Running with the Herd – Bison vs Telford Tigers 06/01/2018

National Cup Group D

Basingstoke Bison 5-3 Telford Tigers

Scott                             Jones

Davies x2 (1pp)            Plant

Mogg                            McKenzie

Connolly

20/40:

Hockey is a game of three periods, football a game of two halves but this game was very much a tale of two for the Bison. The first period was pretty poor from the Herd; passes astray, nearly constantly on the back foot and they just generally looked horrible lost. However in the break Ashley Skinns or someone, because again no Doug Sheppard this week for the second week out of the last three, kicked the Herd in the posterior region and we saw what we’re more used to from the Bison. They put the pressure on, got the passing going and stuck to the basics well which saw them claw themselves back into the game. In the third period it was a very good showing and whilst they did get a bit fortunate on one goal they ended up pressing home their advantage, got the breathing room of the two goal lead and closed the game out.

Where the Herd went behind late against Peterborough, they couldn’t come back. The Bison’s poor early play in this game got themselves into a hole early but for a while they didn’t really look like coming back and it was frightening. Nobody looked like they’d ever tried passing a hockey puck for a while and yes, we know the ice in Basingstoke isn’t exactly polar quality but it wasn’t good.

Then the light switch came on in everyone’s heads. Beating a decent Telford side is good enough but the really nice bit about this comeback is that it wasn’t one player putting the team on their back and dragging everyone with them but the entire team kicked into gear.

Dean Skinns will want the Tigers’ first goal back but he got his eye in and looked better as the game went on. An Elliot Dewey-less defence who looked shaky in the first period started shutting everything down and giving Skinns a bit of better service and the forwards went back to basics and it worked really well. Shooting and trying for rebounds, beating a slower moving Tigers defence to the puck on the dump and chase and when the visitors did get the puck, working hard on the boards and winning the puck back.

Joe Baird got man of the match for the second home game in a row which is fair enough, he had a solid game. As we said above this was a real team effort though it’s worth highlighting a couple of performances that would have well been worthy of the beers as well.

Stuart Mogg was the Bison’s best player in a poor first period and carried that forward into the rest of the game making numerous timely defensive plays against a very strong Tigers attack. His goal, the eventual game winning goal, owed more to good fortune than anything else but his efforts on this night deserved a goal and he got it by virtue of a misplayed pass that he dumped on net off a backhand hit and hope. They all count, Moggy.

Roman Malinik’s play on the boards and in the corners in recent weeks has been superb and it’s given confidence to his line mates and others to be a bit more fearless on the boards.

The other performance I found interesting was that of Paul Petts. With the Bison’s linematching seeing him on the ice a lot with the Tigers’ top line, he was given a role and he stuck to it. Petts has had an up and down season form wise but he spent a good chunk of this game trying to get under the skin of Jason Silverthorn and it worked. He didn’t completely keep him silent but he certainly did a good job of neutralising the impact of the Tigers’ captain for long stretches.

Yes it was a dead rubber cup game but it was a game played in the context of the game after it. The league game against Bracknell is important for the Bison’s league title aspirations so to get a really good, “come from behind” win under their belts was important. The Bison can’t afford to only play for 40 minutes against good sides but good sides find ways out of the mire. It was an encouraging sign.

A word on our opponents:

Telford Tigers as an all team might be the most skilled outfit we’ve seen in Basingstoke this season. Make no mistake, they’re a good team and I wouldn’t be betting against them for the NIHL 1 North title or National Cup.

On this night, it might be hard to wonder on first glance how the Tigers lost this game after how the first period went. The Tigers seemed to be able to skate where they wanted and do what they want. Then in the second it was more even and the Tigers seemed to tire in the third and didn’t really have an answer even after they switched up the lines to focus their attacking output.

Scott McKenzie is the current NIHL 1 North player of the month and it’s easy to see why he won that accolade as well as the man of the match on this night for the visitors. Where Jason Silverthorn was a bit quiet (see above), McKenzie is so full of confidence at the moment that in full flight he was a handful for the Herd to stop. His partnership with Jack Watkins was certainly an effective one and a likely favourite for fans of hockey flow.

Denis Bell continues to look like a real netminding prospect for the future as he made a string of good saves. The gamesheet says he was changed out for Jonah Armstrong in the third period but if he was then it wasn’t announced and I genuinely didn’t notice the change.

There’s not tons to really say about the Tigers here. They played well in a decent open game but ran out of gas at the end. The Tigers will be cross that they didn’t put the foot onto the Bison’s throat when they had the chance and a second loss in a row after their OT loss to Solway will not go down well with Tom Watkins.

Lowlight of the night: The first period was pretty poor

Highlight of the night: Has to be Mogg’s goal, not even he knows how he scored

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