Running with the Herd – Bison vs Invicta Dynamos 09/09/17

NIHL 1 South

Basingstoke Bison 4-0 Invicta Dynamos

Karpov

Mogg

Antonov

Connolly pp

Opening night dynamism:

There’s been lots of speculation over the course of the summer of how the former EPL sides would match up against the NIHL classic teams when they finally came head to head. Many were predicting lopsided games and for the Bison, whilst the scoreline was entirely respectable, this game felt like one way traffic.

The game itself had its moments of drama but this was not a game that the Bison ever looked like losing. The Herd put the pressure on the visitors from the get go and it showed early on and all the way through the game. It was helped in the first period by the Dynamos taking 5 penalties but the overall balance of the game was never in doubt.

The Herd rarely looked like they got out of first gear because they didn’t really need to. This did lead to instances where they fell into the trap of trying to walk the puck into the net at times but also were turned away by a netminder who needed to play out of his skin.

After two periods of running a regular patten of lines, the third period saw the bottom six and especially the 4th line get a ton of ice time. The Dynamos were rarely troubling the Bison net and, because Doug Sheppard will rarely want his team to run up the score, went for resting the top lines ahead of the cup game with Telford and gave the opportunity to the younger players who impressed.

Without Jaroslav Cesky and Hallam Wilson, Bison u18s forward Sam Brooks was added to the line-up and gave a very good account of himself. Usually used on a 4th line with Paul Petts and Josh Smith, Brooks never shied away from the play and almost got himself on the scoresheet in the final period when his line was given a lot of extended ice time.

Vanya Antonov got the man of the match beers for a 1+2 performance. His goal was a really good tip off of a Joe Baird shot but Antonov’s night was more than that. He did try to be a bit too cute with the puck on more than one occasion but Vanya Antonov is really good on the puck and if teams are going to give him the space and time to operate then why shouldn’t Antonov, arguably the Herd’s highest skilled forward, take the opportunity to burn teams if they’re going to give him the chance? The irony for all of Antonov’s skill on the ice was his only goal was that tip in and one of his better shots rebounded to Aaron Connolly to stick home.

It is hard to pick out anyone who had a bad performance from the Bison on the night. It was a game for skill players as well as Tomas Karpov had one of his nights where he wanted to skate round and through everyone. He nearly did though his goal was a superb shot that went flying into the top of the net. Dean Skinns had a couple of moments (Adam Rehak should have scored but we’ll get to that) but was rarely troubled and a 15 shot shutout speaks to that. Stuart Mogg’s goal was fortunate to go in as Damien King lost sight of the puck but it was a bullet of a shot into the bottom corner. The rest of the defence had its moments but didn’t struggle to hold the Dynamos at bay.

A win is a win; the Bison won’t care about their dominance in the encounter. I think the crowd would have preferred the Bison to start running up the score but one game into the season there are bigger things to worry about. This was a good game for giving players ice time and getting everyone up to speed. Telford will be a very different ask than Invicta so this game served that dual purpose. The Bison are on the board in their new league home. The cup now becomes the focus.

A word on our opponents:

We’ll cover the bad and then the good for the Invicta Dynamos from this one.

The scoreline can be painted in a bunch of ways but what happened in the 60 minutes cannot be ignored here. The Dynamos were played off of the ice for the duration of the game, they were held to 15 shots in 60 minutes, the one golden chance they had was missed and the only reason this game didn’t end up with a cricket score is because their netminder was on his game. We won’t touch on why the Kent side had to play in their warm up jerseys because gear mishaps happen to the best of teams.

The game plan was sensible enough and we’ve seen it plenty of times; when you think you are lacking in skill against your opponents, you find ways to frustrate them. The Dynamos plan was to be physical and try to cut off the passing lanes. The problem that they had was they got matched for physicality and didn’t cut off the passing lanes, at times even stepping off and giving the Bison space to operate in. They also took a litany of poor penalties at inopportune moments. When your side is giving up a lot of shots and your keeper is keeping you in the game, why are you taking silly penalties to then up the amount of shots?

Adam Rehak can be forgiven for missing his chance to make the score 1-1 but the lack of creating opportunities on net will cost the Dynamos dearly across the season if they cannot do so against other sides, new to the NIHL or not. The Dynamos are reportedly a different side at home, for their sake I hope so.

However there is some good to be taken from this game. The Dynamos deserve credit for their effort. Some teams would have rolled over and allowed the score to resemble a game of pinball but the Dynamos tried to skate with the Bison for 60 minutes. The team clearly has heart and systems that they are playing to. They didn’t give up the game plan.

50 saves on 54 shots sounds like what it was; Damien King was in the shooting gallery but he was not making lucky saves. King did get fortunate at times but he also made a string of good quality saves and looked composed and confident doing them. In another game, Damien King will be the difference between winning and losing.

The other thing that must be mentioned is the Dynamos fans, they’re a different class in terms of support.

Lowlight of the night: Mason Webster’s crosscheck on Dan Scott was a bit unnecessary.

Highlight of the night: Karpov’s goal was a very pretty shot.

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