Running with the Herd – Bison vs Guildford Flames 05/11//16

EPL

Basingstoke Bison 0-2 Guildford Flames

Eriksson

Santavuori ENG

The bang that fizzled out:

Let’s get this out of the way right at the start; this was a really good game of hockey. I took family to the game last night and for people who are not regular hockey watchers, they all commented that they thought the game was exciting, entertaining and played with some real intensity. There’s a lot to be critical of in the EPIHL but its on ice quality was on show last night and both teams deserve credit for that.

That doesn’t stop the fact that this was a game of two parts for the Bison; there was the first 42:55 leading up to the build up for the Flames goal where the Herd were playing well and just not able to get that crucial touch but were very much in the game. Then there was everything after that point where they played right into the Flames game plan.

In a lot of ways, this game was a really good advert for allowing draws back into the league but as soon as the Flames took the league the Bison started doing what has long been my criticism of the team when they are behind in a tough game; they played hard but they didn’t play very smart. Players started trying to do things themselves which as a result saw the play become disjointed and really easy for the Flames to break down. As ever, we can never criticise the Bison for their effort but the execution after they went behind was lacking and again find themselves losing a game that was theirs for the taking at times. Sometimes the bounces don’t go your way in games, that’s hockey and there’s no shame in that happening nor is there in losing. However that was only really part of the story in this case because the Bison, by allowing themselves to be sucked in to what the Flames were trying to do, in essence ended up beating themselves.

Credit has to go to my friend Chris Beal for this but it’s a fair point that is worthy of some examination. The one advantage the Bison had over the Flames defence was that they are pretty fast and the Flames blueline corps has size but not a lot of speed. Quiney, Phillips, Meyers, Lundin; that’s a decent set of defenders but none of them are exactly Jumping Jack Flash. So why did the Bison persist with playing the puck into the corner and trying to battle them there when the Bison forwards lack the size to be at their most effective? Yes, the Bison’s ability to create space and cycle the puck is very good but they could never really get a good enough set up at the first step of the process to be able to get the later parts of that going. They didn’t make the Flames defence move enough, they didn’t cause them enough of an issue and that, combined with Dean Skinns having his eye in meant that as time went on, they looked less and less like scoring.

There were some good parts of the games as well and to say that the game was a total loss in all respects. There was some really good play and there are some really good playing combinations. The line of Long, Jarolin and Davies is one that I really think has some potential to cause damage if allowed to settle and all find form.

Matt Towalski got man of the match which seemed to be one of those where he was rewarded for his consistency over the last few games. I thought it was actually one of his quieter games on the whole but again, he’s been playing well and better than many people expected him to play.

This game was what it was and there should be some frustration that a winnable game was allowed to slip through their fingers. It was a game where things didn’t go to plan and the bounces didn’t go their way. The home winning streak is gone and it’s another loss in the cup table where the chances of making that 4th spot narrow as a result of losing twice to the Flames. Sometimes we have to just make do with the fact that we got a decent spectacle of a hockey game. With no points to show for the effort and no Sunday game, that will have to keep us warm for the time being.

A word on our opponents:

Tip of the hat to Guildford on the win, as said above it was a good game that either side would have been unfortunate to lose. Fortunately for the Flames fans, they were on the right side of the result.

There’s actually not mega tons to say really. There’s no deep level of analysis to add to how Guildford ended up with the points here because how they achieved it was realtively straight forward but it worked.

With respect to Jakub Kubis there was only one real choice for man of the match. Dean Skinns looked like the Dean Skinns of old. The Bison did make it easy for him at times but with the Flames having struggled recently with conceding goals, bringing in a netminder for their first game of the season and him having a shutout away at a local rival is nothing to be sniffed at. Skinns looked comfortable and like he’d never been away, a mile away from the Skinns that finished the 2016 playoff final.

That’s not to say Kubis had a bad game. Whilst I don’t think he was the best player, he certainly has the requisite skills as does Tuomas Santavuori, who despite landing a really terrible hit on Derek Roehl from behind clearly shows why he played in levels well above this one.

In some ways whilst Skinns was the obvious stand out for his heroics, it’s actually testament to how well the Flames played as a team on the night, especially after the game winning goal from Jens Eriksson. Having clearly realised that they were not going to be able to blow the game wide open and add a 2nd or 3rd goal from open play the visitors went into frustration mode and the Bison fell for it. It was that adaptation to the situation that meant that the Flames won the game.

In some ways that’s actually the best way to counteract the Bison. If you take into account what we said above about the Bison trying to outplay the Flames at what is their game, the Bison have a tendency to overthink things. They almost try to walk it in to the net at times, much to the frustration of the home crowd so what do you do when a team is trying to be too smart? Be simple. Guildford didn’t win this game in the end by reinventing the wheel, they played a simple road game that they made hard to break down. Flames found a way to win the game, simplicity is the story.

Lowlight of the night: There’s something to be said for how much Tom Duggan moans but 2 out of the last 3 games and too often this season, the Bison seem to getting into too many large scraps. The end of the game last night wasn’t necessary. Neither was the celebration from the Flames players after the fact, there’s such a thing as a bad winner but Bison need to keep their heads or they’ll suffer with suspension issues. They can’t let it keep happening.

Highlight of the night: The game in general; yes it was very chippy and had far too much moaning at the ref from certain players but I think most who attended will say how good it was.

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