Running with the Herd – Bison vs Telford Tigers 04/02/17

EPL

Basingstoke Bison 2-4 Telford Tigers

Connolly pp                  Plant pp

Long                             Silverthorn x3 (2pp)

Not far enough:

The great thing about ice hockey is that you know just how long a game lasts. This isn’t football or rugby where there’s added time, hockey you get 60 minutes. The big problem with last night was that their opposition were in it for 60 minutes and the Bison were in this game for 40 minutes.

Whether it was the game against Milton Keynes arranged at short notice the night before, injuries or being without Antonov, Miller and Mogg, we don’t know. The Bison skated with the team at the top of the table for two periods but got to the final frame and seemed to run out of steam, then ideas and then time.

It was something of a shame because the first two periods saw the Bison hang with the Tigers and it was a really even contest that saw the momentum flow back and forth. The pace did start to slacken on the game after the first 12-15 minutes but both sides were having good chances and challenging the respective netminders. Passing and set up play from both sides was good despite the problematic Basingstoke ice and it was a game that was exciting hardcore fans and neutrals alike. Then in the final frame the Tigers got an equaliser then stole all of the momentum and didn’t give the Bison a chance. The Bison managed a grand total of 3 shots in the final period, a season low at home.

Whilst the stats on the night don’t make for pretty reading, this was one of Tomas Hiadlovsky’s better games in a Bison jersey this season. Three goals on 20 shots in the final period aren’t the greatest return but across the whole game, some of the stops that Hiadlovsky made stopped the game becoming a much more lopsided score in the final twenty minutes. I feel that Hiadlovsky doesn’t get the credit that he deserves at times. He is, for the EPIHL, an unusual keeper and is probably the most puck playing keeper in the league. This unnerves people and he also has his wobbles like most goalies but at this level, Hiadlovsky is a game breaker.

Sadly the outskaters just couldn’t get the job done on the night. The only two other people who came close to being in the man of the match discussion were Tomas Karpov who appears to have been fully switched on the last couple of weeks and Ciaran Long who took the man of the match beers. Long’s goal, another beauty of a shot which was similar to his goal the previous week against Hull, seemed to have the Bison on the front foot and on their way to victory and when things started turning against them it was Long and his Czech counterpart who looked most like having an impact.

Unfortunately for the Herd it was the little things that started to add up in the third. Dan Davies had a game where nothing seemed to go right for him. Dan Scott had the first game I’ve seen him have for the Bison where he was below excellent. I am convinced that Derek Roehl is playing hurt as his effectiveness seems to have been limited.

Despite the annoyance at the officiating from many, there’s no other way to paint this game for the Bison; they got outplayed across the balance of the game. It’s why Telford will ultimately end up winning the EPIHL league title this season and Tom Watkins alluded to it in his post match comments on the Tigers’ website. In fact, it’s how the Bison won the league last season and how good teams win trophies in general; they just find ways to win. With officiating that was less than ideal for both sides, they adapted and took the chances that they were given. The Bison did not and have 3 consecutive defeats against the three teams above them to show for it. The Herd will not retain the EPIHL title and lost last night to the team that seems most likely to do it in my opinion. They are certainly the best team that we have seen in Basingstoke this season. The focus for the Bison must now shift to obtaining the best finish they can achieve in the table and becoming a playoff team if they wish to come away from 2016/17 with a trophy. On this night they didn’t go far enough; playing 40 minutes out of 60 won’t win you hockey games. If they want to go all the way then the planning to achieve that starts now.

A word on our opponents:

The Telford Tigers deserve credit for the comeback, the win and just their general play overall. They play some very attractive hockey and if teams allow them to, they will simply just pass it around them and score at ease. It’s not hard to imagine why they have scored 20 goals in the last 3 games heading into this game.

Whilst Matty Davies took the man of the match beers and gave a very good performance this game, as evidenced by the scoreline above was the Jason Silverthorn show. It was a captain’s performance from the Canadian who popped up with goals of importance and quality. His drive to the net to flick the puck over Hiadlovsky’s shoulder was particularly nice.

A few of the Tigers’ big guns didn’t have much of an impact on the early going of the game; Korhon, Kolena, Weaver, Clarkson, all were quiet to a point. As the Bison tired and the Tigers stayed the course they all came into the game more. Clarkson’s size and physicality became an issue, Weaver was allowed to get shots on the net, Kolena seemed to pick up a step. Korhon did remain quiet for my money but there is a difference between the Korhon that needed to be the focal point of the Steeldogs offence and the Korhon that is a second line guy and additional offence bringer for the Tigers. He didn’t need to stand out in any real way.

Much was made of Jon Baston’s return to Basingstoke in Tigers colours and despite some good natured ribbing by all concerned including Bavy from the DJ box there isn’t a lot to say. The Finn/Brit will arguably want both goals back (especially Long’s where he was made to look a bit silly) but the further the game went on, the less he had to do.

There’s no two ways to slice this game, the better team won and it’s pretty much now a two horse race between Telford and Milton Keynes. Telford’s next game is against Peterborough where both teams have won 5 of their last 5. After this performance I hope Phantoms fans will forgive me for not betting the house on them getting something out of Shropshire this evening.

Lowlight of the night: I could say the bizarre non-call where Dan Davies had his stick taken out of his hands so badly it nearly hit the roof but the third period in hindsight was just so disappointing given how well the first two went.

Highlight of the night: Long’s goal; it’s an absolute beauty.

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