurled his stick across the ice in frustration as his opposite number celebrated his first shutout of the season.

No mercy: For a while I’ve said a feature of the Bison’s game has been to shut down rather than put teams to the sword as it were. Whilst we were never going to see a repeat of Telford’s 13 goal performance against Sheffield, this was the Bison putting a team to the sword whilst sticking to their game plan. They played physically but not overly so. They created chances without continuously trying to walk the puck into the net. They defended sensibly and collectively whilst allowing Hiadlovsky to play his game and ultimately making his first EPL shutout a comparatively easy affair whilst putting their boot on the throat of the opposition. It was an excellent team performance.

The man of the match announcement however caused me some confusion. Man of the match announcements are much of a muchness and people will pick who they want. I also really like Alan Lack; his goal was well taken and sections of the crowd were prepared to give him a medal for fighting Craig Elliott. That said, for me Tomas Karpov was the best player on the ice for both sides by some distance last night. The Czech forward went 2+2 in a 5-0 win, constantly terrified the defence, was physical when he needed to be and generally just bossed the game.

Tomas Hiadlovsky’s first EPL shutout was one of his easier outings of the season but not an untroubled one. There were saves to be made but ultimately his defence did him a solid so the shots he did see were ones that he could deal with. It was a really good performance by the entire blueline corps.

Ryan Watt made a string of good plays as well as Joe Rand who whilst missing a couple of good chances had a really solid defensive game, making timely sticklifts all over the ice.

If the report feels a bit one sided in terms of the action, that’s because the game really was like that. The Bison were on top from the first minute and rather than getting caught up in their opponents’ game plan as they sometimes do, they got the lead then handily finished them off.

A word on our opponents: If Steeldogs fans were hoping for this game to be a big reaction after their 13-3 defeat then they were to be sorely disappointed. Second best from the start, until the third period they never really seemed to get an awful lot going. Heading forwards they occasionally flashed the odd dangerous shot the way of the Bison net but never got any really sustained pressure on net. My dislike of shotcounts is known but 13 shots across the game is not going to win you hockey games unless you are really efficient and clinical. Sadly for their travelling fans, the Steeldogs were neither. It was not a good night.

I’ve seen a couple of general thoughts from fans; 1. Korhon was bad and Sedlar was good and 2. Korhon was good and Sedlar was bad and I fall into the later category. Sedlar was hung out to dry but I don’t think he had a good game. He looked shaky most of the night and some occasional good moments didn’t leave me feeling massively confident in him. Whilst none of the Steeldogs outskaters had a particularly good game, Korhon tried to make things happen whilst those around him seemed more interested in not getting hammered.

The start of the new era didn’t go as planned. A game against Bracknell on home ice tonight will hopefully yield better results for them.

Lowlight of the night: Not much to choose from so will say the lack of calls on 2 bad hits on Karpov in the first.

Highlight of the night: Karpov’s second goal which was just pretty.

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