Running with the Herd – Bison vs Swindon Wildcats 07/09/16Posted: 08/09/2016
Basingstoke Bison 4-3 Swindon Wildcats
Polodna Malasinski x2 (1x dpg)
Antonov x2 Richardson
A satisfactory end: After a successful weekend against Guildford, the Bison returned home to see out the pre-season with their newest addition Jakub Barton added to the line-up for the evening. Dan Weller-Evans got the start with Tomas Hiadlovsky on the bench wearing the very stylish combination of his baseball cap with a helmet on top. Wildcats coach Aaron Nell rested himself and took the opportunity to get a look at his roster from the bench whilst Floyd Taylor missed out via a concussion received in Sunday’s loss to Bracknell. Stevie Lyle got the start for the visitors.
The game started out at a leisurely pace with both netminders being tested early. Jonas Höög and Lee Richardson had shots saved by Weller-Evans whilst Tomas Karpov and Ciaran Long went close at the other end. The Bison’s line of Polodna, Antonov and Long caused a few early issues for the Wildcats’ defence but could not find a way past Lyle.
The game wasn’t being played at its most intense pace as both sides clearly had opening night firmly in their sights but professional pride was certainly playing a part as both looked for a way to open the scoring. It was a night for trying things as both sides started with settled lines and the game was being used to bed things in for both rosters that have tough first games.
The scoring opportunities continued to come; Vanya Antonov’s weaving run drew the defence but Petr Polodna couldn’t stuff the puck in the net nor could Grant Rounding’s shot off of a nice feed from Tomas Karpov find a way past Lyle. Ben Davies had a golden chance as some neat movement and passing by the visitors stretched the Bison defence but he couldn’t put the puck past Weller-Evans with the Welshman at full stretch.
With the period winding down, the Wildcats would strike. More slick passing by the Wiltshire side would see the ever formidable combination of Höög and Malasinski combine with the Polish international firing past a sprawling Weller-Evans at 19:57 to end the period with the Cats 1-0 to the good.
However it wouldn’t take that long into the second period for the Bison to draw level. The first powerplay of the night would pay dividends for the Herd as Sam Bullas sat for hooking. The Bison had a couple of chances go close but when Stevie Lyle coughed up a rebound from a Ciaran Long blast, it sat up nicely for Petr Polodna to tap in at 22:45.
The Bison had their tails up and went close shortly afterwards through Shaun Thompson but it would be the Wildcats that would regain the lead. First they turned the momentum of the game their way and then found the go ahead goal as Höög’s shot squirted off of Weller-Evans’ pad for Malasinski to add his second from a tight angle at 27:39.
Alan Lack’s holding call sent the Wildcats to the powerplay and gave them the chance of extending their lead but some excellent penalty killing from the Herd, in particular Shaun Thompson, meant they didn’t get their reward.
The game’s physicality level started to up a bit but both sides were maintaining their desire to play in a friendly spirit (if such a thing really exists in ice hockey). The Karpov, Lack and Rounding line caused some real problems for the Wildcats but couldn’t find a way past Lyle. It would be the GB international’s last action of the game as he was replaced by Michael Crisp at 33:57.
The Bison had an immediate chance to test the Swindon backup as Mark Smith whacked Dan Lackey in the face which earned him a roughing call. However the Bison’s misfiring powerplay met a solid Wildcats penalty kill and there was no joy incoming. The second period ended with the Wildcats still with the lead.
The third period started with everyone bar Dan Davies; the Bison forward appeared to suffer a bit of a knock and it was deemed more sensible to rest him for the final period than risk him further.
Tomasz Malasinski seemed to be on a mission to get his hattrick in his first game back in a Wildcats jersey since the Polish national team training camp but his chance early in the third was denied by a diving Lewis Turner. Turner’s actions would again prove important as more Swindon pressure would give Sam Bullas a chance but Turner’s big hit would level the Wildcats’ forward before he could do anything with it.
That solid defence would allow the offense to go to work as the Bison levelled the scores for the second time in the game. Aaron Connolly raced away and fired a shot at Michael Crisp. The Welshman would make the save but Connolly would get the rebound back and would feed Vanya Antonov who made a move and shot past Crisp at 46:45.
Antonov would continue to make a menace of himself but his next move, a mazy run and shot, would not find a way to hit the back of the net. However the next Bison chance would soon come as Jan Kostal was called for the most obvious interference ever as he chased down a puck with Jakub Barton. The Bison initially had some trouble getting the powerplay going but a sudden breakout made all the difference and somewhat mirrored the Bison’s second goal. Aaron Connolly’s shot rebounded off of Crisp and into the path of Shaun Thompson who fired home at 51:02 for a 3-2 Bison lead.
The home fans were then given a bit of a scare as Rene Jarolin had to skate off when he was cut by his own visor after being hit by a Wildcats’ player. He got off under his own power though looked to be in a bit of discomfort as he exited the scene.
The Bison got a measure of revenge shortly afterwards as Polodna’s pass set Antonov away and before most of the crowd in attendance could blink, the young Russo-British star had skated in, deked and slotted the puck through Crisps’ 5 hole at 53:41 for the 4-2 Bison lead.
The 2 goal advantage wouldn’t last long however as really lovely passing by the Wildcats stretched the Bison defence and made them pay. With the Herd’s defence bunched across to one side, Stevie Whitfield fed a speeding Lee Richardson who took the puck, skated in and beat Weller-Evans over the shoulder for 4-3 at 56:25.
The Wildcats kept pushing for an equaliser but a resolute Bison defence held them at bay. Coach Nell took his timeout in the last minute and pulled Crisp from the net to try and make a difference but Weller-Evans was equal to the task and the buzzer sounded to round out the pre-season with another Bison win.
That’ll do nicely: Where we criticise on BOTW, we also try to praise. Credit must go to the Planet Ice staff; after Saturday’s disaster a variety of industrial fans appeared and there was no fog at all during last night’s game. A few ladies reported the occasional Marilyn Monroe moments but otherwise visibility was fine. Whilst the rink still clearly has issues, they do deserve a bit of credit for responding to the concerns from Saturday with speed.
This game was what it was; a smaller Wednesday night crowd, a game played at about ¾ speed with players rested late in the game due to knocks but still a good workout and good to close out pre-season with a win.
The game was also one of those where I had my man of the match tweet for the official account written before the buzzer. For the Bison, Vanya Antonov showed why he has been the most talked about British player in the league for the last couple of years. His combination with Polodna looks like it should pay immediate dividends for the Bison from the off and the Basingstoke crowd are excited to be getting a season in their colours. It was typified as well by the fact that when Davies sat out the third period, Antonov moved to his line with Connolly and Jarolin and looked like he hadn’t missed a step.
Dan Weller-Evans got a full 60 minutes and gave a good account of himself. He won’t be happy with 1 goal on 4 shots in the third period but he was beaten by 3 very good goals that Hiadlovsky couldn’t have done much about. It also shows a large amount of trust from Doug Sheppard in terms of how far Weller-Evans’ game has come on that he was happy to leave Hiadlovsky stylishly stood on the bench for the duration.
This was not really the game to judge Jakub Barton on but he looked solid enough. Bar one premature step in and the odd moment of being outmuscled, Barton was solid and wasn’t noticed that much and you know what they say about defencemen that you don’t notice. They’re probably doing their job well.
The Bison have given a really good account of themselves in pre-season and the lines appear to be formed for opening night. Hopefully the knocks to Davies and Jarolin aren’t major and the full roster takes to the ice on Saturday for a tough test against Telford. The title defence begins.
A word on our opponents: As said above it wasn’t the most intense game and like the Bison, the Wildcats gave a good account of themselves. It’s hard to really judge any Wildcats team without 60 minutes of Lyle and Nell stood on the bench but we’ll try anyway.
If Vanya Antonov was the shoe in for the Bison’s man of the match, Tomasz Malasinki was just as easy a call for the Wildcats. The Polish international doesn’t appear to have missed a trick and took both his goals very well. He seems to move and do anything so effortlessly that teams will need to really pay attention to him across the season.
Both netminders got some time in this game and both looked very solid. Michael Crisp will not be happy with some of his rebounds but both he and Lyle faced an array of good shots and looked comfortable. If anything, Crisp had the prettiest save of the night as he windmilled his glove arm to pluck a Ciaran Long shot out of the air. It’s what a goalie friend of mine calls a “TV save”.
The Wildcats look like they are going to be playing to their strengths again this season; break fast on the counter and burn teams with that speed whilst the opposition are stretched. It works for them and when they are up to speed with that top line of Malasinski, Höög and Nell you have to imagine that defences and opposition fans will be terrified. This game didn’t show any of us enough to make any long term predictions but Swindon look like they will be fine.
Lowlight of the night: The low crowd; likely influenced by the ticket price and the issues on Saturday, the atmosphere and the fact it was only a challenge game meant it was a bit flat.
Highlight of the night: No fog and Antonov’s second goal was very pretty.