Running with the Herd – Bison vs Swindon Wildcats 26/11/16

EPL

Basingstoke Bison 4-1 Swindon Wildcats

Connolly                       Whitfield

Jarolin x2 (1 ENG)

Long pp

Effective, if not pretty:

If you can’t win pretty then win ugly because at least then you’ve won; that was pretty much the story of this win for the Bison. The first period, apart from Aaron Connolly’s well worked goal, was a bit of a car wreck. Jarolin’s fine work and Antonov getting to the net to help cause a screen meant that the Bison skipper’s shot went through Stevie Lyle’s 5 hole, it’s a nice goal. The rest of the period was just a bit of a mess with misplaced pass after misplaced pass from both sides to the point I think fans from both sides were happy to see the end of the first period.

Thankfully, the Bison were much better in the final 40 minutes and comfortably brought the points home in the end. In what could have descended into really scrappy game or just a scrap, the Herd were uncharacteristically calm. They only took 4 minutes of penalties, imposed their game on their opponents and walked away with a deserved win as a result.

This was one of those games where the entire team put in a good shift; the only person who arguably didn’t have a great game was Grant Rounding for whom things just never seemed to really come off on the night. He skated really hard but just couldn’t get the anything to really work for him.

There were a few people who had some very good games. It was arguably Aaron Connolly’s best game of the campaign so far, Rene Jarolin took his first goal very well and was a threat all evening and man of the match choice Ciaran Long also looked to be in top form. Sometimes Long is guilty of getting into a routine and gripping the stick a bit too tight when things don’t go his way but his link up play with Jarolin is so much fun to watch. Tomas Hiadlovsky also had a decent game and was unlucky not to get the shutout thanks to a very solid bit of attacking play.

For me, Jan Jarabek was the best player on the ice across both sides and had his best game for the Bison since joining. Jarabek has been perfectly solid since coming to Basingstoke to replace Jakub Barton and his signing paid immediate dividends but this game saw the Slovak in outstanding form. With the Bison missing Joe Baird due to injury, the 4 man defensive corps were all playing a lot of minutes but Jarabek stepped up beyond the call of duty. He made one block that stopped a certain goal and did a decent job of keeping people like Höög and Malasinski in his pocket for most of the evening. I was a bit surprised when he didn’t pick up the man of the match beers.

I was pleasantly surprised with how the game played out. Given the issues at the Link which resulted in an injury to Aaron Nell that has the Wildcats’ coach out for the remainder of the season, I did wonder if something would happen in this game to lead it that way. Instead the Bison let Swindon come to them, let them make the mistakes and punished them for it. That’s not to say that the game was a super clean display of gentlemanly sportsmanship, there was a lot of off the puck stuff from both sides but some good officiating and the Bison controlling their aggression better than they have recently nullified an odd approach to the game from the visitors.

The above is obviously in the context of Sunday’s defeat against Hull which was unfortunate as the Bison conceded late on but the win against the Wildcats was important with the final cup semi-final spot still up for grabs. It was also the last appearance for the Bison for Shaun Thompson whose departure we’ll look at more tomorrow.

A word on our opponents:

Due to the Wiltshire side not having a home game this past weekend, the Swindon Wildcats fans travelled in force to Basingstoke. I quite like the Wildcats fans; they normally travel well and make a fair bit of noise. They really added to the atmosphere on Saturday night. Sadly they were rewarded with something of a lack lustre performance from their roster.

There aren’t many other ways to slice this; this was not a good performance. Now this is the way of hockey from time to time. Good teams lose hockey games and that’s fine. I think for Swindon, the issue is how they lost it.

As mentioned above, the first period would not have won any prizes for the aesthetics of the hockey but Swindon lost the game for the very simple reason that they did not play their game. Even taking Aaron Nell out of the equation (all the best for your recovery, coach) you have Swindon; a team with some of the better high skilled players in the league and a decent supporting cast built to support them and they came to Basingstoke and seemingly tried to play Bison hockey on Bison home ice. It didn’t work. They tried to be more physical than the Bison and couldn’t. They took a litany of daft penalties that put them on the back foot at key periods. Thankfully for them it only resulted in the one powerplay goal.

The other issue for the Wildcats was that their stars just didn’t turn up on the night. Jordan Kelsall got man of the match and credit to him and Kyle Smith for really working hard and trying to get under the skin but bar a couple of flashes from Jonas Höög there was just nothing in the way of production. The Bison managed to nullify Tomasz Malasinski most of the night, Jan Kostal seemed more interested in complaining to Mr Cloutman and what was on offer just wasn’t enough to do much damage. Steve Whitfield scored his first goal in over two years in what was a well taken move. It was the visitors’ best attacking move of the game by some distance and they scored from it.

It’s not been a good weekend for Wildcats as they scored 1 goal all weekend and have lost the last three games, this weekend’s ones rather convincingly. The old adage keeps coming back to haunt them. On paper they look great but they cannot seem to find that consistency needed to press on. It was a bad day at the office for Aaron Nell and Swindon and to chalk it up as the sky falling would be unfair. It does however feel like we’ve seen this all somewhere before.

Lowlight of the night: Jan Kostal’s run at Jan Jarabek at the end of the game was needless.

Highlight of the night: Long’s goal combined with Jarabek’s assist was pretty

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