Running with the Herd – Bison vs Telford Tigers 3/12/16

EPL

Basingstoke Bison 6-2 Telford Tigers

Long x3 (2pp, 1sh)       Kolena

Jarolin x3 (1pp)            Silverthorn

High 3s:

After a disappointing shutout loss in Milton Keynes the night before, the Bison needed something of a response and especially one from their top end scorers. Check and check on that front is the answer to that.

The first period was not really much to write home about, especially the Tigers goal which came off of a rebound off of Hiadlovsky that seemed to leave the defence flat footed and the Bison netminder out of position. It was an easy task for Kolena to fire into the nearly empty cage from the slot and leave Hiadlovsky and Karpov sat in a heap in the goal crease. The rest of the opening frame, bar Ciaran Long’s very pretty goal was a bit of a damp squib all in all. It wasn’t a very interesting game.

Then the game woke up a bit in the second and the Bison started to find a way to get things working and things started to pay off. Telford, a club very much in transition at the moment, didn’t seem to have the energy or the answer to what the Herd were trying to do and two players in particular.

It’s very rare (and slightly gimmicky) to name two players to be a joint man of the match but the combined performances of Ciaran Long and Rene Jarolin are certainly worthy of praise. If you go back to the title celebration photos there’s a really excellent photo of the two of them celebrating together and despite there being an age gap of about ten years, there’s that sort of unspoken link between the two of them that has paid dividends for the Bison on many occasions, especially so on a night where the Bison really needed a win. Jarolin has been doing this for a long time, he’s a quality player and it makes Milton Keynes’ usage of him all the harder to fathom. This writer also has to wonder that if Long was on another team playing like he did last night whether things would be different for him. Someone needs to send some of his recent game footage to Pete Russell because if the national team is wanting to bring players through rather than sending a team of checking line forwards to world championships then I’m not sure what more Long has to do bar setting up camp on the national team coach’s doorstep with a sign to get given a good look.

Both players took their goals particularly well, Long’s first is an absolutely superb bit of team play, but the slightly bigger story from the Herd’s perspective isn’t so much who scored the goals but when they were scored. The Bison’s powerplay unit managed four powerplay goals in total across November, two at home. The Herd managed three powerplay goals in one night against a very good Telford side is a really good sign heading into a busy Christmas and New Year period with 8 games between the Manchester game on the 4th and the away game at MK on the 2nd January, a spell that includes two games against Swindon and Guildford. The Bison have always played well when they are busy, a fact that Aaron Connolly acknowledged last season during the title run-in but with a slightly shorter bench than normal the Herd need to be able to take any and all opportunities. Yes, their opponents from last night are slightly on the back foot in more ways than one but it’s that confidence factor that the plans can work and do work against top end sides that will hopefully increase the special teams scoring rate a bit. The shorthanded effort from Long was just a very pretty bonus.

In some ways Long and Jarolin’s efforts last night and the fact that they stood out so much were somewhat symptomatic of the game. The Bison played well if not spectacularly. That might initially appear to be a negative criticism but it’s actually not, it just was what it was. In some ways having the team playing a massively high skilled game wouldn’t have worked last night. It was one of those games for the roster to put their work boots on, put their backs into the game and get the job done. Due to the fact that the team did that, it allowed two of the team’s very high skilled players to do what they do best which is score pretty goals. Hopefully this win will see the Bison start to ratchet things up as the games start coming thick and fast to the point where they come through Christmas in more of a position to mount an assault on the top of the table come the start of 2017.

A word on our opponents:

Telford Tigers are a club in flux, that’s just the fact of the matter. It seems for the moment that they are able to go forward and that’s good. However with a raft of very good players having recently left leaving them shortbenched, a bunch of newer line combinations to try and work out and just not playing very well last night’s trip to Basingstoke was not destined to go well.

That said the one player who was most noticeable for the right reasons got the man of the match beers. This game was the best that I’ve seen Corey McEwan play since the start of his senior British hockey career and the fact that he didn’t register a point shouldn’t detract from the fact that he played incredibly. He never stopped skating, never stopped trying and deserves the credit for that where others on the roster seemed to not quite get up to speed.

Jason Silverthorn and Milan Kolena both took their goals well and a set play that would see the puck worked to Sam Zajac for the shot and the hope of a Matty Davies tip certainly caused the Bison a few issues but as the cause starting to seem more and more loss, the visitors started winding down. I felt a bit sorry for Sam Gospel at times because where the team in front of him just couldn’t get up to speed to the point that he didn’t have a chance on a couple of the shots that came his way.

Then there was Doug Clarkson. His performance on opening night and last night were like night and day. Now I don’t blame there being something of a shift in attitude, there’s been a season’s worth of events in the last month in Shropshire but bar a nice pass to Jason Silverthorn for the Tigers’ second goal, I’m left scratching my head about what the game plan was for him. A senior player with a lot of experience and an import on a short benched side spent most of the night in Jan Jarabek’s pocket and the rest of it trying to goad Jarabek and Kurt Reynolds into a fight. I think we all understand that Clarkson’s role is to provide a large physical presence on the roster. He’s a decent hockey player at this level but there is literally nobody that can match his size and power for the most part but he just seemed to be off in his own world and times and if he is planning on sticking around, he needs to go back to being the Doug Clarkson we saw in September and not this.

Credit must go to Tom Watkins for his bit of class at the end and calling a timeout specifically to change the netminder and allow Ted Thompson his EPL debut. He only got just under 9 seconds of action but let’s hope it’s not the last for him. Welcome to the EPL, Ted.

Lowlight of the night: The Tigers’ first goal was just a mess at the back for the Bison

Highlight of the night: Jarolin and Long in general or as it shall now be known, Jaralong.

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