Running with the Herd – Bison vs Hull Pirates 28/11/15

EPL

Basingstoke Bison 7-2 Hull Pirates

Long                             Osman pp

Greener                        Salonen

Karpov

Jarolin x2

Connolly pp

Watt pp

Dan Weller-Evans reaches across to deny Sam Towner in the Bison's 7-2 win over Hull. (c) 5 Hole Photography

Dan Weller-Evans reaches across to deny Sam Towner in the Bison’s 7-2 win over Hull.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

A bit of relief: The Bison headed into the game still without Alex Symonds but added Ryan Sutton and Jacob Ranson to the line-up from their respective NIHL sides along with the addition of new Bison import René Jarolin. Hull came into the game at full strength with new netminder Martins Raitums (he played in the KHL, you know. No, not that KHL) between the pipes.

After the last two games between the sides which had been tense affairs, the Bison set about settling the nerves of the home crowd early as they struck off of the first shift of the game. The new look top line of Greener, Jarolin and Long charged into the zone with Greener firing a superb pass to Long into a ton of space on the right hand side giving the Bison winger time to make a move and backhand into the net at 00:12 which set the tone for the game.

The Bison kept on pressuring and soon doubled their advantage just under two minutes later. As the Herd kept the press on in the zone it was almost a move right out of training; puck back to Baird, quick D to D pass to Balmer for the shot and Joe Greener was on hand to tip past Raitums at 02:10 for 2-0 to the home side.

The teams traded chances after that; Lee Bonner went close a couple of times for Hull with Grant Rounding unable to connect with Aaron Connolly’s centring feed at the other end. The Pirates pressure forced Hiadlovsky to go post to post denying a wraparound chance and the Bison netminder appeared to be in some discomfort after the whistle.

Play continued and as Hiadlovsky made another save, he crumpled to the ice once play stopped. The trainers came out and had a look. The Slovakian got to his feet and skated back to his crease appearing to want to continue but he dropped back to the ice and was helped off with just 7:12 gone on the clock. Dan Weller-Evans stepped off the bench to cheers from the home fans as he took position between the pipes.

The Bison reacted by trying to press home their advantage. A net move between Jarolin, Greener and Long could only find the side netting and a hooking call for Lee Bonner saw chances come but no further goals.

The Pirates got their own powerplay chance when Ciaran Long was called for hooking and a twist of fate got the Pirates onto the scoreboard. Some neat passing stretched the Bison defence, Lee Bonner fed Dominic Osman who went to feed James Hutchison at the back door but a back tracking Joe Greener stuck his stick into the passing lane to stop the pass and proceeded to tip it past Weller-Evans at 11:42 and Osman credited with the goal.

Both sides kept having their chances and Weller-Evans settled into the game despite the mishap, kicking a shot from Jonathan Kirk up into the lights as the Bison adapted their game plan to suit the different netminder.

Then out of nowhere, the Bison had their two goal advantage back. A lovely stretch pass from Joe Baird found Tomas Karpov who proceeded to head to the slot and slapped a huge shot straight through the 5 hole of Raitums at 15:17 for 3-1.

The Herd remained on top for the rest of the period but were called into defensive action when Grant Rounding took a hooking minor in the last minute of the frame. The Pirates couldn’t find a way past Weller-Evans either before or after the buzzer and the Herd returned to full strength in the second period no worse for wear.

The opening salvos of the middle stanza were probing but cagey from both sides. The Bison’s defensive game seemed to be to minimise shots on Weller-Evans and break quickly and when orthodox defence didn’t work, very little gets past a diving Miroslav Vantroba.

Aaron Connolly hit the crossbar whilst Ciaran Long and Joe Greener seemed on a mission to set up their new line mate. Jarolin had a couple of chances but either put them wide or at the keeper. The Herd’s latest addition seemed to need that one lucky bounce and it would all come together for him. Eventually it did when some superb work by Greener to hold onto the puck drew the defenders to him and with the keeper out of position he put the pass into Jarolin for the tap in and his debut goal in Herd colours at 27:35.

That seemed to settle the Slovakian who grabbed a hold of that bit of confidence and ran with it. Just over 2 minutes later, Long’s pass sent Jarolin into the zone and seeing a favourable angle fired goalwards. The shot scuffed the top of Raitums’ left pad but nestled into the bottom of the net at 29:53 for 5-1 and the Pirates took their timeout to steady the ship. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that one)

The Pirates responded with a couple of testing shots for Weller-Evans through Laine and Salonen but couldn’t find a way through. They then gifted the Bison a chance at a 6th when Warren Tait was called for hooking Jarolin on a breakaway and Mr Thompson raised his arms above his head for the penalty shot. On a hattrick, Jarolin cut to his right then back to the middle and fired but the shot went off the pad of Raitums and the post before deflecting away.

The Pirates sprung their own breakaway shortly after as Cameron Brownley was put behind the defence but Weller-Evans got his shoulder to the shot. The Pirates also got another end of period spanning powerplay as Joe Baird was called for hooking but again, the Pirates were unable to make it count either side of the buzzer.

Once the powerplay expired and Baird had returned, the sides traded chances and penalties as Ryan Sutton was called for hooking and the Pirates were caught with too many men. The Pirates’ powerplay couldn’t find a way past Weller-Evans but the Herd’s powerplay managed to find the breakthrough as some neat passing between the forwards allowed Aaron Connolly to tap past Raitums from the top of the crease at 47:39.

However the Pirates had an almost immediate response as Pasi Salonen was given far too much space and fired a sublime shot past the glove of Weller-Evans into the top corner at 48:40 for 6-2. It was one of those goals for the opposition where you have to applaud it, it was a gorgeous shot.

Despite that goal from the Pirates, the game was played as being a foregone conclusion but what the end of the game lacked in intensity and urgency, it still had in entertainment value as both sides continued with their efforts. The Pirates got a late powerplay when Sutton was called for interference on an innocuous nudge of a player into the boards. Osman was given too chances to unleash the hard point shot but the first was kicked away by Weller-Evans whilst the second was held on to.

The end of the powerplay was negated by a tripping call to Sam Towner and in the game’s dying moments the Bison added to their tally. Tomas Karpov saw the space and put the puck into the wheelhouse of Ryan Watt for a one time shot that he practices in every warm up, beating Raitums shortside at 59:37 to seal a 7-2 win and the Herd’s 12th competitive home win in a row.

René Jarolin (facing camera) celebrates his first Bison goal. (c) 5 Hole Photography

René Jarolin (facing camera) celebrates his first Bison goal.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

More than a tale of two: It would be really easy to make this all two players in particular so I will mention them then expand.

René Jarolin was an obvious choice for man of the match when he went 2+3 in a 7 goal game, nearly scored a natural hattrick and his line dominated the opposition all night. He looked slightly tentative in the early going having had a couple of chances that you think a player with a bit more confidence would have scored but that first goal led to the confidence to try for the second which he got and on another day he might have had more. He’s not the fastest of players but Long and Greener do exactly what his Building the Herd piece predicted and create some space for him to work with.

The other of course is Dan Weller-Evans who played the bulk of the game and records his first EPL win in the process. Actually letting up that goal to Pasi Salonen worked in his favour oddly as it then meant he was on the ice for the game winning goal (Karpov’s shot for the Bison’s 3rd). It is sometimes easy to patronise backup netminders especially the young ones when they get a chance like this but as we don’t do smoke blowing at BOTW we’ll say this; the lad did good. This is what your backup netminder is supposed to do. He was ready, his head was in the game straight away, he made the stops he had to do, none of the goals were his fault. He played well and the reward was his. People will say “it’s only Hull” but firstly don’t do Hull a disservice and secondly that confidence will do Weller-Evans the world of good. Also that confidence from the fans and his team mates that he’s not filling a gap but can come in and do the job is important going forward.

However as I said, it’s not all about those two. When Hiadlovsky went off, the game plan for the Bison changed. Dan Weller-Evans isn’t Tomas Hiadlovsky and it meant playing differently. Weller-Evans is a younger, more inexperienced netminder and needed more support which he got. The defence became tighter, passing lanes were closed off quicker and they tried to keep more shots away from the net. Going forward, the Pirates couldn’t deal with the Bison so all that was left was to adjust to the change in net and show their dominance. They did that and they handily won as a result.

What they do as a result of Hiadlovsky’s injury is a different kettle of fish. The club have made no comment at the time of writing.

A word on our opponents: This is going to sound weird but this Hull side was much better than the first time they played here. It was also their undoing.

The Pirates after changes to bring in better imports and a different netminder are a better side as a result. They have better, more skilful players and that have rubbed off on the young Brit core around them. The problem is that where they were so unpredictable beforehand, they’re now much more structured which has made them easier to read. They do get results, the Bison know that as well as anyone but it leaves them more open to attack because whilst they’re better, that additional structure to the game they play allows people to plan.

Pasi Salonen got man of the match which is fair enough but I thought Lee Bonner looks like a player with a ton of potential. Constantly willing to get stuck in, he was a constant source of attacking threat for the Pirates and looks like someone who with better players around him could do a serious amount of damage. I also thought Osman himself looked very good at spells and that move to defence seems to have helped the side going forward.

Martins Raitums was an interesting watch; brought in to add more experience at the back, he certainly didn’t have the best of nights for my money. His positioning is decent enough and he has a good glove hand but he leaves the 5 hole so open and will probably want a couple of the goals back. It may well have been an off night at the office. Every goalie has them.

Lowlight of the night: Scoring an own goal; lovely finish, just the wrong end.

Highlight of the night: I’ll say Jarolin’s first just because Greener made up for the above with some work which is why he’s the premier power forward in the league.

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