Running with the Herd – Bison vs Telford Tigers 05/12/15Posted: 06/12/2015
Basingstoke Bison 7-0 Telford Tigers
Long x3 (1 dpg, 1 pp)
Karpov x2 (1 sh)
Putting the cat out: On a night of celebration in Basingstoke for the retirement of Tony Redmond’s #20 jersey, the Bison headed into the game still without Alex Symonds and the newly injured Tomas Hiadlovsky which saw a debut handed to Jon Baston (catch his interview with the BOTW Podcast here) in net. The Tigers were without EPL player of the year Peter Szabo as well as Joe Graham and Dan Davies. The visitors chose to start Sam Gospel over Tom Murdy between the pipes.
The Bison were gunning for the Tigers net right from the get go. Grant Rounding had the first chance and Alan Lack believed that he’d opened the scoring by stuffing the puck over the line but Mr Matthews said no and simply called for the faceoff. The Tigers had good chances as well through Max Birbraer and Phil Hill was set up for the clear shot but he put the chance wide.
The hosts had the first powerplay chance when Birbraer was called for a trip on Tomas Karpov but the Bison struggled to get the powerplay firing. Aaron Connolly had best chance as he tried to connect on Declan Balmer’s shot but it was an easy save for Gospel and the Tigers survived.
The teams traded chances before the Tigers then had their first powerplay chance. Phil Hill steamed into Tomas Karpov, seemingly (at least to this writer) from behind. With no call incoming from Mr Matthews, Alan Lack took it upon himself to charge into Hill and a crowd formed. At the end of it all, Lack headed to the box on a crosschecking call. However the visitors suffered the same powerplay issues as the hosts and failed to find a way past Baston.
The game became very openly aggressive. Both sides were going at each other on and off the play but Mr Matthews decided he was going to let all of it go despite there seemingly being something to be called each way at nearly every clash. It kept the game flowing but raised the suspicion of the game degenerating into a brawl as both sides sought to establish their physical dominance.
The game was on the edge and it was the hosts who would make the breakthrough on the scoreboard as Rene Jarolin fed Ciaran Long in front of Gospel. The Bison forward needed two goes at the shot but eventually fired into the net at 13:24 to give the Herd the lead as Mr Matthews had his arm in the air for a slash by Marcus Maynard.
The Herd were gifted another powerplay shortly afterwards when Martin Ondrej took a shot at Grant Rounding on the boards but again, the Bison’s powerplay struggled to get themselves set and were getting caught as they pressed high. Joe Miller had a good chance as he raced up the middle of the ice but was rubbed out of the play by Declan Balmer using a bit of simple brawn to push Miller off of the play.
The Tigers tried to use that momentum to get themselves back into the game when they returned to even strength. Both Rick Plant and Jason Silverthorn went close. The Tigers captain had a golden chance and Baston was scrambling to cover his left post but did enough to stop the Tigers’ captain from pulling the trigger. Play continued and eventually Silverthorn ended up tripping Karpov as the Bison tried to break out, putting the Herd back onto the powerplay.
The Bison started the powerplay with three defencemen on the ice in the hope of not giving up a rush and the powerplay did go much better but there was still no way through Gospel and the first period ended with the game seemingly wide open.
The Bison launched into the second period; Joe Greener’s floated shot on net cannoned off of Gospel and sat up for Ciaran Long but the Tigers’ netminder made the second save.
Gospel made another good stop from Tomas Karpov shortly after but he was soon destined to be the victim of a highlight reel goal. With Joe Greener and Sam Zajac whacking at each other in front of the Bison bench, play continued and Long walked into the zone, saw the gap, wound up and fired a bullet of a shot that hit the top of the net at 23:12 and shattered Gospel’s water bottle over the ice for 2-0.
Telford responded by trying to put the pressure on but found an unfriendly host in Baston who kept denying them. The British/Finnish netminder denied a two on one attempt as a shot from Phil Hill. The Tigers were awarded a powerplay when Declan Balmer was called for holding his man and Jason Silverthorn had a shot that went through Baston but it was cleared off of the line by Shaun Thompson but otherwise it was a rather tame powerplay.
The Tigers would rue the missed chance. Sam Gospel was called into action again and made a string of saves in quick succession but with his defence too slow to respond to the danger the third chance in about 10 seconds was fired past the visiting netminder by Alan Lack from close range at 30:58 for 3-0.
Again the Tigers tried to respond but what chances were getting through the defence were being seen by Baston as he denied the Tigers on the overlap but the Tigers were given another powerplay when Joe Baird was called for crosschecking. The visitors responded with one of the finest powerplay passing moves I’ve seen live that set up Jonathan Weaver for the blueline drive but the veteran defenceman could only ring his shot off of the post. It would again prove costly as the Bison broke out shorthanded shortly afterwards. Tomas Karpov took the zone and had Joe Greener and Stuart Mogg with him. Karpov saw the options but decided to go it alone and snapped the puck through Gospel’s 5 hole at 37:38 for the shorthanded tally and 4-0.
It could have been 5-0 shortly when the fans were treated to an unlikely sight. Grant Rounding played the puck off the boards which fell to Joe Baird as he stepped out of the box. The defender took the zone and fired but the shot was wide.
Max Bibraer continually tried to spark some offence and produced a fantastic solo move that saw the Tigers’ import skate from his own zone, through neutral, take the Bison zone, dangle round the diving defenceman, get into space and fire but after all that he missed the near post. The buzzer for the end of the second sounded shortly thereafter and the Bison headed to the room heavily in command.
If the Tigers were hoping for a way to get back into the game early in the third, they were to be disappointed. Rick Plant was called for holding the stick at the Bison took just 10 seconds to add their fifth. Ryan Watt fed Ciaran Long for the shot from the blueline which was tipped past Gospel by Tomas Karpov at 41:23.
The Tigers forced a save out of Baston but the Bison kept coming and for themselves another powerplay when Dan Rose was called for putting the puck over the glass. The Bison set the powerplay up and the fantastic night for Ciaran Long reached its zenith as he was teed up for the blast from the hashmarks past Gospel at 46:24 for 6-0, his hattrick and his 6th point of the night.
The Tigers appeared to have no answer to the Herd and switched to damage limitation as much as they could, despite leaving Gospel in the net. Joe Greener and Max Birbraer went close at respective ends of the ice before some net play from Karpov and Jarolin set up Alan Lack for the tap in at 51:45 for 7-0 and a general look of disbelief on everyone’s face.
Jon Baston was still being called upon at the other end as he made stops on Phil Hill and took a tap from Birbrer which drew a crowd but there was little way past the debuting netminder.
Joe Greener thought he had added the 8th Bison goal when the loose pass bounced into him but it was disallowed by Mr Matthews almost immediately. At the time I thought Greener had kicked it in but the exact reason has not been confirmed to me.
Max Birbraer went down under the challenge of Joe Greener and when the Tigers man was sent to the box for diving and then Phil Hill for crosschecking, the resulting 5on3 was more an excuse to see out the game than press for another goal. The crowd rose to its feet on what had turned out to be a special night for the club in more ways than one.
A tonking for Tony: I’ve talked on here before about statement wins; watching the Bison putting a team to the sword and really making the league aware of what this team is capable of. Bracknell, in the midst of their issues had 10 put on them, then Hull last week were handed a heavy defeat but this might be the biggest one of all so far. For all the perceived issues about the Telford Tigers’ season, this is a very good hockey team. They won the league at a canter last season and they just had no answer. The Germans have a verb, “deklassieren” which is translated as outclass but literally means to de-class a side and that might be the most apt description of last night.
Ciaran Long’s man of the match selection was almost automatic. To go 3+3 in a 7-0 win is beyond impressive but there was little fortune about how Long went about it. The first goal was a matter of perseverance but the second and third goals were typical Long goals. Long can see those gaps that others can’t see and the third in particular is a move familiar to anyone who has ever watch Long in the warm up. For whatever reason, everything clicked that night and the line of Long with Greener and Jarolin continued its promising connection.
Tomas Karpov’s 2+3 night almost went unnoticed as a result which is almost a shame given how well he played. As Karpov keeps his place around the top of the league’s scoring charts, it was a productive night for the Czech man who used his skills to help set up Alan Lack for both of his goals as well as using his skills to take both of his own tallies. The shorthanded goal was a thing of beauty as Karpov, a man whose natural game arguably tends towards being the set-up man, showed his goalscoring prowess at EPL level but just blasting it home.
Then there’s Jon Baston. Baston who is 21 stepped into his first game for a title challenging team against last season’s champions on the night his new club retired a jersey. He looked so relaxed at points, I wondered if he’d gone to sleep. The 27 shot shutout wasn’t without its hairy moments but Baston looked comfortable and wasn’t tested quite as much as either he or any of us expected him to be. There’s some real similarities between his game and that of Tomas Hiadlovsky in the sense that they have that calmness under pressure that is going to be key in a tight league.
On a big night for the club this was the consummate performance from a team that, especially on home ice, is struggling to be handled. The defence was solid and sure, the forward lines all look dangerous and there’s scoring across the board. Sometimes it’s just your night.
With next Saturday’s home game against Peterborough now starting to have real title implications on it even at this midpoint of the season, if the Bison can continue performances like this one then there might be cause to dare to dream again.
A word on our opponents: Taking a step back, whenever there’s a game like this I ask myself a question about the result; were the Bison that good or the Tigers that bad or both? The answer in this case is both.
Whilst the Tigers were missing players, the nature of the capitulation is the troubling thing from this result. We saw the flashes of brilliance from individuals but there seemed to be very little team dynamic at times last night from the Tigers. There are players on that side who can tear teams apart. When they work collectively, even for moments they can do so much damage (take the powerplay above where Weaver hits the post, the play was gorgeous) but across the course of 60 minutes they needed to play as a team and didn’t. For the many criticisms that can be levelled at the Bison, they play the system as the collective.
The other issue for the Tigers was again, as we’ve seen in the past, they appear to have no plan B. They tried to match physicality with the Bison so the Bison switched to using their speed and the Tigers couldn’t adapt. The reaction from Tom Watkins on the bench as well was just bizarre; no time out taken, Gospel left in for the whole game, no changes to the approach. It felt like the Tigers were banging their head against the wall whilst the Bison had scooted past them and knocked their house down.
Sam Zajac got man of the match for at least trying where others seemed not to but even he couldn’t stop the rot on the night. Teams have bad results, Bison have shipped 8 goals away from home twice this season after all and maybe this is one of those nights for the Tigers. Quality doesn’t vanish overnight but given how the season has gone so far for the champions, this result appears to be something of a lowlight in an inconsistent campaign so far.
Lowlight of the night: There weren’t many but Phil Hill’s hit from behind on Karpov that wasn’t called was pretty bad.
Highlight of the night: The Bison’s second goal, just for the image of Long’s shot shattering the water bottle.