Running with the Herd – Bison vs Bracknell Bees 30/09/2017Posted: 01/10/2017
NIHL National Cup Group D
Basingstoke Bison 2-5 Bracknell Bees
Sutton 5on3 pp Bendik
Bakrlik x2 (1pp, 1sh)
We’re doing this piece upside down and we’re going to talk about Bracknell first.
A word on our opponents:
We’re talking about Bracknell first because I don’t want my thoughts about them to get lost in the questions that are coming later in this piece. Congratulations to the Bees on their win, they took advantage of a Bison team seemingly in disarray and did what needed to be done.
The Bees played a very stereotypical road game which was ideal for the situation but at times felt like it stifled some of their top end talent. Despite scoring two goals (the second on a shorthanded breakaway between his legs, it was a superb goal) Frankie Bakrlik was quiet as was his line with Shaun Thompson and Callum Best. They seemed to have done the team work bit and stepped into what coach Scott Spearing had asked the team to do.
Whilst Steve Osman got the beers for the Bees, I would have handed them straight to Josh Tetlow for what was one of the better defensive performances I’ve seen this season. The extra training with Nottingham is clearly benefiting the young man and the young defenceman who seemed rough around the edges when he first stepped into the EPIHL is starting to come into his own. Bracknell need to use his talents to the nth degree as long as he remains in the second tier. If he develops along this trajectory then he won’t be here for long.
Bracknell looked good rather than great. They’re certainly not up to the quality of the Telford side that visited the other week but where they arguably still look closer to the NIHL Classic sides as an overall package, they are determined to not sleepwalk into being overtaken. They saw a gleam of light and kicked the door in as their opponents lost their composure. They rightly won as a result.
We’ll get into the bigger issues in a moment but well done, Josh Smith. Against Sheffield and again this evening, Smith has never stopped moving. Again, he doesn’t look like the man to lead the attack but he just doesn’t want to stop and he was rightly the recipient of the beers after this. He was the best Bison player last night.
As I generally do whenever I write one of these pieces, I get home and I sleep before I do everything. It would be really easy in the moment to come home and write a barely legible tirade of frustration and nonsense that really wouldn’t be worth reading on THF, let alone on here. I try to separate the instant, emotional reactions that I have in the moment as a fan away from what makes a good breakdown of what happened on the night. That’s what has made BOTW what it is. However with a result and a performance like this, there has to be a blend of the raw emotion and the analysis because ultimately that initial reaction remains valid and accurate. There’s something wrong at the moment that needs fixing and quickly.
When I left the rink after the game, I and others were frustrated that the later half hour of play had seen the Bison lose the lead then their composure and then the game. Last night there were flurries of decent offence but despite having players to score goals, the last couple of games have seen a massive inconsistency where the Bison appear to lack any real direction going forward. Doug Sheppard, usually a man so eager to change lines at the drop of a hat, seems to have combinations that he won’t break up despite the side lacking any real direction going forward. It’s shots into the pads and nobody following up the rebounds. It’s shots into the netminder’s chest. It’s being too cute on the puck rather than the driving the net which was the hallmark of successful Bison sides of recent years.
After going ahead through a very pretty Aaron Connolly goal some frustrating officiating (and whilst we generally try to not give a comment on the officiating, Mr Thompson’s performance left this writer scratching his head for its lack of consistency so we can only imagine the frustrations of the players), some poor defence and a really good shot from Jan Bendik saw the Bison behind. They tried to dig in but instead seemed to walk even further into the wood, like Hansel and Gretel minus the breadcrumbs.
The overall 60 minute performance was not good enough and something needs to change. This roster should be challenging on all fronts and the national cup campaign is now done bar a minor miracle with the team barely out of the gate on the 2017/18 season. Would many Bison fans trade the cup to be league champions come March? Yes, but this sort of performance and form will not see that happen. The Bison will not simply walk over the NIHL Classic and ex-EPL sides through simple quality of players. There has to be a plan.
Before anyone thinks we’re going off of the deep end here, this is not us calling for Doug Sheppard or anyone else’s head but there has to be a change. Losing a game of hockey is not a problem, it’s a game and there is a winner and a loser. That’s how this all works. Losing like that however will not sit well with Doug Sheppard. It feels like there will be a change in the offing. We await the reaction from the Bison as to how they address the recent on ice issues.