Running with the Herd – Bison vs NIHL Selects 25/2/17

Challenge game

Basingstoke Bison 7-2 NIHL Selects

Jarolin                          Dubyk (Wightlink Buccaneers) pp

Buckle                          Christian (Cardiff Fire)

Brooks

Towalski

Davies

Lackey

Rand

What you asked for:

After running a poll on the BOTW Twitter page, the choice that won out was to talk about the youngsters who appeared for the Bison so that’s what we’ll do but let’s give the game a bit of context first.

The game was what it was; a training exercise for the Bison as well as possibly a bit of a scouting mission. Doug Sheppard played a forward line of three juniors together and mixed the remaining regular Bison together to form the other lines where the two defencemen were paired with a more experienced Bison defenceman in the rotation or as experienced a defenceman as Ciaran Long is. Either way, that extra time on the blueline for Long will aid the Bison’s special teams play, where Long regularly plays as a defenceman on the powerplay. If nothing else, the game gave us further evidence that Derek Roehl is a ham.

The defencemen – Bison fans have seen Kyle Goddard before when he made his debut (along with Paul Petts in January against Bracknell) but were also treated to the addition of Josh Richards to the Bison blueline for the duration. I did my best to try and take notice of both young men but actually they did what young defencemen should do in such a game; do the simple things well and not make any major mistakes. Both were sound positionally and didn’t endanger the net. It obviously did help that both played alongside routine EPL players but what do you want defenders to do in this situation?

In some ways, this game was a great way to ease in young defenders. Both regulars for the Basingstoke Buffalo, Goddard and Richards have played against a fair few of the opposition with Cardiff and Swindon both in NIHL South 2 West so rather than being immediately thrown into the deep end and playing 20 odd minutes in an EPL game, they got some actual game time in a step up with the players around them against players around or a slight step up from what they’re used to. It’s all a good development experience for them. The only shame was that Goddard didn’t score his penalty shot.

The forwards – As mentioned above for the most part the three additional forwards, Paul Petts, Cameron Buckle and Sam Brooks played together on a line with the odd couple of changes around.

Brooks and Buckle took the plaudits for scoring two very well worked goals. Buckle’s came as a result of sticking with the play as a Brooks shot was spilled by Luke Takel in the NIHL Selects’ net and in the ensuing scramble in front, Buckle’s backhand shot found a way in. Brooks’ goal was almost a set play as Buckle fired from the corner on the redline to the front of the net and Brooks’ good positioning of the stick saw him get the deflection on the puck to take it over the line. The energy that two tried to bring to the game was impressive as it was their chance to shine in front of a crowd that was bigger than many expected it to be. Hopefully the crowd chanting their name wasn’t a first and last time for either.

Whilst Paul Petts didn’t score, it’s obvious that he has decent vision on the ice and the appropriate work ethic. What he lacked in scoring on the night, he made up for in his passing and support play. Given his age, Bison fans are more likely to see Petts in the line-up again before his younger counterparts and also as he has a bit of size that Brooks and Buckle currently lack. He’s a different player than Cam Wynn was when he came into the Bison line up, he’s a bit more physical so hopefully with the league title now decided we see Petts given the chance to be added to the lineup a bit more.

A word on our opponents:

A large thank you must go to those who played for the NIHL side on Saturday night as well as to Cardiff coach Mark Cuddihy and the rest of the bench volunteers who gave up their time and the Basingstoke Buffalo for lending their kit.

The man of the match for the Select side was my pick for it as well in Cardiff Fire goalie, Luke Takel. Learning under EIHL netminder Ben Bowns and Cardiff goalie coach Daniel Brabon, Takel has a lot of potential. Clearly buoyed by the Fire’s recent NIHL South 2 West title win, the Pontypool born netminder couldn’t have done much about some of the goals but made some very decent saves and moved well around the net. Depending on what happens next year, I will be interested to see where Takel plays. He should arguably be someone that Aaron Nell considers as a backup on the Wildcats EPIHL (or whatever comes next) roster though if the Fire take on NIHL 1 South then I wouldn’t be surprised to see him remain there to lead that charge.

In fact several Cardiff players seem to be of a decent calibre. Dave Christian took his goal well with Robert Sedlak and Dave Sadler constantly trying to make things happen. Wightlink forward Blair Dubyk took his goal well after Dan Weller-Evans’ pad save from a Sedlak blast on the powerplay.

It was also a welcome return back to Basingstoke for Brendan Baird and Graham Bird. Now of the Swindon NIHL side, Bird, who played the final period in net, was the backup netminder for the Bison during the ill fated 2008/09 EIHL season. Whilst Bird may not have seen the EIHL after that campaign, he at least gave a good account of himself on this night.

It was a one off game but the crowd were certainly appreciative of the efforts of the visiting players. Our thanks goes to them as they go forward from here. Have we potentially seen a member of the 2017/18 Bison roster?

No lowlights or highlights on this one but hopefully those who attended the game enjoyed themselves. With the win over Peterborough on Sunday, the battle for third place is well and truly on. The Telford Tigers have secured the EPIHL league title and whatever your feelings on the off ice issues, our congratulations to Tom Watkins and the players who stuck out an unusual season on their success on the ice.

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