Running with the Herd – Bison vs Peterborough Phantoms 02/09/17

Billy Glover Memorial Trophy

Basingstoke Bison 5-0 Peterborough Phantoms

Connolly pp

Cesky

Rounding

Scott pp

Petts

An early, quiet statement:

Before we get too far into this piece, we need to remind ourselves not to get too carried away with a pre-season win however it is. It is not set in stone that the Bison will be this good all season. However it was a nice indicator of how the Herd plan to operate across the campaign.

The game was physical in the right way. The first saw a finely balanced period that could have gone either way before the Herd blew the doors off in the second then shut everything down in the third. Once the third goal went in, Doug Sheppard’s team didn’t look like losing.

The scoreline doesn’t flatter the hosts on the balance of the 60 minutes and in the face of an early set back thanks to Antonov’s ejection, the lines were shuffled and the Bison didn’t look back.

Antonov was unlucky to find himself ejected. Whilst the letter of the law was upheld, I find it unfathomable that the EIHA has retained the utterly ludicrous match penalty in the moment for an accidental high stick that draws blood. Yes, it’s a penalty and rightly deserves a sit on the box but if we’re asking the referee to judge intent on the play the rest of the time, why not on high sticking calls as well? An accidental high stick that saw James White return shortly afterwards, blood or no, shouldn’t see any player thrown out of the game. The rule is stupid.

Antonov looked bright to start the game and his original line mates also had a pretty decent performance into the bargain. Dan Davies looked as sharp as ever but one of the revelations on the night was Jaroslav Cesky. To say that some people had been surprised at the Czech forward’s return to Basingstoke would be an understatement but the effort and imagination were there with the former EPL player of the year taking his goal very well, drawing Long down and across his crease before sliding the puck over the line.

For many people, the man of the night was Dean Skinns. The local boy’s return for another spell at the Bison couldn’t have started in better fashion. The entire Bison defensive unit looked sharp all night though in the first pre-season game obviously had its moments of unfamiliarity. Where the odd mistake was evident, Skinns looked dialled in all night and made a string of decent stops in crucial moments. He held firm in the scramble and was picking pucks out through traffic. Hopefully that’s a sign of things to come.

Aaron Connolly took man of the match for going 1+2 on the night for what can only be described as an Aaron Connolly performance. The captain was high energy and was leading from the front. He also took his goal well, being right on the doorstep to beat Adam Long to open the scoring. It was a timely goal coming as it did shortly after the expiry of the 5 minute penalty from Antonov’s removal from proceedings.

We should also mention Paul Petts’ first Bison goal. It wasn’t pretty but they all count and Jaroslav Cesky was on hand to scoop the puck up for the young man.

The first period lead saw the Bison set up their game and as they blew the game open in the second, the swagger that the Bison have when everyone is confident came flooding with it. People were prepared to try making plays, people were shooting more, the confidence was palpable. The only issue that came from it was people being so confident meant that when the Phantoms gave up multiple 2 on 1 opportunities, the pass was never taken when it might have been the better option. However you can’t fault guys too much in pre-season for wanting to get that shooting practice in during the live setting.

The second leg of the Billy Glover Memorial Trophy will be a different ask however the Bison can take a lot of positives from the encounter. It doesn’t count on the scoreboard but it is an early message to the other teams in the league; the Bison are not coming to mess about.

A word on our opponents:

I have deliberately left doing our “Standing in the Way” preview of the Phantoms until after seeing this game. I figured “why not take the opportunity to see them then preview them better?” Then the Phantoms turned up and played a really confusing game of hockey.

In the last couple of years I’ve been critical of how the Phantoms have played when I’ve watched them. I found their style of play dull, uninspiring and I struggled to understand why teams lost to it. I took a lot of flack for it. However the one thing that it always did have was a lot of structure to it. The Phantoms would clog the centre lane and were experts in frustrating their opponents without resorting to rough house tactics. There was none of this from Peterborough this time out and I do have to wonder why.

The first was well balanced as both teams tried to get their footing and whilst their lack of conversion on their extended powerplay (mostly due to a couple of penalties that they took themselves) wouldn’t have been too concerning. However the second period saw them look lost at times and on the back foot as the Bison poured on the pressure. By the time the third period started, it was too late.

Scott Robson got the man of the match and on reflection, he didn’t have a terrible game. I thought Ed Knaggs had a better game on the Phantoms’ blueline. Knaggs looks like he will have a prominent role in the Peterborough defensive unit this season and I am sure he will continue to improve with the extended minutes.

It was not Adam Long’s greatest night between the pipes. Whilst he didn’t get tons of help from his outskaters, there were a couple of goals that Long will want back especially Petts’ marker which seemed to go in slow motion past the length of his right pad before nestling in the bottom corner. I think Long is a decent netminder and he proved that last season when called upon. Slava Koulikov will be hope that this really was Long’s warm up to being a full time starter.

Otherwise, I think the Phantoms have to chalk this up to a bad night at the office as the new roster gets to know each other. Shots were wide, wild or generally easy for Dean Skinns, Pliskauskas and Padelek were quiet most of the night, nothing seems to work and when they put themselves into the hole, there was no way out. One person said to me that the Phantoms were their favourites for the league. They won’t be if they play like that but nobody wins the league on day 1.

Lowlight of the night: See above, the match penalty for high sticks is, again, stupid.

Highlight of the night: Cesky’s goal was the prettiest but Paul Petts’ clearly meant a lot to the young man.

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