National Cup Group D
Basingstoke Bison 5-3 Telford Tigers
Davies x2 (1pp) Plant
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
NIHL 1 South
Basingstoke Bison 1-2 Peterborough Phantoms
Antonov pp Billing pp
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.
National Cup Group D
Basingstoke Bison 3-4 Swindon Wildcats after penalty shots
Smith x2 Birbraer
Scott pp F. Taylor
Penalty shots (Swindon shoot first):
Smith saved Bebris goal
Antonov goal Nell goal
That was a thing that we did:
Despite having been effectively done with the competition a while ago, the Bison’s National Cup campaign was mathematically done the night before with the loss in Swindon and finally completed here.
The Herd were without Tomas Karpov and Kurt Reynolds took the warm up but sat out the game. Certainly the loss of Karpov seemed to hurt the Bison as they seemed creatively mute at times. Certainly I think over the course of the entire 65 minutes that the Bison were second best on this evening. They were losing the board battles and the ones in open ice. They struggled at times to connect passes and just seemed to be confused as to their direction at times. Being as the game was a dead rubber anyway, I don’t think anyone was expecting a barnstormer but the whole affair was a bit flat from the Herd at times compared to the Wildcats who did still have something to play for.
However the Bison also deserve some credit for showing some of a trait that they arguably don’t get enough credit for which is their resiliency. When being outplayed, the Bison are very rarely blown away. To borrow something of a hockey cliché, they put on their hard hats and went to work. Struggling with the speed and of the Wildcats, they decided to try and grit it out. At 2-1 off of a soft goal that Dean Skinns won’t be happy with, the Bison could have capitulated. Instead they bored down and dug in. They made it into the third and thanks to some ill-disciplined choices from the visitors got themselves level before a lovely bit of Antonov skill set up Josh Smith for his second of the night.
The goal that sent the game to overtime was one of those moments that just happen in hockey. As Edgers Bebris was trying to feed a pass to Aaron Nell it deflected off of the stick of Roman Malinik. Nell took a swing and it hit the sweet spot and went in. If there’s no deflection then perhaps the pass doesn’t connect or the shot goes into the back netting or whatever. Those are the margins in which all sport operates.
As for the shootout, stood on the line as I was I don’t think the puck crossed the line. Wildcats’ social media manager Ben Callaghan was stood with me and says it was. You can make of that what you will but for me Skinns had the puck trapped on the line. Whilst we don’t like to point the finger at the officials on here too much, I also respect his knowledge of the rules and all he does for the sport but the giving of the goal, an act that influenced the outcome of the game, compounded a confusing performance from Mr Evans whose game management style continues to perplex me.
Paul Petts got man of the match for an industrious performance but I’m slightly confused how Josh Smith didn’t get it on the night. I don’t agree that the man of the match should always go to someone just for scoring but Smith was the most effective Bison player of the night along with Malinik and Smith took both of his goals very well.
The only other part of this that bares mentioning in my opinion is why, in a dead rubber cup game with an important league game against Peterborough on Saturday, did Dan Weller-Evans not start this game? Dean Skinns is the number 1 netminder, he made a number of good saves but for this writer it made little sense for him to see time in this game. Why risk your number one when you don’t have to and can give your backup some needed game time into the bargain?
The Bison’s chance at one trophy is officially done and their poor early season form made sure of that well before this. They still have a chance at two and two key players down they made a really good fist of this game. There are positives to take from this.
A word on our opponents:
I don’t think any of us can argue Swindon winning the game. The Wildcats were the better side over the duration. They looked better knowing that they had something to play for as 1 point meant they would win the group. That extra impetus on the game clearly made the difference for them.
The Wildcats will be cross that they let the Bison back into the game late on when they should have closed that out. Really, when they had the Bison on the back foot in the first they should have pressed on harder but didn’t and it cost them. However this Swindon side appear to have a real depth to them that previous Wildcats sides have not had. Whilst they got caught towards the end of the game, they play an entertaining and effective brand of hockey that I find attractive to watch. Their speed in transition alone is frightening to watch and the addition of Edgars Bebris will only aid this once he settles in.
Stephen Whitfield was solid but I also disagreed with the man of the match for the visitors. I’d have given the beers to Floyd Taylor who has come on very well since the last time I’d seen him. His goal was well taken and whilst this was a very good all round performance by the entire Wildcats roster on the night, for me there was Taylor who stood out by how much he had improved or Matt Smital who made some very good saves. Smital the younger is not the finished product yet but we’re starting to see the glimmers of the potential many felt he had that I think that didn’t see at Bracknell. There’s a confidence there that is growing.
Some Phantoms fans have said that they think that the title race in the league is a two horse race between the Bison and the Phantoms. Whilst the Cats are 8 points back of the Bison and 7 of the Phantoms, if Wildcats win the games they have against the two sides then they are very much in it. I don’t believe in jinxes or the like so me saying this doesn’t mean anything but the Wildcats have a league, National and Autumn Cup treble very much within their power. Do not write them off yet.
Lowlight of the night: How flat the game was. Dead rubbers are not fun.
Highlight of the night: Aside from the Swindon fans chanting for Dan Weller-Evans, Josh Smith’s second goal was really nice.
NIHL 1 South
Basingstoke Bison 6-4 Bracknell Bees
Karpov Bakrlik x2 (1pp)
Connolly x2 (1pp) J. Ealey-Newman
Smith pp C. Thompson
Working for the reward:
Recent history saw the Basingstoke Bison and the Bracknell Bees at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of results and expectation. The loss to history of the EPIHL has, arguably, seen Bracknell benefit more than some as the Bees were suddenly more competitive than they were before. This is a good thing for the Basingstoke Bison and this game shows that. In the EPL days, our nearest rivals rarely challenged us. They’re back to a bit of prominence now and that’s a good thing for both clubs. The atmosphere in this game was one befitting a local derby that these games between the two sides have lacked for a few years. Whilst the Bison made something of a meal of this encounter, I hope we can have a similar Christmas time fixture next year with the Bees that engenders such emotions again.
The Bison were good value for the win on the basis of the 60 minutes but the first ten minutes of the second period will have given Doug Sheppard some pause for thought. The Bison uncharacteristically switched off and defensive errors that have been few and far between crept into their game. The Bees second goal was an example of this as Stuart Mogg and Joe Baird, two players who have had excellent seasons on the blueline, seemed to have a combined wobble that left Dean Skinns all at sea and allowed Josh Ealey-Newman a simple tap in. The game overall was not one that Dean Skinns will be happy with as he will arguably want all of the goals back (4 goals on 17 shots makes for terrible reading) but the sizeable wobble by those in front of him meant that a side who were cruising at 2-0 were suddenly 3-2 down and then at 4-4 when they appeared to be moments away from putting the visitors away.
However the Bison also deserve credit for their response to their mistakes. Doug Sheppard isn’t a coach that shouts and rants but seems to give them all a look and they realise that they need to do something about the hole they dug themselves into. They did it away at Streatham and they managed it on this night.
Having already scored one very good goal, Aaron Connolly led from the front and his second was off of another superb move from the captain. Muscling his way into the centre of the ice, he managed to hold off two or three Bees players before sliding the puck through the 5 hole of Alex Mettam to give the Bison back the lead.
The other player who responded well was Roman Malinik. Directly off of the faceoff from Bakrlik’s goal that gave the Bees the lead, the Czech forward charged down the ice, drew the penalty and then quarterbacked the powerplay that allowed the Bison to draw level through Josh Smith before setting Connolly away for his goal.
The combination of Smith, Vanya Antonov and Tomas Karpov caused problems all night and helped put the game to bed on the powerplay where Dan Scott scored and then combined to put the game to bed on Antonov’s goal. Karpov’s late misconduct penalty caused some confusion, appearing to get it for directing Scott Spearing to the scoreboard after the Bees’ player/coach had crosschecked the Bison import in the aftermath of the goal.
Elsewhere, the good form of Ryan Sutton continued and Hallam Wilson always seems to look that one step away from really lighting up the scoreboard. Whilst the defence did have its wobble, Dan Scott’s shot for what turned out to be the game winner was a lovely strike.
Teams having wobbles in games happens but the Herd need to be vigilant because they see the sort of hole they can end up in if they do switch off. Where they are fortunate is that they have the talent within the roster to pull themselves out of that hole.
The Herd have hit Christmas and are top of the league table and in the semi-finals of one of the cup competitions. Whilst the season has had some up and down elements, the Bison are clearly not looking to fade away as 2018 approaches.
A word on our opponents:
On reflection, the Bracknell Bees made more of a game of this then I think I’d given them credit for in the moment. You don’t score four goals by magic and Scott Spearing deserves credit for getting this team to play for him and play a style, that whilst it has an edge to it, is certainly direct. Yes, the Bees major offensive strategy appeared to be “give the puck to Frankie Bakrlik and wait for him to do something amazing”, there’s something to be said for the supporting cast as well.
Without Shaun Thompson in the line up others needed to step up. Carl Thompson, Tom Avery, Callum Best and Josh Martin put themselves about with ferocity and intensity. People made things happen. The Bison made mistakes and the Bees capitalised on them. When the puck was in the air near the net and the Bison defence were flat footed, Carl Thompson wasn’t.
I think the issue for the Bees was that where they were solid, they needed someone alongside Bakrlik. He scored twice, two good goals but without Shaun Thompson and Alex Barker uncharacteristically quiet there was that extra inch that the Bees needed in the death that they just didn’t have. I wonder if in this new structure if the Bees aren’t one or two players away from a title winning side. Whether they manage to add those players before the deadline and make a rush to the title or the playoffs remains to be seen but for all the jokes we make about Scott Spearing the player, Scott Spearing the coach appears to have a bit of nous for how to coach at this level.
Lowlight of the night: Bees 2nd goal, avoidable on all levels
Highlight of the night: Connolly’s first goal was pretty, really pretty
NIHL 1 South
Basingstoke Bison 1-0 Milton Keynes Thunder after overtime
NIHL South 1
Basingstoke Bison 0-2 Streatham IHC “Redhawks”
What a dud:
This is a game of two very different stories but we’ll start with the Bison half of it first. Losing an unbeaten league record, shutout at home against a team they’d beaten twice, 49 shots and a teddy bear toss where everyone just threw the bears on at the end; there is no other way to paint this than what it is which is a poor result for the Bison.
Any talk of league records and the like is great when putting the result in context but on its own this 60 minutes of hockey was poor from the Herd. There was minimal cohesion, minimal directness which suffered even more after injury forced Roman Malinik out of the game and a distinct lack of ideas when they went behind.
The two goals were avoidable as Alex Sampford was given far too much space in an uncharacteristic lapse by Kurt Reynolds and Joe Baird. Sampford needed two goes but nobody could get back in time to assist Dean Skinns but Skinns allowing a blueline shot through the five hole was another soft goal given up by the Bison’s backstop. Whether the net was off the moorings or not (and Skinns certainly demonstrated as such to Mr Matthews), you’d expect a netminder like Skinns to stop those kind of shots.
It was a perfect storm in some ways for the Bison as they got solved on the night, lost a key player to injury, panicked a bit and then ran out of time. They had kept their powder dry for a long time and had stepped up their intensity against the NIHL Classic sides after the scare away at Streatham but trying hard didn’t cut it against a game plan that seems to undo the Bison time and time again.
However it’s easy to throw all our toys out of the pram over one result. Sometimes you just need to take these results on the chin; good teams lose hockey games. Nancy Carpenter of 482 Days was in attendance and said to me that she felt that the Redhawks outfought the Bison. On reflection my response is close but not quite as I don’t think you can fault the effort of the Herd. They weren’t outfought but they were out-thought and the age old criticism of the Bison on this site comes out again; it was thinking and working hard but not smart. There was no adaptation to what they were facing.
Also for the first time in a while, the Bison struggled physically against a side. For having the last change we saw Vanya Antonov matched up against Adam Wood too many times. Antonov is a very skilled player but he can’t skate through someone of Wood’s size.
The one highlight of the evening was the play of Ryan Sutton. The former Bison junior was having a good game anyway before Malinik left the game but where earlier in the season I mentioned that Sutton hadn’t stepped up when we needed him to, he did massively last night and was the only choice for man of the match for me. He won faceoffs in key situations, he had good shots, he tried to make stuff happen. Hopefully he pushes on because if Malinik is out for any period of time then the chance is there for Sutton to get some serious ice time.
A word on our opponents:
I think if we’re honest, Jeremy Cornish is arguably turning out to be a better coach than he was a player. Ever since his days on the Isle of Wight Cornish has always been able to make the best of his budgets and gets his teams to skate through walls for him but his best attribute is the fact that he learns. This was Streatham’s third game against the Bison. First game; soundly beaten. Second game; threw it away. Third game; found a game plan that worked, frustrated the Bison, got the points and shut them out.
Matt Colclough rightly got the beers after a 49 shot shutout though he was helped by the Bison lurching from being too cute on the puck to toothless at times as well as outright fortunate when Dan Scott’s shot rebounded off of the post and under him. However none of that takes away from the fact that once Colclough got his eye in, he was in imperious form and the Bison never looked like scoring past him.
This was a good team performance from the Redhawks and all they really did was play a straightforward road game. They cut off the passing lanes, outmuscled the Bison and when their opponents didn’t adapt they sat back and weathered the storm. Alex Sampford and Adam Wood took their goals well and the game saw good performances from Ryan Webb, Jacob Ranson and Jamie Hayes. The only mystery for the visitors would have been Adam Carr who got thrown out of so many faceoffs that he must be wondering what he said to Mr Lalonde to get such treatment.
This day was always coming for the Bison where they would lose to an NIHL Classic side and in a way whilst I’m pleased it was Streatham because I have a respect for the organisation, the reason they won was they were the better side.
Lowlight of the night: Managing to get shutout at home on a Teddy Bear Toss night is pretty rubbish.
Highlight of the night: Sutton but also a rare vocal outburst on the bench from Stuart Mogg; never knew he had it in him.
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.