Running with the Herd – Bison vs Guildford Flames 03/09/16

Challenge match

Basingstoke Bison 5-1 Guildford Flames

Polodna                        Meyers (5on3 pp)

Karpov

Connolly sh

Jarolin

Antonov

Rene Jarolin fires home in the Bison's 5-1 pre-season win over Guildford. (c) 5 Hole Photography

Rene Jarolin fires home in the Bison’s 5-1 pre-season win over Guildford.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

Keeping warm: After Wednesday’s shootout loss to Swindon (why are we doing shootouts in pre-season?) the Bison headed home on Saturday to welcome the Flames without a replacement for Miroslav Vantroba but with Ciaran Long back from his exploits in New Zealand. The Flames started Mike Will with Richard Ullberg on the bench.

The Herd got the better of the start with a couple of early chances from Karpov and Lack before two of the new Bison paid early dividends as Vanya Antonov fired a shot goalwards that was tipped past Will at the top of the crease by Petr Polodna at 00:59.

After that it was like the team of last season as the Herd got in to penalty trouble taking 3 minors in 4 minutes. Alan Lack took a slashing minor and the Flames powerplay immediately set to work, forcing saves from Tomas Hiadlovsky in the early going. Lack’s penalty cleared and Tomas Karpov was called for hooking to put the Bison one man down. Shortly after that Ciaran Long took a slash and retaliated with a sizeable crosscheck but Mr Matthews only sent the Bison man to the box. With all the extra space, it was only a matter of time as some archetypical slick Flames passing undid the special teams unit; Tom Duggan to Jens Eriksson to Danny Meyers pinching in and the former GB international fired in from Hiadlovsky’s left at 08:19 to tie the scores.

That goal obviously got the Flames’ tail up but the Bison kept coming forward and took just under 3 minutes to regain the lead. With mist starting to descend upon the rink Grant Rounding set Tomas Karpov off on one of his runs and managed to completely wrong foot Mike Will. The Bison forward found himself one on one with the Flames’ goalie, dropped the shoulder and Will was so wrong footed that Karpov managed to tap home from so far out that it was almost indecent at 12:06.

Guildford responded well to this setback and continued to come forward. The visitors were starting to pin the Bison back for stretches and were generally putting the pressure on. The few breakouts from the Herd didn’t go far and it seemed the tide was turning a little when Tomas Karpov was called for the most obvious ever trip on former linemate Andy Melachrino.

The Flames set up the powerplay but were to scorn their missed chances as they were burned. The Herd forced the turnover and sprung the 2 on 1. Rene Jarolin made his way up ice and fed the puck across to Aaron Connolly whose shot went “bar dizzle” as the kids call it at 16:55 for the short handed marker.

The Bison would take another penalty late in the period as Alan Lack was called for holding the stick inside the last minute of the frame. The Bison defence had a brief moment which allowed the Flames a 2 on 1 inside the Bison zone but a massive pad save by Hiadlovsky diving to his right denied the goal. The period finished with the hosts 3-1 to the good.

The Bison managed to kill off Lack’s penalty as the second period started in very scrappy fashion from both sides. The teams were obviously still working out a variety of kinks. Whilst the line combinations seemed relatively set it was a case of trying new things and getting up to speed which obviously doesn’t happen immediately.

It seemed that one little thing would result in the next goal and fortunately for the Bison it fell to them. Aaron Connolly’s pass gave Rene Jarolin a jump on the defence. As it seemed that the Slovak would be caught by the backchecking defender, he decided to hammer a shot goalwards and found the top corner over Will’s shoulder at 24:02 to give the Herd a 4-1 lead.

The Herd kept coming forward with the line of Karpov, Lack and Rounding causing a variety of problems for the Flames defence. The Bison were even gifted a penalty when Andy McKinney tripped Antonov but the powerplay didn’t fire on all cylinders. If anything the Flames had the best chances despite being a man down, the best falling to Ben Campbell whose shot was kicked away by Hiadlovsky.

The Flames then got their own powerplay chance when a scrum for the puck in the corner behind the Bison’s goal saw Declan Balmer take a roughing call. It was the best powerplay of the night as the Flames created a variety of chances but just couldn’t find a way to score. A Jens Eriksson shot beat Hiadlovsky but couldn’t beat the crossbar as the puck pinged off the iron and away. Again, Campbell had a good chance as he undressed Mogg to get past him but after doing all the hard work let off an easy shot for Hiadlovsky to parry away.

When the teams returned to equal skaters they began trading chances back and forth as Kevin Phillips, Matic Kralj and Petr Polodna all went close. The line of Connolly, Davies and Jarolin created themselves some space and stretched the Flames defence but when the puck came free for Stuart Mogg to step into the shot, the puck would only find the chest of Mike Will.

The Bison had the better of the late second period action as Karpov, Palodna and Reynolds all had chances along with a lovely hit by Lewis Turner on Andy McKinney. The buzzer sounded with the Herd 4-1 ahead and seemingly cruising.

The third started much like the second and was a bit scrappy but eventually settled down. The teams again traded goalscoring opportunities. The Flames worked the puck to Jez Lundin for a blast that hit Hiadlovsky on the shoulder but it would be the home side that would extend their lead. Petr Polodna went for a skate, took the zone and drew the defence towards the corner before firing a pinpoint pass to an unmarked Vanya Antonov who fired a laser of a shot past Will at 45:49 to make it a 5-1 Bison lead.

The game settled after that with the result not really in any more doubt. The teams were still going for more goals but there was an inevitability about the result by this point. The Flames certainly pressed looking for something to take the shine off of the scoreline and even had the Bison really pressed back for moments but the defence and Hiadlovsky were not in a generous mood.

Along with Stuart Mogg colliding awkwardly with the boards was ultimately being OK, it was very much a case of a bit of to and fro with the Bison still edging the chances. Dan Lackey and Danny Meyers had a bit of a coming together which saw Meyers swing his stick at Lackey. Both would take a seat for slashing though I must confess to not having seen Lackey throw a slash.

The final five minutes played out without much incident and the final period would go on the first home game of pre-season with the Herd having eased to a comfortable win.

The rink: We do need to mention a bit that has nothing to do with the Bison because it’s quite a bit talking point at the moment with the increase in ticket prices. I had been told that the rink had scaffolding all over it and looked like a real building site. That bit wasn’t as bad as it could have been. The new set-up with the entire DJ box side of the rink being shut makes for a crush on the side with the benches but hopefully that will become better organised with time. This was night 1 of the year after all, you can’t expect everything perfect right off the bat.

The mist of the other hand was like the EIHL days of old. The game being stopped 3 or 4 times for the players to skate around is always a touch embarrassing combined with folks not being able to see through the plexi. I sit in block C so I am fortunate enough to be able to see most of the game no matter what happens but even I was having issues seeing through the mist at times. The issue is that with the one side of the rink shut, the back sets of doors as well as the ones by the dressing rooms being opened and closed repeatedly and with it being quite humid outside, it’s a recipe for disaster. The dehumidifier didn’t stand a chance. Whilst this will hopefully pass when the temperature drops, it’s a pretty inauspicious start to the season with away fans being given their money back.

Pretty sure we saw that: Right, back on to the fun stuff. It’s really easy to get carried away with this result. You don’t get anything for winning in pre-season and you have to envisage that Mike Will won’t start many regular season games against the Bison over Richard Ullberg. That said there’s a lot to take from the game and the Bison played some decent hockey.

Vanya Antonov got man of the match for his very nice goal and assist on the night. The combination of the young former Bees forward with Petr Polodna and Ciaran Long looks like a line to be excited about.

Whilst I thought that Antonov played well, I had Polodna and Rene Jarolin as a toss up for my man of the match choices. Polodna looks like a really good addition; he skates well, he has good vision and positioning. Jarolin looked like he hasn’t missed a step and whilst he was a bit fortunate on his goal to catch the keeper unaware, his new line with Dan Davies and Aaron Connolly looks like it will add a different sort of thing to the other lines. The Bison look like they have a well rounded attack and that’s a really important thing.

The defence and Hiadlovsky only conceded one 5on3 powerplay goal all evening and whilst the long running issue of being caught too high reared its head occasionally, they looked comfortable most of the evening. Lewis Turner appears to have slotted in well to the line-up and the ethos of the team’s defence. With another import to join, I’m certainly optimistic.

It was a team playing its second game against a team playing its first and it showed. The Bison looked a bit more cohesive and slick moving, played better and won. Roll on Wednesday.

A word on our opponents: Game 1 of the campaign for the Flames didn’t quite go according to plan. When you consider that most of last season’s team are back why wasn’t the cohesion quite on point? Why didn’t they offer more resistance? It’s easy to wonder about such things but a summer away and a few training sessions don’t mean that a team will immediately come back at full speed like they were in March. I agree that maybe the Flames could have and should have offered a bit more but the Flames started a bit slow last year as well and Paul Dixon will be adjusting lines and gameplans just like everyone else. This is the time to do it.

Ben Campbell was a good choice for man of the match, he was mine when asked as I think he was the Flames player that stood out the most. Nobody really shined for the Flames which was part of last night’s issue. Danny Meyers was his usual high quality self but the imports and some of the standouts didn’t seem to be quite up to the pace just yet. I only really noticed Marek Maslonka when he fanned on shots or got out-muscled by Tomas Karpov.

Mike Will got a good 60 minutes against a good team. At 3-1 down last night I saw a tweet where a Flames fan was asking for a refund on Will which is incredibly harsh. Yes he could have done better with the Bison’s 3rd and 4th goals and 5 goals on 28 shots isn’t a great statline for the evening but he got very little help from the defence at times and did make some good saves.

There’s a few things to read in to this game but this is the Guildford Flames. We know they will challenge. They got caught flat footed on this night, don’t expect it to be a regular thing.

Lowlight of the night: The mist for the reasons above.

Highlight of the night: I’ll say Karpov’s goal. The shoulder fake is so good that Mike Will is still leaning slightly to one side. Also our jerseys are beautiful.

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