Running with the Herd – Bison vs Peterborough Phantoms 7/1/17

EPL

Basingstoke Bison 6-1 Peterborough Phantoms

Jarolin x4 (1pp)            Archer

Balmer

Karpov pp

Four-wards:

After a mixed bag over the festive period, the Bison start 2017 looking for that extra bit of consistency that eluded them in the first half of the season and a big win over depleted opponents will help add that confidence to help get that going which is what was served up on Saturday night.

It was something of an odd atmosphere in the rink as the Phantoms, missing a raft of key players, didn’t offer their usual amount of resistance (more on that in a bit) but the old adage states that you have to beat what’s in front of you and the Bison were professional in their job of dispatching their visitors from Cambridgeshire.

That the Bison had the more of the puck in the early stages was not a massive surprise; the usual Phantoms road game is based on disruption, a sort of “come and get it past us if you can” kind of mentality but the problem for the Phantoms was that the Bison were able to get the passes off and were able to get the cycle going which paid dividends early with Jarolin’s goal after four minutes and the Bison never really looked back.

That’s not to say that there weren’t some usual Bison hockey on display with shots from all angles that might have made better passes and some passes that might have been better off as shots. Come the end of the first period it was something of a familiar story with the Herd 1-0 up having had the better of the play but probably should have been further in the lead which always leaves the fans in Basingstoke somewhat uneasy. They’ve seen it too often before.

However the Bison actually pressed on a bit. Despite giving up a goal just after the half hour mark it never felt like they would lose the game. The visitors offered spells of pressure but could never get enough together to really turn the game towards them. This was also helped by one player having one of those nights.

Everything that came near Rene Jarolin this night seemed destined to go in and it’s hard to argue against that point when the team wins 6-1 and the Slovak goes 4+2. Jarolin took all of his goals well with them being a mixture of things that the veteran has in his locker. He scored from in tight in a scramble, he scored low on the breakaway thanks to a lovely assist from Roehl and he scored high on the one timer. Jarolin sometimes doesn’t get the plaudits of other players in the league but there is no denying his talents even if he isn’t exactly a spring chicken. One of Jarolin’s skills is that he makes most of what he does look effortless, including scoring. With the Bison not short of set-up men they have needed someone to put those quality shots into the back of the net and if they need to lean a bit more on Jarolin to do that rather than be the pivot to set them up then that’s a course to take, at least temporarily.

The game wasn’t a super entertaining classic but if was a good all round performance for the Herd. Tomas Hiadlovsky made a couple of unheralded big saves and produced a solid game, only being beating by a very good strike over his shoulder. Declan Balmer and Tomas Karpov took their goals well, Balmer’s seemingly hitting the back of the net in slow motion. Whilst it didn’t produce much in the way of points on the night, the combination of Ciaran Long, Joe Rand and Dan Lackey is one to keep an eye on. Whilst Rand still appears to be getting back to full speed and a replacement could still be incoming, it’s a line that appears to have a bit of everything. It’s also a good use of Lackey who whilst not in the same skill bracket of the other two will be more than able to create space for his linemates to work their magic. Also Dan Scott; the man you should never notice has been such a quality addition to the Bison defence and made an already solid defence feel that little bit more solid.

Players down or not, a win over the Phantoms who have proved a tricky opponent for the Bison in recent times needs to be built upon. With a trip to Bracknell and home to Sheffield to come for the Herd, two fixtures that are entirely winnable, the chance to put a solid run together starts now for Doug Sheppard.

A word on our opponents:

The headline is the score but the substance on this one for Phantoms fans is there to see; no Auzins, no Norton, no Levers, no Weldon. Yes, those players are big losses for the visiting side and it showed though that’s not the whole story on this game for Peterborough.

The disappointing side of it was with some big players out how some of the others didn’t step up. Pliskauskas, Stepanek (who bizarrely got man of the match), both Ferraras, none of the big names really seemed to step up when required.

The two players who gave a good account of themselves were Adam Long and Wehebe Darge.

Australian forward Darge was everywhere for the Phantoms last night and seemed to be constantly trying to make things happen. Darge is more an import forward in the Joe Rand style than the other import forwards for the Phantoms but he seemed to want to try. His tape to tape pass for Archer’s goal was certainly pretty enough. I was amazed when he didn’t get man of the match for the visitors, there seemed to be nobody else close to him.

The other impressive outing came from Adam Long in the net. Letting 6 goals in doesn’t really tell the story of Long’s night as he made some very impressive saves including a diving stop on Aaron Connolly that will be a gem for the highlights. He didn’t get a great deal of help defensively but a defence missing arguably the best blueliner in the league will hinder any side and a few rebounds might have caused a few palpitations but I think that Long is at the stage where Slava Koulikov has a decision to make next season about what he does in net. If the financial demands of Auzins become too great then Long is potentially a starting option for them if they give him a defence to give him some protection.

Short on top end guys, others didn’t quite perform, it was a bad night at the office for the Phantoms. How long those guys are out for, Auzins and Norton especially, will be the big concern though rumours of additions are lingering. With a cup semi final to come and something of a demon to exercise in the cup after last season, if the Phantoms play like the did here then it will be a rather one sided semi final.

Lowlight of the night: The atmosphere was a bit flat but that’s about it really. The whole game had a very odd feel to it.

Highlight of the night: Tomas Karpov’s hip check was certainly a surprise but I’ll say Jarolin’s breakaway goal; setup was great, finish was great.

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