Running with the Herd – Bison vs Guildford Flames 04/03/17Posted: 06/03/2017
Basingstoke Bison 4-2 Guildford Flames
Rand x2 (1pp) Satek sh
Connolly Eriksson pp
The fire is out:
So that was it; the last league fixture for the foreseeable future against the Guildford Flames. For a game that I saw one fan report they didn’t attend as it was “meaningless”, the two teams didn’t play it like it was such. The game ended up being a very entertaining contest with a physical edge that grew throughout the contest and exploded at the end.
Minus Dan Scott (who took the warm-up then wasn’t risked) and Joe Baird (who didn’t) meant that the Bison played Ciaran Long on defence. I understand why this was done but I am unsure why given Derek Roehl has more experience playing than Long who is the team’s top scorer. However Long plays on the point on the first powerplay unit as a nominal defenceman so in a pinch, why not get one of the team’s more talented players to help out. The Bison have a depth of scorers when on form so someone needed to be sacrificed to play on defence and why not Long who is arguably the team’s best player at the moment.
The big talking point of the game, other than the fights will have been Tomas Hiadlovsky as the discussion of his puck playing reared its head again. Hiadlovsky attempted an overly complicated pass rather than the short pass up the wall to Derek Roehl which lead to Michal Satek firing into an empty net. This led to people yelling for Hiadlovsky to stay in his net and generally being a bit down on him.
Aside from the fact that Hiadlovsky is a puck playing goalie and that’s not going to change, in the first 25-30 minutes it was Hiadlovsky keeping the Bison in the game. We’ve talked before that Hiadlovsky’s strategy is at times high risk/high reward but the Bison have benefitted more than they have lost from Hiadlovsky being prepared to come out of his net. Should he have done better with the pass? Yes. Should he have had more help from his defence? I’d argue yes as well. It’s not like they didn’t know he was going to come out and try to play the puck. They’ve played with him for two years yet at times everyone seems to be shocked that he’s doing it. On this night, with something of a makeshift defence in front of him, he stopped all the major 5on5 chances that the Flames had. Hiadlovsky should be the first team all-star netminder this season for the fact he’s arguably been the best netminder in the league and for the number of times that he’s bailed the Bison out and won them games. He won’t be because IHJUK members don’t watch enough EPL and just read the numbers off of a page but again, I seem to be in the minority on the Slovak.
Otherwise this was a really well done, ground out team win. The Bison were being just as physical on and off the puck (and boy howdy was there a lot off the puck in all directions in this game) but for the first time at home in a while against the Flames, they just seemed to have their number.
Joe Rand got man of the match for his best performance since his return scoring two stereotypical Joe Rand goals; one a charge to the net and the other a deflection off the shot on the powerplay to put the game beyond doubt. With an impending drop to three imports for next season, if Rand is to continue as a Bison than this element of needed to come back into his game though clearly his directions in recent weeks have been to crash and bang.
With the Bison suddenly 2-1 down after a horrible turnover and a powerplay goal (off of a rather soft call I thought), Aaron Connolly scored a really good goal. Everyone in the rink including Dean Skinns was convinced he would pass so he went “bar dizzle” as Aaron likes to say and restored parity to the scoreline. This was coupled with another really good game from Dan Davies who over the last couple of months has really shown what his game is about. He owes Kevin Phillips a beer for the turnover for his goal but I’ve warmed to what he brings to the roster.
The fights at the end were what they were. The game had been getting chippier and chippier. I believe the situation and some stronger calls earlier in the game would have avoided it but if the incident between Maslonka and Roehl got tempers up then the hit on Rounding was bound to set someone off. The only chief lesson learned was that Dan Lackey is not a man to trade hands with.
The season series against the Flames was already lost however I can take the fact we’ll finish above them. Importantly, coupled with the 3-0 win over Sheffield, the recent form is improving. Two games against Swindon and then playoff hockey is upon us. This is boding well.
A word on our opponents:
Guildford will be Guildford. They did all the things that the Flames usually do. Their passing was great, they attacked with purpose, they transitioned quickly through the neutral zone and yet for some reason they didn’t win this game. A chunk of that was down to Hiadlovsky, a chunk was down I think to their defence not performing terrible well. I thought Danny Meyers had a good game but I was less than enamoured with the rest of the blueline corps on the night. Kevin Phillips’ massive turnover allowed a goal, Jez Lundin and David Savage were uninspiring and Dean Skinns gave up a couple of goals that he will want back.
Going forward is where the Flames were sharp on the night. They have this quality about their powerplay puck movement that is very reminiscent of Telford in terms of its accuracy and quality. Michal Satek has to be high on the list of best mid-season acquisitions during the Flames time in the EPIHL and Jens Eriksson might be one of the better players they’ve had full stop. Marek Maslonka also had a decent game and looked threatening when he wasn’t having a hack and slash contest with Derek Roehl.
I won’t get into how the Flames will do next season, that’s for another piece. How will the Flames do in the playoffs however we can touch on. One loss does little to impact the Flames in many ways. The quality in this roster is there to turn it on and run the table but the issue this season has been that consistency for the Flames. They managed it last season, can they do it again?
Lowlight of the night: The hit on Rounding. Utterly unnecessary
Highlight of the night: Davies’ goal; very well taken in the circumstances.