Running with the Herd – Bison vs London Raiders 19/11/2017Posted: 20/11/2017
NIHL 1 South
Basingstoke Bison 6-0 London Raiders
Where the Bison’s cup form has at times left a lot to be desired, the Herd’s league form has seen them set themselves a good base for the rest of the year. After a good showing in Saturday’s penalty shot loss to Peterborough it was important to keep going in the league and that’s just what the Bison managed to do.
The Bison had been guilty at times against the NIHL classic sides of slacking off when they thought the game was put to bed but since the scare away at Streatham have been better at keeping their foot down on opponents. This showed massively during that game as they limited the Raiders to just 19 shots and the first of those didn’t come until after the midway point of the first period.
Whilst Stuart Mogg took the warm up, the former EPL all-star did not ice in the game which left the other 4 defencemen in what’s been their regular rotation and they mostly looked well at ease with what the Raiders threw at them. Dean Skinns had a good game on Saturday night against the Phantoms but there were moments where his defenders were doing so much of the heavy lifting for him that he could have put the kettle on. However the shots he did see needed dealing with and Skinns was more than equal to the task combining good rebound control with solid positioning that he didn’t have last week against Swindon.
Whilst I still believe the Bison need a bit of extra forward depth, it was good to see the Bison at least start with more players. Paul Petts and Josh Smith both returned to the line-up and have a good account of themselves. Where Smith was used occasionally further up the lines, Petts is still finding his feet within this Bison system but had one of his best games here. The combination of Petts, Ryan Sutton and Hallam Wilson were a really capable and effective third line until Sutton’s early finish due to injury where Smith found himself rotated onto that line as well which maintained its effectiveness. The only thing missing was a goal for Wilson who just seemed to never quite make the right connection at the right time.
After the Bison spent the first 5 minutes without the puck going anywhere near the hosts’ blueline, the result never really seemed in doubt. The retooled line of man of the match, Dan Davies with Vanya Antonov and Roman Malinik never looked massively troubled and were seemingly allowed to do whatever they wanted. The Raiders defence couldn’t handle Malinik’s size or the passing and speed of Davies and Antonov. Some have said that Malinik looked the best player of the ice but for two well taken goals and a good all-around game, I don’t begrudge the beers going the way of Davies.
Tomas Karpov was with Aaron Connolly and Grant Rounding for this game and whilst I confess to preferring Karpov with Antonov, this combination does work as well with Connolly and Rounding using their speed and grit to give Karpov space to work in. All three of the line scored on the evening with Rounding’s goal being the pick of the bunch; a laser of a slapshot that beat Michael Gray in the Raiders net.
10 wins from 10 league games makes great reading and combined with a better performance against Peterborough in the cup, the Bison have given the fans some reasons to be cheerful following last Saturday’s poor showing against the Wildcats. It’s not the finished product yet but with players returning from injury and confidence from decent winning runs it could be that the Herd are working their way into being the team to beat in NIHL South 1 as they sit 2nd with 3 games in hand over Peterborough in first.
A word on our opponents:
The last game against the London Raiders threw things into doubt when Euan King had to leave the game due to injury to be replaced in net with Tom Davis. The Raiders bettered that game by coming with two netminders but the performance saw them come to a similar result; effort alone can’t beat effort and quality.
The Raiders remain a hard working side but as with the last game in Basingstoke, they lacked the clinical edge. Twice Juraj Huska had chances on a plate to score and twice they were squandered and that was when the visitors could get a shot in on goal. As the game went on the Raiders swapped to trying to clog the neutral zone and take the Bison’s space to work away but the Herd would dump the puck behind the defence and get the cycle going. The visitors were on to a loser.
Michael Gray got man of the match, which is fair enough as another netminder came into Basingstoke and got shelled though at times he didn’t help himself. He’s a netminder who likes to move about and whilst his defencemen got in his way, at times it seemed like he didn’t trust the defender to do the job they were there for. I’ve been told by friends who play the position that the goalie is always right but his defence were trying their best.
I was actually impressed with the performances of Callum Burnett and Sean Barry on the evening that look very solid at this level. Both made good plays to deny the Bison extra scoring opportunities.
The real problem for the Raiders was that the forwards could not generate any real offence. Brandon Ayliffe dashed about but nobody could really do much to get anything going. The breakouts were snuffed out and when they did get into the zone it was either taken away or saved by Skinns. I must make an effort to watch the Raiders against a side like Invicta or Streatham to see the contrast.
Our best wishes to JJ McGrath who leaves the Raiders to move to Canada and to the Raiders. The thinking cap goes on for Sean Easton as to how he can break down the Bison on the ex-occasion.
Lowlight of the night: The injury to Sutton; it’s the last thing the Bison need.
Highlight of the night: Rounding’s goal was superb.