Running with the Herd – Bison vs Peterborough Phantoms 30/12/2017

NIHL 1 South

Basingstoke Bison 1-2 Peterborough Phantoms

Antonov pp                   Billing pp

                                     J Ferrara

Chance lost:

This result should be tough to take for the Basingstoke Bison. This was a big game, potentially part of a title deciding series between the Herd and the Peterborough Phantoms. They led, they outplayed the opposition but they were not clinical enough, they got stung and lost.

The loss itself is not the end of the world; the Bison have a chance to undo this individual loss on New Year’s Day but the nature of how they lost is the problem here. It was a very Bison loss because it had the hallmarks of the Herd’s weaknesses being exposed by a team that didn’t have an answer to their speed or transition through the neutral zone but did have an answer to their ineffective powerplay and to overthink on the puck.

The Bison didn’t have a good first minutes but otherwise made the more of the running in the game. Even after Glenn Billing’s powerplay goal (which Dean Skinns insisted the net was off the moorings, it was too close to call for me) the Bison didn’t go back into their shell and kept pressing. It was nice to see them hit a setback but keep pushing on.

Then there was that one lapse, that one goal to make it 2-1 and all the old clichés of Bison play came out leaving them looking like they couldn’t score.

Hindsight allowing us to look back on this game sees all the facets of what make the Bison so fun and so frustrating to watch all in one go. Going forward they can dance around teams like they aren’t there but the shots are low percentage chances or the chance has died off because, to borrow the old adage, everyone wants to set the table and nobody wants to finish their dinner. The powerplay ranged from terrific to dire with no middle ground. It’s classic Bison where there’s praise and frustration in equal measure.

Whilst watching Joe Baird week in, week out for so long has given us an appreciation of the defenceman as well as the fact that he’s had a very good season so far, there was only one man who should have had the beers last night for the hosts. Roman Malinik was an absolute machine on this night. The Phantoms did not have much of an answer for the Czech forward on this night whether in open ice or on the boards. If there was anyone who tried to put the team on his back and carry them on this night, it was Malinik. I regularly don’t agree with whoever picks the man of the match but this one seemed easy to me.

The Bison have one option and one option only here; take the frustration from this, bundle it up and throw it back at Peterborough on home ice. If the Bison win that game in regulation then they take back first place. They put the Phantoms on the back foot for long swathes of this game but they have to find their killer instinct, that clinical edge and put the Phantoms to the sword.

A word on our opponents:

I’ve been very critical over the last couple of years about the Peterborough Phantoms. How they play is effective but I pay my money to watch hockey and they’ve not been entertaining when I’ve seen them. However they do deserve credit here because this game was a very entertaining encounter.

There was however a separation here. Despite scoring two goals, the majority of the Phantoms forwards didn’t seem to do much on this night. They offered little in the way of penetration going forwards and didn’t have a ton of answers to their Bison counterparts. The one forward who did anything of real value was Glenn Billing. It was no surprise that he was involved in both goals as he seemed to be to the Phantoms on this night what Malinik was to the Bison.

On the other hand this might be one of the best performances from a defensive unit I’ve seen on Basingstoke ice in some time. Yes, the plaudits went to Euan King for his 37 saves and his man of the match award which many of us won’t argue but as a defensive unit they did more than just soak up loads of pressure. It was the positioning, it was the active stick play, it was the timing of when they did things as well as King making big saves like the one he made on Josh Smith. This is what will win teams championships. I can and will call them dull to watch if that’s what I believe them to be but defence wins championships. Their forwards misfired on this night so why did they win? They won because their defence did their job and that allowed the forwards to capitalise on the mistakes made by the opposition.

The Phantoms won’t win every game in this fashion. They do need their forwards to turn up and do the business but if this run of defensive form continues and they win every game 2-1, they’ll still be winners come the end.

Lowlight of the night: The Bison throwing it away

Highlight of the night: There was actually quite a lot; the 4 person officiating that did really well, the overall quality of this top of the table clash but I will actually say it’s a toss up between Malinik’s performance and the Phantoms defence as I applauded both a load of times.

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