Running with the Herd – Bison vs Sheffield Steeldogs 24/09/17Posted: 25/09/2017
NIHL Autumn Cup
Basingstoke Bison 3-1 Sheffield Steeldogs
Karpov Calvert dp
Pat the dog:
The Bison’s swing between decent and dower play continued at the weekend. After a final third period on Swindon that was described by more than one in attendance as “poor”, the Herd were better in this game. They were the better side for the sixty minutes, they rode waves of pressure and they took advantage of the mistakes made by the opposition.
That’s not to say that this was a classic Bison performance. With the game pretty much at their feet and 3-0 to the good, one bit of poor play let the Steeldogs back into the game when they had no real business being in it. The Bison suddenly put themselves on the back foot when they had been free and clear because of one lapse. They held the Steeldogs back but the Bison at the moment are lacking that bit of swagger that they have when they’re confident. At the moment, the inconstancy and changing of lines as Doug Sheppard searches for the right combinations due to the loss of Dan Davies sees the Bison treading water somewhat until they hit that turning point that will hopefully see the roster kick on. Individuals are performing well but as a team at the moment, it’s just not quite there yet. Boy does this roster miss Dan Davies.
Kurt Reynolds got the man of the match beers for an assured performance however for as good as Kurt was and is, Josh Smith would have got the beers for me. Smith is not the Bison’s most skilful player but he was, for this writer, the hardest working player and the one who stood out most for the Bison on the night. He went into the corners, tried making plays and should really have had a couple of goals and assists if it weren’t for some pretty decent reaction saves.
After a quiet game last week and having spent Saturday night being bashed about in Swindon, Aaron Connolly looked a bit more like himself. The vocal side of things was back on the bench and the captain took his goal well. I get the feeling that there’s more to come from Connolly.
Tomas Karpov sprung the game into life with his early goal. After many years of him being in the league, you would think a team would not give the Czech any space let alone right off of the opening faceoff. His second goal was only denied by Mr Matthews swearing blind to this writer that his stick was above the crossbar. Between Karpov and Vanya Antonov, the Steeldogs didn’t have an answer for the Bison’s top attacking pairing on the night. They should have had more goals than they did.
Jaroslav Cesky looked almost embarrassed as his goal went in off of a massive deflection off of the netminder however the veteran forward arguably remains the Bison’s most consistent player to start the season.
Again the Bison defensive unit looks to be working well. Where the forwards don’t quite have things working yet, the blueline corps seem to be on their game. The rotation works well, Dean Skinns is playing well with them. It’s the one real part of the Bison’s play that I’m finding really satisfying at the moment and on this night, things worked like a charm. The passing was slick, the outlet passes had a point to them, the positioning was good; I don’t think anyone can really have that many complaints about them, especially Scott and Dewey who have been outstanding.
It’s a win. Wins help build momentum and hopefully this week sees the Bison carry that on into Saturday’s game with Bracknell.
A word on our opponents:
I’m not sure how the few Steeldogs fans who made this journey will feel about this game from the perspective of the Yorkshire side. The game certainly ended better than it started, the Steeldogs showed much more fight in the later stages than in the majority of the game.
Whether under Andre Payette, Greg Wood or now under Ben Morgan, there has always been a good deal of effort in the Steeldogs roster but for large chunks of this game they lacked the other key tenant of “Dogs Hockey”; physicality.
This is the least physical Sheffield side that I remember seeing in a long time. They were beaten to pucks in the corners, they didn’t seem to take the body on occasions and didn’t throw their weight about. That’s not to say that there’s not something preferable about the Steeldogs moving away from the caricature of the Charlestown Chiefs that was associated with them in years gone by but by the same point hockey is a physical game and when the Steeldogs upped their physical game, they played better. They started to get under the Bison’s skin a bit and caused a few issues. Why they decided to not do that for more of the game I do not know.
With all due respect to Brandon Stones, his receiving of the man of the match beers was something of a surprise. I think Stones will want all three goals back, he struggled to track the puck at times and generally looked a little lost. He made some very good reaction saves but he looked to be fighting the puck and couldn’t control his rebounds that well.
Personally I’d have given the beers to Ashley Calvert on reflection. Calvert has a style; some like it, some don’t but it’s a style to be respected. He tried to get things going in this way and I’m not sure there’s many in the game that worked harder than he did.
Sheffield’s overall problems were two fold; that they just couldn’t generate enough going forward and gave the Bison too much space at the back.
In attack, Milan Kolena was the man with the majority of the moves but was easily shut down by a well performing Bison defence. The Steeldogs have made a good game of one star player and a good supporting cast with excellent netminding in the past but Milan Kolena is sadly not Janis Ozolins and Brandon Stones is not Ben Bowns. The one real time that the Steeldogs drove the net they scored and the other guild edged chance was spurned and denied by a good save.
At the back, along with Stones not having a great night, the defence just stood off the Bison too much. No team, no matter how good the opposition are, should stand off the team’s star import off of the opening faceoff.
The Steeldogs are not a bad side but this was not a good night. We wish them well for the remainder of the season but if they play like this in their league campaign then a mid-table finish will be the best that they could hope for against teams like Telford and Solway.
Lowlight of the night: The Steeldogs goal was avoidable
Highlight of the night: The performance of the Josh Smith actually for me will get this over the goals. I think it’s his best game so far.