Building the Herd – Tomas Karpov

#44 Tomas Karpov

Position: Forward

Born: Benešov, Středočeský kraj, Česko

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 25th May

Photo copywrite to 5 Hole Photography – remember that all of Grant’s photos are available to buy at and will make great birthday presents or momentos for hockey fans. Grant is great, support Grant.

Building the Herd – Dan Davies

#47 Dan Davies

Position: Forward

Born: London, England

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 18th May

Dan Davies (left) had a productive first season in Basingstoke and has signed on for another campaign.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

Banners On The Wall took a break over the previous weekend. Some family stuff combined with the fact that the NIHL South 1 lost its marbles again led us to take a step back and wait to see if anything happened before progressing. As it seems that stuff has gone quiet, we’re in a position to properly welcome Dan Davies back to the Herd.

Soon to be 28, Davies capped an impressive first season in Basingstoke by being named the 2016/17 BOTW player of the year. Generally used as a centre for the duration of the campaign, Davies tallied 10 goals and 39 points in 50 games whilst adding 4 assists in the Bison’s 7 playoff encounters.

Davies began his hockey in London with Haringey. The London senior side were known as the Greyhounds so Davies played for the fantastically named Haringey Whippets in the under 16s leagues before moving across to Slough for the later part of his underage hockey career.

The stats then throw up something of an anomaly for Davies as no numbers exist for him on Elite Prospects between the end of 2004/05 and the 2008/09 season when he suddenly reappeared in Bracknell, splitting time between the Bees in the EPL and the Hornets in the then ENL. 25 EPL games yielded 5 goals and 8 points but his ENL numbers of 50 points in 26 games were impressive enough for Slough to come calling.

Davies moved back to The Hanger in 2009 and former junior Jet would spend 4 and a half years at the Hanger to great success as his time in Berkshire would yield 2 EPL playoff titles and one EPL cup. 240 regular season games with the Jets saw Davies chart an impressive 241 points.

The 2013/14 season has been discussed at great length on BOTW for the many player movements that happened at Slough. Davies, who was an alternate captain for the Jets at one stage during the season, was another player who moved north to join the new order in Telford, leaving just after the halfway point of the season in mid-December.

Davies and the Tigers pressed on from 2013/14 into the 2014/15 season and dominated the EPIHL, winning the league and cup at a canter before coming unstuck in the playoff semi-final against Peterborough. In the double winning season, Davies had 17 goals and 36 points in 48 games.

The 2015/16 season was something of a contrast as the Tigers faltered. Davies also had injury issues, icing in just 37 games but still managing 27 points from the season. After an empty handed season in Telford, Davies decided to return to the south and joined up with coach Doug Sheppard.

Did you know that Dan Davies got 39 points last season? I didn’t remember till I sat down and looked at the stats for him. In some ways because he falls into that archetype of “hard working hockey player”, I sometimes wonder if Dan Davies gets lost in the shuffle. It wasn’t intentional but with a family visit this weekend and the rest of the league going mad around us, even his welcome back piece got pushed slightly to one side.

However someone somewhere clearly notices his efforts. The setup for the BOTW player of the season is such that I don’t just pick my favourite player with my biases that I have on hockey players. It’s why there is a fans nominating process then I get the panel together to pick from those; to try and take out a chunk of my own influence as to who deserves the recognition and that we give a fair, well rounded result. Despite arguably not being the highest scorer or the biggest hitter or the flashiest or the fastest, Davies got the most fan nominations then the majority of 1st votes in our panel vote.

Dan Davies is a package player. He’s one of those players that Doug Sheppard likes who is able to do a bit of everything. Superb passing, a really good two way game combined with being able to both grind and score, it’s the work ethic of Davies that got the appreciation of fans wherever he’s played. Where we praised Joe Rand for not taking a shift off, we need to attribute the same quality to Davies who has played up and down the lines in the space of a season as well as taking significant first powerplay and penalty kill time in the process.

The problem is that we genuinely now don’t know what’s happening. Davies and Antonov were not paired together last year though you venture that they’ll both be on the top two lines between them with Davies maintaining his role in the centre. They’re the only two forwards and the new league format lasted a grand total of 2 weeks. Even the PIHL as a concept lasted longer than that.

Irrespective of that, we know what we’re getting from Dan Davies which is effort, energy and some decent execution. If Ciaran Long returns then I expect Davies to play alongside him but if Long is heading elsewhere then what Davies needs is that natural scorer for him to put the puck onto the stick of. Give him a Rene Jarolin style player that clicks with Davies and points will follow.

Welcome back, Dan. You are allowed to drink the beer…I mean, trophy.

Building the Herd – Ivan Antonov

#19 Ivan ‘Vanya’ Antonov

Position: Forward

Born: Москва́, Росси́йская Федера́ция

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 18th May

Vanya Antonov returns for another season in Basingstoke.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

After covering the return of the one defenceman from the Bison’s announcement, we move on to the forwards and the return to the Herd for 2017/18 of Russo-British forward, Ivan Antonov.

More commonly known as Vanya, the 20 year old came to Basingstoke with much fanfare last summer and continued his impressive senior hockey career with an 18 goal and 38 point season, regularly mesmerising audiences with his stick handling and speed.

2016/17 was Antonov’s first season away from Bracknell where he had played all of his British junior hockey. Having debuted for Bracknell’s under 16’s team, the Stingers as a 13 year old, Antonov regularly played above his age group in junior hockey. In his last season of solely playing with juniors in 2012/13, he scored 69 points in 17 games at under 16 level and 32 points in 13 games at under 18 level, combining for 49 goals across the two age groups.

On hitting 16 and becoming eligible to play senior hockey, Antonov was immediately used by both Bracknell senior sides as he made his NIHL debut with the Hornets and his EPL debut with the Bees in the same season. Vanya managed to an impressive 4 goals and 5 points in 22 games in the EPL whilst scoring 4 goals and 6 points in 7 NIHL games. His playing time at under 18s with the Drones was limited that year as Antonov only managed to appear in 9 games in which he scored 38 points. Antonov capped of 2013/14 by appearing for both GB under 18s and under 20s in the same season.

As the EPL became his bread and butter, Antonov would play one more game of under 18s in 2014/15 scoring 2 assists and that would spell the end of a fantastic junior career with 175 points in 76 games. 2014/15 saw a real coming out onto the senior stage as Vanya tallied 41 points in 43 games.

Lukas Smital gave Vanya the alternate captain’s A for 2015/16 in what was a tough year on and off the ice for the Bees. Financial issues were causing issues which saw squad building be a challenge for the Berkshire side. Alongside Smital, Antonov was a focal point of the Bees offence as he put up 65 points in 51 games before opting to move to Basingstoke.

I can’t be the only person massively surprised by this move, can I? Two new teams into the Elite League from the old EPIHL, one of whom in the same county as where Vanya Antonov attends university and he’s ended up back at Basingstoke. The majority of the Bison fanbase, including myself had assumed that Paul Dixon had one of the best young players on his way to the Elite League.

Yet, here we are and I’m sure all Bison fans are delighted. Why Antonov is back in Basingstoke could be for all manner of reasons; fitting things around university, Vanya feels he needs more seasoning before he steps up to being a full time hockey player, maybe he didn’t even get an offer from anywhere else. I don’t genuinely believe the last one is part of it but circumstances have certainly conspired in the Bison’s favour on this one.

The question with Antonov remains his size. It is quite clear that the young man is not about to suddenly grow 6 inches in height so the discussion turns to whether he will bulk up at any stage. If he bulks up too much to win some more of those physical battles, does he lose his speed and his edge over other players?

For this writer, Vanya Antonov needs to be Vanya Antonov and just play. At 20 years old and arguably 15-20 years of hockey ahead of him and given how good he already is, I don’t see the need to start radically trying to change his game. He does need to be a bit smarter with his physical battles and how he can be most effective in the corner battles but nobody signs Vanya Antonov to be a checking forward.

As one of the most naturally gifted players in the league last year, the bedding in process in Basingstoke has finished and hopefully this change of league will see Antonov press on and become a really dominant offensive force on a team that is regularly challenging for silverware. He’s got lightning speed, impressive hands, a really impressive shot and superb vision on the ice. He’s got the potential to be really special in British hockey and maybe even abroad. The fact it’s another season of him in Hampshire is a nice bonus for us along the way.

Welcome back, Vanya.

Additional: As this piece was being written, there was some upheaval as Chelmsford, Oxford and Solent all requested to withdraw from NIHL 1 South. BOTW will report as and when it gets concrete information.

Building the Herd – Dan Scott

#13 Dan Scott

Position: Defenceman

Born: Chatham, Kent

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette 18th May

(c) 5 Hole Photography

After a couple of recent departures from the Bison, Doug Sheppard has set the tone with the announcement of three returnees for the Herd for their new venture into the NIHL. The first of those that we’ll talk about is the return of Dan Scott.

25 year old Scott joined the Herd from Telford Tigers after the tumultuous period for the Shropshire club due to financial issues. Scott had been part of the Tigers side that was tearing through the EPIHL at the time, scoring 3 goals and 6 assists for 9 points in 27 games before the Kent born defenceman decided that a change of scenery was required. A long term target of Doug Sheppard, Scott was convinced to move back to the south where he replaced Jan Jarabek who was released due to a disciplinary issue. Scott became immediately popular with the fans in Basingstoke for his no nonsense, physical style of stay at home defensive play. Despite his number of games being limited by a concussion, Scott managed to tally 1 goal and 1 assist in 19 games as well as picking up 2 goals and 1 assist in 7 playoff games with the Herd.

A product of the Invicta junior system, Scott made his senior hockey debut with the Dynamos during 2006/07 tallying 3 assists in the process. In 2008, Scott moved to Northwood School in Lake Placid, New York in the USA for two years to further his hockey playing skills, during which time he made his debut with the GB under 18s and was named captain for their world championships bid in 2010.

After finishing his time in North America, Dan returned to Britain where he signed for Telford and made an immediate impact on the Tigers’ defence. His talents also saw him guest for Coventry in the Elite League during 2010/11 which saw Scott make his GB under 20s debut and led to him signing a contract with Hull Stingrays for 2011/12. His time in the East Riding was productive with 1 goal, 1 assist and 2 points with 16 penalty minutes.

After his time in Hull came to an end, Dan headed back to the south and to Slough where he would stay for the next year and a half. Under Slava Koulikov, Slough had a good 2012/13 and Dan’s 7 points that season were, at the time, a career best in senior hockey for him. 2013/14 didn’t go as well for the Jets as money issues saw a number of players leave. Scott was part of the number that were lured north to Telford due to an improved contract offer in December 2013.

We all kind of know what happened to Telford; the dominant 2014/15 campaign saw Scott pick up league and cup winners medals and whilst 2015/16 didn’t go as well for Telford, they seemed to be on the road to running the table again but the well-publicised issues in Shropshire led us to where we are today.

Dan Scott had the somewhat ignoble honour of being the first person that the EPIHL’s new policy on headshots failed. I actually remember hearing about the decision not to punish Ugnius Cizas for what was a ridiculous elbow to the head because I was walking around Copenhagen Zoo and my wife wondered why I had stopped by a monkey enclosure and was saying “they have to be taking the mick” over and over again. To not punish the Pirates forward essentially implied that Scott instigated the contact by headbutting his opponent’s elbow. Then again, not long after that the EPIHL failed so I suppose the joke was that we should have seen that coming.

Above we mentioned that Doug Sheppard had Dan Scott as a long term target. I suppose most coaches in the league would not have sniffed at signing the defenceman and Bison fans immediately picked up on why Dan is such a valuable commodity as a defender.

He’s arguably something of a cut out player. If you were making a list of what you want your ideal stay at home defenceman to be then most of Scott’s traits will be on that list; positionally sound, good hands, takes the body well, good vision for the pass to start the transition up the ice. If you’re signing a guy to sure up the back end then this is what you want.

To Scott’s credit he came to Basingstoke last year knowing a lot of the team already and he settled in well. He got the Bison’s systems down quickly and made a defence that was already the best in the league better. During the voting for the BOTW player of the year, many mentioned that had Dan been there for a season then they may have got this vote.

It’s hard to add more than we did given we only wrote a piece for Dan about 6 months ago but the reaction that he got when he was in and out of the line-up shows that added bit of quality that fell into the Bison’s lap. It happened with Ciaran Long and Michael Wales. It appears to have happened again. With a league that is going to be a real mix of players and abilities, Doug Sheppard has shown that he’s not messing about by securing what will be a top level defenceman in the Wilkinson Conference, if not the whole of NIHL 1 South.

Welcome back, Dan.

Building the Herd – Joe Rand

#86 Joe Rand

Position: Forward

Born: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 8/12/16

Building the Herd – Dan Scott

#?? Dan Scott

Position: Defence

Born: Chatham, Kent

Announced as signed: Bison website 6/12/16

Dan Scott (right) has had many battles against the Bison but the recent issues at Telford mean that the defenceman has now joined the Herd. (c) 5 Hole Photography

Dan Scott (right) has had many battles against the Bison but the recent issues at Telford mean that the defenceman has now joined the Herd.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

In what BOTW has dubbed the Bison’s wacky week, the Bison have managed to secure a defenceman following the release of Jan Jarabek as Doug Sheppard has secured the services of long term target, Dan Scott.

The 24 year old Kent born defenceman becomes the second Telford player in a week to join the Herd after the Tigers’ recent financial issues. Having signed a new three year contract with Telford in April, the club’s recent financial issues threw everything and everyone into turmoil. Scott was announced by Telford as part of a group that had agreed to stay with the current league leaders but instead refused new terms and chose to sign for Basingstoke.

Like many a Kent born player before him, Scott is a product of the junior system at Invicta making his debut for the Dynamos in 2006/07 whilst still playing under 16s hockey.

After further development in the Dynamos system, Scott headed over to Lake Placid in New York State to study and play at Northwood School, a private school with a renowned junior hockey programme and counts former NHL goalie Mike Richter and former Bison forward Liam Chong amongst its alumni.

After finishing in the US Dan returned to Britain in 2010 with Telford, playing 51 games and scoring 5 points in his debut EPL season. He also guested 6 times for the Coventry Blaze.

That performance was enough to earn Scott a full time roster spot in the EIHL as he was signed up by the Hull Stingrays for one campaign in the British top flight where he scored 2 points before heading back to the EPL and joining Slough.

2012/13 was a decent enough year for Slough and for Scott but 2013/14 was not; the Jets’ financial issues caused a litany of players to be released and a bizarre situation for Scott where he was named team captain before leaving the Jets less than a month later to join the newly owned Tigers.

Scott was named an alternate captain in 2014 and remained so until he left the Shropshire side. Along with being part of the Tigers’ double winning side in 2015, Scott played 136 regular season games in this most recent stint, scoring 29 points in that time.

Scott also captained both the GB under 18s and under 20s, winning a bronze with the later in the Division 1A worlds in the 2010/11 season.

The first thing we’ll do is indulge the conspiracy theorists because, why not? I like a good laugh. However weird the timings might look, the Bison did not release Jan Jarabek to make way for Dan Scott. Whilst British hockey is good for a bit of cloak and dagger work, this is not one of those examples. The timing is entirely coincidental. Jarabek’s undisclosed indiscretion was not conjured up. Scott’s signing was not an excuse to get rid of him. Aside from the fact that the Bison’s form with such releases of players is well known why would the Bison, with the fewest goals against in the league, benefit from releasing an offensively minded imported defenceman for a British defenceman however good with a record points total of 13 in a season?

For anyone who has watched the EPL for the last few years, they will be able to back me up on this assertion; Dan Scott is a very good stay at home defenceman. He is not the biggest or the heaviest but he certainly does have size and isn’t afraid to use it.

What the Bison have done for the moment is seemingly trade secondary offence on the back end for increased defensive security. Dan Scott is much more in the Declan Balmer and Joe Baird mould of defenders than he is the Jan Jarabek or Miroslav Vantroba mode but the Herd now stand with two options in mind.

Option 1 is the Bison go straight back out and find another import defenceman with offensive upside and get a like for like replacement.

Option 2 is you run with this 5 man all British defence and go for an import forward which is what the Bison did back in 2012/13 when Tomas Fojtik was swapped for Jaroslav Cesky. It ultimately didn’t pan out as planned for the Herd as they finished the season without a trophy but the Herd arguably need more out of their offence than has been coming at times this season. With the defence already pretty solid and having added another solid piece, do the Bison hope for that extra secondary scoring solely from Joe Miller up front or add another piece?

The one player who may well step in as a stop gap is Joe Rand. The Canadian is still living and working in the country and could well be a short term option. Also a roster with Derek Roehl and Joe Rand in it will be a ton of fun.

Meanwhile on the back end, there will be Dan Scott; picking up minimal amounts of penalty minutes. The trick with a player like Dan is if you don’t notice him then things are going well. That’s the way we’ll want it. After years of trying and being very high on his talents and whilst in unusual circumstances, Doug Sheppard has finally gotten his man.

Welcome aboard, Dan.

Building the Herd – Joe Miller

#23 Joe Miller

Position: Forward

Born: Caerdydd, Cymru

Announced as signed: Bison website, 4th December

Back once again; Joe Miller returns to Basingstoke. (c) 5 Hole Photography

Back once again; Joe Miller returns to Basingstoke.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

In what’s been a wild and wacky few days in the world of Basingstoke Bison, the Herd compounded the oddity of the recent situation by announcing the return to Hampshire of Joe Miller.

Now 31, Miller was the one of the first players to move to the new look Telford Tigers when in November 2013, it was announced that the Cardiff born forward would serve 6 weeks notice and leave Basingstoke for the side that had recently been bought by Wayne Scholes and Red Hockey Ltd.

Miller went on to have a very successful spell in Shropshire as he was part of the 2014/15 Tigers side that won the EPIHL league title at a canter and also the the EPL cup. In 137 games during this most recent spell with the Tigers, Miller registered 153 points (66 goals and 87 assists).

A product of the Cardiff junior system, Miller made his senior debut with the home town Devils in the 2001/02 season where he iced in 20 British National League games, scoring 2 goals and 3 assists. This came alongside a very productive and high scoring junior career with the amusingly named Cardiff Satans under 19 side.

Miller spent 2003/04 between Cardiff and Telford before moving to Shropshire for his first full EPL season in 2004/05 with the then named Wildfoxes. For 2005/06 the Wildfoxes became the Tigers and an impressive campaign where Miller scored 35 goals and 62 points in 44 games earned him a call from the Elite League.

In 2006/07, Miller made the move over to Manchester for his one and only full EIHL season scoring 11 points in 53 games from the Phoenix’s third line. The next season saw him return to Telford for 14 games before moving on to Peterborough late in 2007.

That Phantoms roster at the time was on to something special and the next season would be the big one as Miller would be part of the last British side to achieve a proper grand slam as they won the EPL league, cup and playoff titles with Miller scoring an astounding 88 points along the way. Miller would remain with the Phantoms until late into the 2010/11 season when he was convinced to go back to Manchester, now in the EPL as the Phoenix battled for the EPL title; a title that they would eventually win.

With the 2010/11 season at an end and with another EPL winners medal in his pocket, Miller was convinced by Steve Moria to head to Basingstoke where he was the side’s premier British forward. Retained by Doug Sheppard when he took over, Miller remained one of the league’s top scoring British forwards and remained so after his move to Telford.

However Miller’s 2016/17 had not started too well, scoring only 4 points in 16 games. When the Tigers’ financial issues hit home, Miller could not come to terms on a contract with the new owning organisation and left.

Miller’s current record stands at 535 EPIHL regular season games with 664 points (306 goals and 358 assists). He has 3 EPIHL league winners medals, two cup winners medals and one playoff winners medal. He also represented Great Britain 15 times as an underage international, scoring 3 points and earning a bronze medal with the under 18s and a gold with the under 20s.

Players move on, clubs move on; it’s the nature of the beast at this level but I think if the great Tigers return doesn’t work out as Miller hopes, that the door isn’t really fully shut for him in Basingstoke.” – Goodnight and Good Luck; Joe Miller, 2/1/14

It seems that we were not wrong.

However, here we are again; three years on from the original announcement of his impending departure and in a very different British hockey landscape since Wayne Scholes on Banners On The Wall that “every deal has to be good for the players, good for the team and good for the league and if it’s not then we don’t want to do it”. We sadly saw what the plans did to the second tier of the British game and now find the EPIHL standing on something of a precipice, however well intentioned the above statement might have been when it was made in late 2013.

One other statement that Mr Scholes made in that interview I did with him also bears repeating in this piece because I think it’s very accurate;

I look at players like Joe, he is a great leader. Joe is someone who brings a very level head, a very mature outlook on the play. You can out him on the ice and nothing phases him. He doesn’t get wound up easily, he’s a mature player who you know is going to get a knock here and a knock there and he’s not going to retaliate. He’s a guy who’s got a level head. He knows the right time to do something and the right time to walk away and I think that’s critical on a team like ours where we’ve got a team with a lot of young players who are looking to people to teach them what to do and when to do it and lead by example and that’s Joe. He is a fabulous addition to the team”.

Now obviously the situation in Basingstoke isn’t exactly the same as it was in Telford then but there are a lot of traits that are mentioned in that quote that are things that the Bison actually need at the moment. With Shaun Thompson gone, there is a place for a veteran presence who can score goals and be flexible enough to do the gritty work when required.

However it’s also worth noting that Joe Miller’s 2016/17 is mirroring the Bison’s in a lot of ways; obvious quality but not quite coming together. 4 points in 16 games is not the sort of form that you expect out of the Welshman but let’s face it, it’s been something of an odd situation that he has been playing in. Perhaps this refresh will help change both Miller and the Bison’s fortunes.

The Bison needed a player with Joe Miller’s skill set. Circumstances worked in their favour and instead of getting someone like Joe Miller, they just got the original article.

Welcome back, Joe.