Running with the Herd – Bison vs Peterborough Phantoms 15/10/16Posted: 16/10/2016
Basingstoke Bison 3-1 Peterborough Phantoms
Roehl x 2 (1pp) Padelek
This game was weird; it was a good kind of weird given the result for the Bison as the win streak continues though it was certainly a bit of an odd one overall because two teams that met 3 weeks ago managed to have such a different game from a couple of weeks ago. That was the result of a couple of obvious differences but I found myself heading home from the game reflecting on a hard fought Bison win but was left once again reflecting about how funny the sport can be at times and whilst it might be a cliché, the phrase “that’s hockey” is the most apt phrase I can think of.
Having missed last weekend due to my sister’s wedding (following the game via Twitter at the reception led to one of those awkward moments where I yelled out “YES!” at Declan Balmer’s goal against Hull), the one thing that immediately leaps out from watching the Bison team is that the team spirit that has come to define the trophy winning teams of the last couple of years seems to be eeking back in. Yes, winning will do that but now the roster is settled down a bit (even with the stepping back of Alan Lack) but given they were playing a team that they have not had a great deal of success against in recent times that was going to prove incredibly useful. Would the Bison have won this game in the first or second weekend of the season?
The thing that defined this game for the Bison, and this will sound strange given that they took 7 minor penalties in the game was that the Herd were much less aggressive than people are used to. Combined with how the Phantoms played the game (we’ll get to that later), it made for a very unusual dynamic from the Bison. Some might have wondered that with the removal of Lack from the line-up whether the team would lack a bit of energy and that did seem to be something of an issue early as the majority of the first period saw the Phantoms playing a very high tempo game that caught the Bison somewhat off guard.
The game for the Herd was one of perseverance rather than one where they got to really play much of their game. Both teams tried clogging the neutral zone at times and there were a lot of turnovers from both sides with the last couple of minutes making me wonder whether there were equal ended magnets in people’s sticks. The Bison made it through a confusingly officiated tie by having that little extra measure of skill and that extra killer touch that the Phantoms seemed to lack on the night.
Derek Roehl’s man of the match award was fair enough on the balance of the team’s overall game where it was more one of team performance against a tricky foe. However with two goals and the game’s one bit of stand out individual skill that led to the opening goal that was arguably against the run of play, I think we could all rectify the beers going the way of the American. On the Bison’s top line and getting a ton of ice time, Roehl’s game is very noticeable. We were warned by our friends in Braehead that he will occasionally try to do everything himself (what Basingstoke fans who remember him call Kubenko Syndrome) and there were some flashes of that last night but his infectious energy is something that the Herd have not had this season before his arrival. It seems that within a Doug Sheppard system that the Bison need that Joe Greener/Joe Rand style player and Roehl appears to be that.
Not wanting to harp on too much about one player or players, it’s worth mentioning that again Shaun Thompson and Matt Towalski continue their recent run of exceptional form. With Lack stepping away, it’s meant that the lines have been shuffled again and it’s seen two of the early season’s standout players given a chance again at more ice time and more chances in key situations. The thing of course is that nobody can say that they haven’t earned it and whilst his goal was also down to the Phantoms defence opening up a massive hole for him to skate in to, Towalski’s goal was not only timely but very well taken. I have to keep reminding myself that Towalski has that shot in his locker. Either way, in a team with those big scoring names, that secondary scoring from two veteran British players is going to keep proving vital.
Bizarreness surrounding the game or not, it’s a very solid win for the Bison and one that they should be happy with. They were forced away from playing a lot of their game but worked through it and managed to find the win despite arguably putting in a performance that wasn’t as good as the one that saw them lose on penalties three weeks ago. The team played well as a whole, allowed very few shots and moved to a 5 game winning streak. Yes the table doesn’t make outstanding reading, particularly the lack of of goals scored (34 goals in 11 games has the Bison 7th in overall scoring) however the Bison continue to have the lowest goals against and are now the form team in the league heading into the game against Manchester on Sunday. The team appears to have found its feet and it’s time for them to press on.
A word on our opponents:
Just when I thought that my writing and thought processes regarding the Peterborough Phantoms couldn’t get any more confused, they come and play that game. From an aesthetic standpoint I’m quite glad about it and given the circumstances they found themselves in, you can understand the change in tactics.
The injury to Janis Auzins, one of the league’s premier netminders forced the hand of Slava Koulikov to start Adam Long. I will say right now that Adam Long had a really good game; he looks comfortable, assured but not a carbon copy of Auzins. He clearly has picked up some of Auzins’ traits like his willingness to play the puck but he looks and plays like his own man which is good. He clearly can be relied on to fill a gap when Auzins is unable to play.
That of course means that the standard road game tactics for the Phantoms of playing on the counter and allowing Auzins to see the shots goes out the window. Instead we saw a high tempo, high forecheck, quick passing game that for the majority of the first period seemed to throw the Bison for something of a loop. Whilst the Bison goal was at a time when they were wrestling a bit of the momentum their way, if the Phantoms had gone into the first break ahead then it would have been hard to argue.
The only problem with their overall game plan in that sense was that they didn’t get enough shots on target. That’s not to say that Tomas Hiadlovsky didn’t ride his luck at times, what good goalie doesn’t, but when they had that much of the possession and were playing that forcefully to only manage 18 shots on net and including they had that much powerplay time as well does speak to the Bison’s defence but also a bit to something of the recent slump in form and how it might be affecting the offence. Also given they were an import down, what did Wehebe Darge do to not ice for long stretches? If he’s injured then apologies as that news hasn’t reached me but I didn’t see the Australian for long parts of the game post the first period.
James Ferrara got man of the match for something of an archetypical industrious performance from the Phantoms stalwart. If I’d been awarding the beers then I think I would have gone more toward Ales Padelek for his goal and all around good play or even to Long whose 34 saves certainly kept the Phantoms in the running when they were under pressure, especially in the second where they gave up 3 powerplays in the first 10 minutes of the frame but managed to come out of that spell having only conceded once and having scored a nice goal through Padelek.
1 win in the last 5 and 12 goals in that spell is a bit of a worrying sign for the Phantoms and many people will be lazy in their analysis and point straight towards Auzins not being there. For me, that’s not fair to Long who has performed admirably recently and again last night and more to the fact that the attack just isn’t firing on all cylinders. With a game against a decent performing Swindon side upcoming followed by tough games against Hull and Telford, you have to wonder that if favourable results don’t start to come then changes might be afoot in Ghost Town.
Lowlight of the night: I think everyone was left bemused by a couple of the penalty calls last night but otherwise there wasn’t a ton to really call a lowlight.
Highlight of the night: Whilst Roehl’s goal was beautiful, have to give it to Towalski’s goal for how clutch it was and how pretty the shot was.