Running with the Herd – Bison vs Bracknell Bees 17/12/16

EPL

Basingstoke Bison 4-2 Bracknell Bees

Roehl x2                       Spearing

Reynolds                      Thompson

Davies

Derek Roehl slots past Alex Mettam to give the Bison the lead over the Bracknell Bees on Saturday evening. (c) 5 Hole Photography

Derek Roehl slots past Alex Mettam to give the Bison the lead over the Bracknell Bees on Saturday evening.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

Not the Bee all and end all:

Yes, I am aware that the pun above is terrible but it is fitting because visually, this game was painful to watch at times. It was however the sort of win that if the Bison are going to get on a win that thrusts them back into title contention that they need to get; ugly and ground out.

The first 40 minutes of the game were not pretty at all and it felt like the Bison were making life difficult for themselves. It was compounded as well by the age old Bison trope of shooting loads, they outshot the Bees 56-24, but not making the chances count meant that they could (and arguably should) have been out of sight but weren’t, a situation that was made worse by giving up a well taken but ultimately avoidable Shaun Thompson goal.

The final period was then also very weird but the Bison deserve a ton of credit for it. Against another team and in a different game, the hit to Tomas Karpov would have seen the game descend into utter anarchy. However, and despite some of the penalties arguably being a bit on the soft side in my opinion, in some ways Mr Cloutman’s 11 minor penalties that he called on both sides (if you include the 2 in Thompson’s 2+10) focussed the game each way. There wasn’t the time in a 4-2 game with that much special teams side for the Bison to lose focus and they didn’t. They went back to archetypical Doug Sheppard hockey, shut the game down and won. It was ugly as sin but it doesn’t matter if you win. The only thing that would have made the win better was if Tomas Hiadlovsky’s shot had hit the back of the net and not sailed yards wide. We can dream.

Performance wise, this was the sort of game that the Bison had needed from Derek Roehl but hadn’t gotten in recent weeks. The American’s form in recent weeks had not been as stellar as the start of his time in Basingstoke but his 2+1 and his general all-round effectiveness on the night was what was needed on the night. In some ways, this sort of game that suits Roehl. For the EPL, Roehl has the skill to tear the league apart on his night but hasn’t quite done that yet. However he’s something of a Joe Greener style player and loves the gritty stuff and then using the skill to shine and against a Bracknell side that doesn’t have the highest skill quotient, this was the game for him.

Also worth a mention because of how good he and his goal looked on the night was Dan Davies. I think in some ways that Davies’ style will always mean he gets the short end of the stick. He’s not particularly flashy, he’s not a high skill guy per se and that means the things he does really well get lost in the shuffle a bit. Aside from the fact that his goal was beautiful (seriously, check the highlights) Davies has won me over a bit in recent weeks. I wondered for ages why he was on the powerplay until I stepped back and realised that with all the “big names” on the special teams unit, they just need a guy to stand at the half boards and distribute the puck.

The other big talking point for me was Tomas Karpov. After the hit by Shaun Thompson and the Czech forward lying prone on the floor for a pretty prolonged period of time, to see him return to the bench and then the ice was almost uncomfortable. Thankfully it seemed that Karpov’s shifts were limited in the game and I commend any player for caring about the shirt and his professionalism enough to want to get back out but there was a moment of me and others around me scratching my head on that one.

That bit of awkwardness out of the way, the weekend itself for the Bison has gone as well as it could have done; a 4 point weekend against our local rivals, the team is up to third and had a high scoring away win to boot which included Joe Miller’s first goals back in Bison colours. The problem is that the biggest issue for the Bison this season has been consistency. They’ve beaten a side out of the playoffs convincingly twice over two consecutive nights but it’s now back to back games with Swindon, a team having an even more see-saw season in terms of results than the Herd then away at Guildford and away at MK. The stop/start nature of this season in terms of runs of form needs to stop. The Bison ended up winning the league last year by going on a run of 14 wins in 16 to take the title in March. The league might be out of reach now but it might not. If retaining the title is still at the front of Doug Sheppard’s mind then he needs to find a way to start that run now.

A word on our opponents:

I was sitting back thinking about this piece and thinking about the game and here’s the thing about the Bracknell Bees; I quite like them. Yes, this game was certainly not an attractive game but aside from the fact that the club is somehow still going after the disaster of last season and the effort to keep the club going, there is something honest about the way that Lukas Smital’s side plays hockey.

The Bees know that they are not a team that is going to pass round teams like the 1983 Oilers. They’re hockey is direct, route one because that’s what the roster that they have can do. That’s not to say that the Bees are totally one dimensional, they do have some very talented players in Smital himself, Alex Barker and the recently added Shaun Thompson but their hockey is determined by the roster that they have.

Ultimately that roster did cause the Bison some issues on Saturday night as where the Bison tried to be too cute and fancy, the Bees went to disrupt on defence and press high when on the attack with an aggressive forecheck. The problem for the Bees is that left them really open at the back when they turned the puck over. The speed of the Bison forwards meant that they could get in behind the Bees’ defence and it left Alex Mettam with a lot of work to do.

Mettam deserved the man of the match beers for a performance that could have been a cricket score at times. The Sheffield born netminder was very good in tight and with a Bison side that seemed content to try and go to the net more, it was playing into his hands at times. The four Bison goals came from moments where the Bison players got a bit of space and made the visitors pay.

Can the Bees make the playoffs? It’s tough to say. On a different night, they might have gotten closer to the Bison or stolen a win but this was not the night for it. If Sheffield’s run of poor form continues then they might steal that last spot. It does mean that they have to pick up wins themselves though. The Bees are a valiant side but simply being valiant won’t see them make the post season.

Lowlight of the night: The hit on Karpov. I’m yet to see the video but it wasn’t good.

Highlight of the night: Whilst Roehl played well, Dan Davies’ goal is oh so pretty.

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