Running with the Herd – Bison vs London Raiders 07/10/2017

NIHL 1 South

Basingstoke Bison 7-1 London Raiders

Jackson x2 (1pp)          Nahlik dpg

Antonov x2 (1pp)

Karpov pp

Connolly x2

It’s a start:

After an improved performance in Sheffield last Sunday, this game was the perfect tonic for Bison fans who were disappointed with last weekend’s cup outing against the Bees. It’s too soon to be celebrating too much but this was exactly the sort of game that the Bison needed.

The Herd were without Stuart Mogg in addition to Dan Davies for this one but the Bison were able to roll 4 defencemen and were rarely troubled. We talked last week about the Bison lacking that bit of swagger because of a lack of confidence and, with all respect to the Raiders, this was a game to get that and it showed quickly.

The Bison realised that they could and would hold the Raiders at bay and started to press down on their opponents, a task made all the easier by some uncharacteristically effective powerplay work as they converted 3 of 4 powerplay chances in the first period.

Once the first period ended, the Bison swapped into snuffing out the game and getting out with minimal injuries and fuss, the score only reaching 7 because of the injury to Euan King seeing Raiders captain Tom Davis’ forced into going in goal and one of them was essentially an own goal. Whilst we know that’s how the Bison play, part of me feels that given such recent inconsistency I would have preferred if the Herd had tried running up the score a bit; allow players a chance to get a feel for scoring again and get more confidence heading into a tricky away game at Invicta today but once Euan King could no longer continue, that was never going to happen and that’s understandable.

Aaron Connolly took the man of the match beers for the Herd and this game saw the captain look more like Aaron Connolly again. Back to his vocal best his first goal, a particularly nice shot that went “bar dizzle” off of a lay off from Jaroslav Cesky, was just reward for a line that looked to be finding its feet but did work. Josh Smith, rewarded for his recent excellent performances with a move to the second line, was used to clear the way and that allowed Cesky and Connolly to do some damage.

Meanwhile I’d like to sit down and see what the Raiders fans thought about the continued combination of Tomas Karpov and Vanya Antonov. When at full flight and whoever their linemate, this combination must be terrifying for defences when coming at them. Karpov’s powerplay goal in particular was an example of a team that sat back too far not just being taken advantage of but made to look a bit foolish as Antonov passed around the defence then Karpov drew King out of his crease and down before firing home. It was a pretty goal and some pretty play. The other thing that came out of the first period’s vast number of powerplays was that Antonov/Karpov duo worked well with Ashley Jackson and I wonder if we see more of it.

Dean Skinns will want the one Raiders goal back but otherwise it was an assured and comfortable evening for the defence. Hopefully Mogg is not out for long as it won’t be ideal for the Bison to be running four defencemen for a lengthy period but this was an evening for them to continue their impressive performances. If nothing else, we also learned that Dan Scott will literally dance to anything. The end of season disco is going to be a riot.

A word on our opponents:

From a simple hockey perspective, the London Raiders didn’t play well enough to win this game. 12 shots across 60 minutes sees a performance from the Raiders similar to that of Invicta during their visit to Hampshire earlier in the season. London came in, made a few early pokes at the Bison to see if they could get through but then decided that they would need to sit back and break on the counter. That’s a reasonable strategy but they sat back so far at times that they were practically in the bar. They tried a bit of physicality, that didn’t work so they did their best to maintain their shape and stick to their systems. They certainly gave a good account of themselves.

Sadly the game was over as a contest by the end of the first period thanks to a raft of silly penalties that the Raiders took. When you’re making the Bison’s powerplay look effective, something’s wrong.

The Raiders were then dealt the massive blow when Euan King was forced out of the game with what the club announced as an MCL sprain following a hospital visit. The Raiders do have a backup in Zachary Grandy-Smith who didn’t travel for unknown reasons.

As captain of the Raiders, Tom Davis stepped up to the task of replacing King in net for the final part of the game. Whilst I don’t think Davis’ future hockey career lies between the pipes, that’s what a captain does; with his team’s back against the wall he stepped up, chucked on King’s gear and did what he could. His attempt at a windmill glove save was great to see if nothing else and he was unfortunate to concede one goal after Olegs Laschenko managed to deflect it off of him and over the line. He rightly got the beers for doing what he could.

Nobody really had a standout game for the Raiders but there was lots of hustle from them. Brandon Ayliffe and Tom Beesley as a forechecking pair looked very useful and Andy Munroe is still managing to put himself about. However both Nahlik and Huska were kept quiet as were the Raiders’ top end Brits and that was that in terms of them catching the Bison. They’ll chalk this up as a bad day at the office, try to figure out what they do for a netminder and go again.

Lowlight of the night: King’s injury; it’s never nice to see anyone go down injured let alone a goalie.

Highlight of the night: Karpov’s powerplay goal was a prime example of what this Bison team can do when they have a tiny bit of confidence and a bit of space.

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