Running with the Herd – Bison vs Bracknell Bees 14/11/15Posted: 15/11/2015
Basingstoke Bison 10-2 Bracknell Bees
Lack x3 Spearing
Karpov Bendik pp
Thompson x2 (1pp)
Kapow: The Bison headed into the game still waiting for Grant Rounding to be fully fit and without an injured Alex Symonds. The Bees were without Callum Fowler and added Tom Relf to the line up whilst starting former Bison goalie, Tom Annetts.
The Bees had the first shot of the game, a blast from Frankie Bakrlik that went off the plexi and was caught by Hiadlovsky but it was the Bison who struck first as their early pressure told; Tomas Karpov fed Kurt Reynolds who out the puck on net, Ryan Watt tapped it to Alan Lack who slotted home at 02:19 to open the scoring.
The Bison were looking relatively comfortable before a mild disaster struck. Tomas Hiadlovsky is a very different goalie to what we’ve seen in our EPL tenure here in Basingstoke and is probably the most comfortable in terms of coming out and playing the puck for some time but he was caught out early in the game. As Scott Spearing raced towards the loose puck, the Bison backstop came out to play it away and fanned on the pass. Spearing, being challenged by a defender, managed to get something on the puck as it deflected off of the defender’s stick and agonisingly trickled over the line at 04:06 to even the scores.
The Bees had their tails (stingers?) up as a result but chances from Kostourek and Spearing could not find their way past Hiadlovsky. The Bison started to turn the momentum back in their favour and the line of Aaron Connolly, Joe Rand and Shaun Thompson were causing mayhem in the Bees defence. They didn’t find a way through but Tomas Karpov did. Miroslav Vantroba set the Czech forward away and he was untouchable as he went round two defenders, advanced on Annetts and slotted the puck through the netminder’s five hole at 10:15 to make it 2-1.
The hosts would add to their advantage a few minutes later as they were granted an opportunity thanks to a clipping penalty on Lewis Turner. The powerplay took a bit of time to really get going but eventually there was a way past Annetts as Joe Rand’s feed to Shaun Thompson saw the former Bees forward fire home from a narrow angle at 13:35 for 3-1.
The Bees were getting frustrated, none more so than Barklik who escaped punishment for what looked to be a charge after the whistle but soon found himself sitting for elbows as he tried to fend off a Bison player on the boards. It would prove costly.
It wasn’t a particularly good powerplay for the Bison all in all and it never really got itself set up but they were gifted some good fortune. A short came in on net and Tom Annetts made a fantastic sprawling save, appearing to have trapped the puck between his skate and the post. However no whistle came from Mr Boardman so play remained live. The first person to twig was Ryan Watt who thrust his stick towards the puck and managed to get the puck over the line at 17:14 to make the score 4-1.
Joe Baird took a hooking penalty as the buzzer sounded for the end of the first period but when play resumed, the Bees couldn’t take advantage of the man advantage. If anything the Bison came more and more into the game as Tomas Karpov and Joe Greener went close. The Bees’ best chance came from Ivan Antonov who flashed a shot over the crossbar.
The Bison added to their advantage as sheer volume of chances eventually told. Some neat work from Joe Greener got the pass off to Ciaran Long who fired past Annetts at 24:54 for 5-1.
The Bees got another powerplay opportunity when Alan Lack was called for interference but again the Bees could do little with the powerplay. Bakrlik again tried to make things happen but nobody seemed to go with him and the chances fell away.
Karpov and Lack worked to try and set each other up for the Bison’s 6th but it was the skipper who would eventually end Tom Annetts’ night in what might be described as a “typical” Connolly goal; he took the puck at speed, hit the blueline and fired. On this occasion, he made the best contact possible but fell over in the act of shooting but as the puck flew past Annetts at 29:31 to make it 6-1, Connolly landed on his backside and glided on his posterior, coming to a comfortable stop just in front of the Bees’ netminder. Annetts saw the next face off but 19 seconds later he was replaced by Alex Mettam.
This change in net saw a bit of a galvanising effort from the Bees as they sought to offer more protection to Mettam than they had Annetts. Antonov had a breakaway chance broken up by Declan Balmer.
Lewis Turner was somewhat harshly adjudged to have kneed Aaron Connolly on a hip check which gave the Bison a powerplay chance but again the special teams unit failed to settle. Bracknell’s best shorthanded chance was stopped when Bakrlik was stood up at the Bison’s blueline by Tomas Karpov.
The teams traded opportunities for the rest of the period; Bakrlik fed Smital whose shot hit the post, Ryan Sutton fanned on a shot after good work by Joe Greener and Hiadlovsky denied Smital with the stick.
It would be another late in the period powerplay for the Bees as Joe Rand was called for slashing that carried over into the final frame.
Bracknell had a couple of chances but again nothing seemed to find its way past Hiadlovsky in the Bison net, his early howler apparently having little to no effect on the Slovak’s performance in the Basingstoke goal.
Then if the game wasn’t already over it was put well and truly to bed as the hosts scored twice in 28 seconds; Tomas Karpov’s shot hit the bar and the rebound feel to Alan Lack to fire past an out of position Mettam at 43:04 and Joe Greener’s attempts to set up Ryan Sutton saw the youngster’s shot hit Mettam’s pads and sit up nicely for the veteran to slot home at 43:32. 8-1, game well out of reach and Tomas Hiadlovsky made way for Dan Weller-Evans to play his first ever league minutes on home ice.
The Bees tried to take the chance to shoot at the cold netminder but Weller-Evans made a couple of solid stops in quick succession from Smital and Bakrlik. When Joe Greener was called for slashing however, there was little he could do about the Bees’ second goal. With a ton of traffic in front of the net, Jan Bendik’s shot came through the crowd and before Weller-Evans reacted it was in the back of the net at 50:13.
The next puck to come the way of the young Bison netminder was something of a controversy. Clearly frustrated by the way the night was going when the play was called offside, he decided to hammer a shot goalwards long after the whistle had gone. This saw any outskater on ice in a Bison jersey steam towards Bakrlik and eventually something approaching a fight happened as Bakrlik and Greener got their gloves off and aggressively hugged for a few seconds. After that was broken up, Ryan Watt said something to Bakrlik which saw David Savage start jawing with Watt and eventually Watt didn’t give Savage a choice and tried punching the Bees’ defender through his face cage to the point that Savage went for the old fashioned “duck and cover”.
The Bison continued to step on the throat of their opponents; Shaun Thompson’s keen eyesight on the puck saw it loop out of the air and land in a position for him to fire past Mettam at 56:42 for 9-2.
Alan Lack was then rewarded for his good night with his hattrick as he shovelled home a puck from the top of the crease at 57:20.
As the double figures flashed across the scoreboard, that was pretty much the game done. Time wound down and the buzzer sounded to send the Bison back to the top of the table and confirmed their place in the cup semi finals.
Put to the sword: It’s been a long running joke amongst Bison fans, on here and elsewhere that the style of play that the Bison employ means that they do not put put sides to the sword, that they don’t just put the foot down and blow a side away. The last time was probably the first leg of the 2014 cup semi final against Guildford but last night definitely in this category. This was nothing short of a hammering.
There wasn’t much in the way of resistance but the Bison just kept on pressing. At times it was easier to score than to miss but after a terrible error early on, they rebounded and just didn’t stop coming. The Bees were overwhelmed as a result. The Bison used the space well but also worked well in tight. They were physical when they needed to be but also used a bit of finesse when required. It was a statement performance that was required after letting in 8 goals last Sunday.
I mentioned that Alan Lack wasn’t my choice for man of the match last week but I think he was everyone’s in this game. A hat trick, a 4 point night and generally just being a furious ball of energy in the face of all opposition made the beers a certainty. When you consider that Lack was set for a season of NIHL when pre-season started, the impact he’s had on the Bison roster has been remarkable. His points totals have naturally benefited from a Karpov and Watt shaped injection of talent around him but if the emergence of Stuart Mogg is one success story for the Bison then the addition of Lack out of nowhere is surely another.
Bar his flub that gifted Bracknell a goal, Tomas Hiadlovsky had a solid evening. His style of play, coming out and playing the puck like he does is high risk, high reward. He wasn’t phased by the error and bounced back to make some good saves. With the game put to bed, the sensible thing was to allow Dan Weller-Evans some decent time in the net and he gave a good account of himself. The powerplay goal from Jan Bendik was unfortunate but when you come in as relief and finish the game with a better save percentage than both the other side’s netminders then it’s a good night.
The Herd also continued their really good run of getting goals from across the lines. 10 goals from 7 goal scorers with 12 of 14 outskaters tallying a point last night (Balmer and Mogg failed to score). Whilst the Herd are running a slightly shorter bench than normal at the moment if they keep finding ways for people to score points, whether it be Hull tonight or anyone else, there may be trouble ahead.
A word on our opponents: It’s been tough for Bracknell as of late; issues with ice both home and away have meant training and games have been in short supply. That might explain a lack of fitness but it doesn’t explain the lack of direction or purpose in their play.
The Spearing goal was down to a fluke. The Bendik goal was a well taken bit of play, that deserves some credit as he used the traffic in front of Weller-Evans to his advantage. Bar that and a couple of other, infrequent dangerous shots there was no resistance from the Bees.
I’m not entirely sure why Scott Spearing got man of the match over Frankie Bakrlik. Now hear me out on this; Bakrlik was the best player on the ice for the Bees for me by some distance. Yes, the entire team played badly but if any decent bit of offence came from the Bees, it went through Bakrlik. He continually tried to make things happen, always looked for that pass or that move he could make. Ultimately he tried to do too much on his own and the red mist descended. There was no excuse for shooting after the whistle and he was rightly stepped to by Greener but that doesn’t detract from his quality.
Both Tom Annetts and Alex Mettam were hung out to dry by a defence that gave the Bison, a team that knowingly likes to pass the puck around, so much space through the neutral zone that they could have driven a bus through it.
Both Smital and Kostourek were nearly invisible for the majority of the game and the lack of Callum Fowler meant they really lacked any sort of gritty penetration in the Bison zone. Ivan Antonov is clearly a talented player but didn’t have the strength to muscle past a vey physical defence.
I’d normally say “chalk this up to a bad night at the office” but shipping 7 goals away in Sheffield including 5 in the last period last Sunday and being totally outclassed on this night by a title challenging team, there needs to be a bit of a rethink in Bracknell as to how they approach games. How Lukas Smital does that remains to be seen but they need to find a way to do that and fast.
Lowlight of the night: Bees’ first goal for obvious reasons
Highlight of the night: If we’re picking individual moments then Karpov’s goal is an absolute beauty but let’s thrown Lack’s hat trick in as well; a just reward for his efforts.