Running with the Herd – Bison vs Cardiff Fire 28/10/2017Posted: 30/10/2017
NIHL 1 South
Basingstoke Bison 5-1 Cardiff Fire
Karpov x3 Christian
Ever since the Bison joined the NIHL, people have been complaining about the quality of games, that they aren’t competitive. As a rule, I’ve disagreed with them because I genuinely believe that’s not true. The game away at Streatham proved clearly that if the Bison don’t give the effort then they won’t simply win against the NIHL Classic sides by talent alone, however the issue with this game against the Cardiff Fire was that it was, sadly, pretty close to not being competitive.
The other “however” is a simple hockey truth; you can only beat what is put in front of you and whilst it would have been nice to run the score up a bit for the fans, this game served a couple of purposes and the Bison made it out with minimal injury issues and a ton of upside.
Tomas Karpov took the man of the match for his very well taken goals and that’s fair enough on the balance of the 60 minutes of action but there are other important factors to focus on here.
Dan Weller-Evans will be kicking himself to have let up one goal on 7 shots (indeed, he is beating himself up judging by his social media) but look at the upsides to what came of this weekend as a whole; Weller-Evans played 120 minutes of hockey, conceded only 3 goals and his defence performed admirably around him and with him. He’s given Dean Skinns a vital rest ahead of a tough weekend coming up as well as getting really solid game time that will stand him in good stead should he be called upon at short notice due to injuries. That’s what you want from your back-up netminder.
Dan Davies skated for the first time in nearly two months in game situations and whilst looking a bit off the pace, didn’t look out of place with it. The Bison have massively missed the balance that a two-way player like Davies brings to the line-up and for him to return ahead of some tough fixtures is a really good sign for Doug Sheppard. I’m not sure whether Davies fully works with Connolly and Malinik as a line combination but this wasn’t the game to make such decisions.
Oscar Evans looked beyond promising. Where occasionally players have come in from the juniors and looked energetic if tentative in their initial forays in a Bison shirt, Evans got stuck in from the get go, creating opportunities for himself as well as not being scared to go to the net and came close on occasion to scoring.
Ryan Sutton and Josh Smith continued recent runs of good form as well as promising performances from Paul Petts (till he got hurt) and Hallam Wilson. Wilson would finally break his goalscoring duck on Sunday in Cardiff but looked promising on Saturday as well.
All in all this was a professional performance from the Bison where second gear was firmly not needed. When you consider the Bison won 12-2 the following night with 11 outskaters, the attitude was on point this weekend. After the narrow win over Streatham it was reported that Doug Sheppard read the riot act to the Bison about how they approached these games. The Herd have a 4 point weekend, the message was received it seems.
A word on our opponents:
In some ways it’s hard to know what to say; Mark Cuddihy is a good coach, the Fire are a good group of guys and deserve a lot of credit for deciding to take on the upper echelons of the NIHL but this was not good.
A squad of 14 (12+2 netminders) travelled from a much larger squad and quite simply, they couldn’t compete. Yes, the Fire scored a goal but they just weren’t at the races. There were few chances created and 7 shots in 60 minutes speaks to that.
It wasn’t for lack of trying. I ask that you don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say here; the Fire aren’t good enough but they gave it their all in trying. The issue in some ways was that they worked very hard but not very smart. The prime example would be Jackson Price; the lad clearly has an engine to rival a good family car for its longevity and he skated his heart out for the short but to what end? It was the clear difference between players like Chinn, Buglass and Stratford who did more with less. It’s all well and good skating through the wall for the team but just skating doesn’t do much else. The Fire at times didn’t even really seem to be attempting to go at the Bison but just not get scored on. It didn’t work.
The bright spots of the tie for the Welsh side were Dave Christian’s goal, a neat pass that caught Dan Weller-Evans looking the wrong way after an attempted pokecheck, and Jordan Lawday. The former Bison junior has come back to Britain after his time in the US and looks very good. The fact that it wasn’t a cricket score at the end of this game was down to Lawday making an array of very good saves and came into his home rink with something of a point to make. How much facing 50 shots a game will do for the youngster remains to be seen but it worked for Kevin Reiter.
Bar a minor miracle, the Cardiff Fire are going to be relegated at the end of this season. I’m saying that in October because we don’t go into sugar coating things here. The Fire have conceded 93 goals in 11 games which works out to roughly 8.5 goals a game. Cardiff want to keep making strides and trying to progress as best as they can so they can take this from the game. The Fire won the second period; they scored the only goal and therefore won their first period of the season. It’s a victory, albeit a small one. It seems like a season for the Fire where they need to celebrate all of those.
Lowlight of the night: The Fire’s goal; hurray for the visitors for a reward but it sucks for DWE’s stat line.
Highlight of the night: Yes, Karpov scored a hattrick but I’ll say the performance of Oscar Evans. Hopefully we get a chance to see more of the young man.