Running with the Herd – Bison vs Peterborough Phantoms 24/9/16Posted: 26/09/2016
Basingstoke Bison 3-4 Peterborough Phantoms aps
Jarolin pp Susters
Karpov Stepanek pp
Shootout (Phantoms shoot first)
Polodna scores Padelek scores
Long saved Pliskauskas saved
Antonov saved Stepanek saved
Connolly saved Levers scores
We’re trying a slightly different format today where we focus less on just a straight forward game write up and more on game analysis. Like/dislike it? Let us know.
What went well on the night:
Character comeback – having dug themselves into an almighty hole, for the Bison to come back from 2-0 and 3-1 down was a really important statement that the Bison needed to make to themselves and to the fans. Coming off the back of some poor results and then a poor start to the game, Doug Sheppard obviously said something in the second period break and the team responded. The juggling of the lines (make your own jokes there about how often that happens even when we’re winning) seemed to work too and, though it may not be a massive surprise, Karpov and Antonov together is just awesome to watch. I recommend hunting out the highlights when they come for both their goals as they’re superbly worked.
The one thing that was talked up a lot when this roster was put together was how talented it looked however the big problem so far has been that for all its talent, something hadn’t been clicking. With their backs against the wall against a team that they knew they could do something against, the team (well those that got played in the later stages) found a way to galvanise and rightly pulled themselves back into the encounter.
The grind line – I call them the grind line because calling them the 4th line is a touch unfair and where the attack has been misfiring at times, there is one line that has continued to perform at a consistent level and done what they’re sent out to do. They have been grinding out performances where it hasn’t quite clicked for others. Matt Towalski, Dan Lackey and especially Shaun Thompson have started the season off with a string of really good, solid performances. Yes, they haven’t put up many points bar during the game against Bracknell where nearly everyone got a point but they are doing everything asked of them and more. The only thing that confuses me with this line is why Lackey doesn’t just park himself in front of the net. Yes, I realise this is likely instructions but given the Bison are missing that player with a bit of size to stand in front of the net, I do wonder why we’re not using Lackey more to just take whacks in front of the net and just get in the way. He may finally get that goal they’ve been trying to get him.
What didn’t go well on the night:
In the hole – whilst the comeback showed a great deal of character, an underwhelming first period is what put the Bison in the hole in the first place. There’s an argument that in some ways that bit of adversity was what was needed to kick start that show of heart that the team knew that they had; that the pressure would bring out the real quality in them. The problem is that it’s not a good habit to fall in to, especially at home. Where Peterborough sat back way too far and allowed the Bison back into the game, other teams will not. Just like in the Telford game, Tomas Hiadlovsky was not offered the support that he needed on the back end and at the end of the first and second period despite playing the better hockey, the Bison were on the back foot because for some reason the team defence is struggling at the moment. The third goal everyone gets a pass on because it was really nice.
Falling into the trap – I’ll give the Phantoms their due and criticism in a bit but over the last couple of years the Bison have really struggled with playing the Phantoms and I don’t know why. I’ll get crucified by some Phantoms fans for saying it because I sound like a broken record but I don’t know why this happens. The Bison get frustrated, the game gets testy, the Phantoms collapse down and rely on Auzins to pull them through. At what stage do the Bison find a way to stop the cycle continuing? It’s really easy to say “get in Auzins’ face and rattle him” or “pass around them and use our speed” but we all know that it’s not as easy as that. Doug Sheppard is the coach of the year, Slava Koulikov is a former coach of the year but this seems to be a blind spot and maybe some more creative thinking or specific line matching is required. They managed it twice around Christmas 2015 and it won Bison the title in the long run. Once the Bison line-up is more settled, Sheppard can refocus his efforts for the next time the Herd play the Phantoms.
The ice – we can’t really avoid the issue on this one when it resulted in a 40 minute gap between the first and second periods. The rink staff are trying the best they can with the circumstances they are presented with, we can all respect that and we thank them for the efforts but when the start of nearly every period this season has been delayed due to the ice being so wet, there has to be a bit of common sense applied and the pad flooded when the EPIHL champions aren’t in the middle of a league fixture. Hopefully this will serve as a learning point and things will improve.
A word on our opponents:
Let’s go right after the main talking point shall we? Whatever possessed Petr Stepanek to shove Tomas Hiadlovsky in the face and try to go for him for the crime of making a really good pad save is anyone’s guess. It had already been a very unusual night and combined with Doug Sheppard giving Janis Auzins a piece of his mind in the handshakes this was the added exclamation on that weirdness.
I keep getting a sense of deja vu whenever I write these pieces but as I said above, somehow Slava Koulikov must live inside a corner at the back of Doug Sheppard’s head. These games keep on with this pattern and for as much as I dislike it, you have to credit the Phantoms for it. It wins them games and it keeps winning them games against the Bison. This writer will maintain that they don’t play attractive hockey (which no away team owes anyone ever) but they don’t play what I generally consider to be the better hockey and keep winning. The analyst in me can shrug my shoulders at it because that’s hockey, sometimes you win and you’re not the better side. The fan in me keeps increasing the dent in my wall.
Will Weldon was given the beers, his goal was a great bit of vision whether he meant it 100% or not, but bizarrely the one person I actually would have given the beers to till he was thrown out for his act of stupidity was Stepanek. He’s a very big unit who used his size well and was the Phantoms biggest threat throughout the game. He muscled past players with comparative ease at times and if he decides to not blow a gasket every five minutes over reasonable things, will do some damage in the EPL.
Janis Auzins did his best impression of Janis Auzins; whilst the Bison needed to do a lot more to challenge him, he has this really relaxed demeanour that Phantoms fans must find very reassuring. He still has his unnecessary outbursts but the fact that he’s now fully adjusted to the EPL makes him such a valuable asset to Peterborough.
That said, they can’t just sit back and hope Auzins will always save them. He’s good but he’s not super human so the fact that the Phantoms sat back that much and allowed the Bison back into the game is a point of concern for Slava Koulikov. Shut down hockey is all well and good but it needs to be much more proactive in its nature. Allowing Vanya Antonov to score early in the third gave the Bison the momentum and from that point, the equaliser felt like it was always going to come. Even in all my criticisms of Peterborough last season, I credited them for being very good at sticking to their systems but that might be part of the system to tweak.
Lowlight of the night: No prizes for guessing really, who starts a fight in the shootout for the goalie making a good save on you?
Highlight of the night: Antonov’s goal is gorgeous.