Running with the Herd – Bison vs Streatham IHC “Redhawks” 14/10/2017

NIHL South 1

Basingstoke Bison 5-2 Streatham IHC “Redhawks”

Antonov                          Paynter sh

Jackson pp                     Allen ps

Karpov

Malinik sh

Connolly pp

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Building the Herd – Roman Malinik

#?? Roman Malinik

Position: Forward

Born: Ostrava, České Slezsko, Czechia

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 12th October

Roman Malinik is on his way to Basingstoke
(c) Katowicki Sport

So, the trigger was pulled by Doug Sheppard and the import switch has been made. It’s a Czech for Czech swap as Jaroslav Cesky is replaced by Roman Malinik.

27 year old Malinik comes to Hampshire after starting the 2017/18 season with Polonia Bytom in the Polish league where he’s been scoring at a point per game.

Malinik is a product of the Vitkovice junior system (Vitkovice is a part of Ostrava in the same way that Brighton Hill is a part of Basingstoke) and was quickly making waves. In 2005/06 Malinik was playing with the under 18s, made the odd appearance for the under 20s and played for the Czech under 16 side. The following season as an under 17 player he was regularly between the national championship winning under 18s, under 20s as well as making his senior debut in the Extraliga and playing 12 times for the Czech under 17 side.

It was these performances that saw Malinik catch the attention of scouts overseas and major junior hockey was on the horizon. He entered the CHL import draft in 2007 and was drafted 24th overall by Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the QMJHL (a certain Tomas Karpov was drafted 16th overall by Moose Jaw). Playing alongside future NHL players like David Savard and Gabriel Bourque and future Chelmsford Chieftain Julius Sinkovic, Malinik spent two seasons in Quebec with the Drakkar scoring 43 points in his 121 games. He also earned a call up to the Czech under 20s in his second season.

With the NHL and North American hockey not being the way forward for Malinik, he returned to the Czech Republic and Vitkovice’s under 20 side for 2009/10 where he put up 50 points in 48 games as well as making a brief loan appearance for 3rd division side, Frydek-Mistek.

From there, Malinik entered the same routine as many Czech players before him and was loaned to various lower division sides. In the Czech Republic, to play for a club outside of the one where you trained as a youngster requires a “loan fee” to be paid. This is what sees so many Czech talents end up with so many loans on their hockey CVs; clubs won’t pay for a full transfer and will instead loan players from clubs in higher divisions which is a lower cost way of getting players in. The parent club also has immediate injury cover if needed. The system is also why so many players come abroad.

Malinik made some more appearances for Vitkovice’s under 20 side as well as with Frydek-Mistek but spent the better part of 2010 till 2013 in the Czech 1. Liga (their 2nd tier) with Dukla Jihlava scoring 34 points in 118 games.

After that he spent the next two seasons with Havlickuv Brod where his scoring numbers were far more impressive. Malinik scored 58 points in 94 games, being named captain in his second season. He also made a brief reappearance for Jihlava during this time.

2015/16 was Malinik’s last season in his homeland. Playing the majority of the campaign with AZ Havirov, Malinik scored a respectable 24 points in 50 games but also finally ended up back in the Vitkovice side playing 2 regular season games and 4 games in the relegation round.

Malinik decided to spread his wings and wanted to head abroad. His first stop abroad could have gone better as he agreed to join up with the Manchester Phoenix. Continually short benched and playing out of the infinitely too small rink at Blackpool, Malinik managed to still put up decent numbers with 17 goals and 30 points in 28 games. Malinik, along with all the Phoenix’s imports were released before the New Year and the Phoenix’s inevitable demise and he made his way to Poland and Polonia Bytom with whom he claimed a bronze medal at the end of the season.

Malinik started this campaign with Bytom scoring 4 goals and 4 assists in 8 games before electing to come to Basingstoke.

How would you describe yourself as a hockey player?

I’m a power forward – I like to play a high energy game but score goals too.

Interview with Nicholas Bevan (@NW2Hatter) for Manchester Phoenix match programme, October 2016

The Bison’s big struggle so far this season has been attacking production and direction going forward at times. Malinik, whom Sheppard remembers as a hard working player does have a history of being able to put points on the board.

For those of us who remember that Manchester Phoenix side before the fire went out, they were not good. The majority if not nearly all the offence went through the imports which might be why Malinik got as many points as he did. However it’s also dependant on him and his linemates being able to generate that offence. To score 30 points in any period of time with that Phoenix side is no mean achievement.

Malinik is a bigger body than Cesky and I expect him to go straight onto that line with Aaron Connolly and Josh Smith that did so well last weekend to give that line a more physical edge. Malinik also adds a different dimension to the second powerplay unit and I wonder if we see him take Cesky’s place on the left side half boards or whether he floats up to the point more for the big shot.

Malinik describing himself as a power forward could be the answer that the Bison’s attack has been looking for. The style that Doug Sheppard likes to play with the Bison has always been better with that player not afraid to drive the net. Joe Greener, Joe Rand, Derek Roehl (to a point) have all been in that import mould of people who go to the net and get in the face of the netminder. With Connolly doing it from one wing and now potentially Malinik driving from the other side, that’s a good option for the Herd as a contrast to the Karpov and Antonov combination of using their skills to remove the netminder from their shorts.

Either way, we’re certainly in for a change in the way the Bison attack. With Karpov and Antonov having seemingly found their scoring boots last weekend, the addition of a proven point scorer to the line-up can hopefully spark some more dynamic play from the Herd. We live in hope.

Welcome to Hampshire, Roman.

Thanks to Tomas Karpov for an explanation of the Czech loan system.


Goodnight and Good Luck – Jaroslav Cesky

With changes already afoot with the Bison, coach Doug Sheppard appears to have pulled the trigger on further roster moves with the release of Jaroslav Cesky.

Over and out; Jaroslav Cesky has brrn released by the Bison.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

What have we lost?

Whilst the initial prediction from this site was that Cesky would be used as a third line veteran mentor role, he was instead used as a second line, second powerplay unit focus for the offence. The big question was could he still go and the answer, I think, for the most part was yes.

Cesky was arguably the Herd’s best player through the first few weeks of the season until the Herd suffered from their real offensive output issues. He wasn’t the fastest but he seemed to arguably be the sharpest. In the same way that people wondered about the signing of Rene Jarolin when he first came in, Cesky looked better than people expected. He was setting things up, he was scoring, he looked good.

Where has he gone?

At the moment, nowhere; it’s a straight goodbye and thanks for everything to end Cesky’s second stint. A personal feeling is that he joins up with his former coach Jeremy Cornish at Streatham but that’s pure speculation on my part.

Who replaces him?

The release says that Doug Sheppard is in the process of finalising another deal. Rumours abound as to whom but we’ll just wait until the word comes through.

Final thoughts:

Let’s get this clear right off the bat; Jaroslav Cesky hasn’t done anything wrong. I maintain that Cesky has actually played well. He’s exceeded my expectations as to what we were going to get out of the 39 year old. If we’re looking at a top 5 Bison players so far this season, I think Cesky is in that discussion.

The issue is that the Bison needed to make a change to generate more offence. Doug Sheppard wants to make the change to get more offence and with there being a wider market of available imports than free scoring British wingers at the moment and with Tomas Karpov and Vanya Antonov finding their feet together, it sadly meant that there was only one player who was going to have to make way and that’s Cesky.

2 goals and 2 assists in 9 competitive games would be an easy target to point to but that doesn’t take into context how the Bison have played and how he has been used. Of course Vanya Antonov has more goals than one of our imports when Antonov is out there with Karpov and they appear to be able to score for fun. However Sheppard thinks he can make a change to get more scoring and if we’ve learned anything from Sheppard’s years in charge of the organisation, he is not scared to make the upgrade if he can see it.

With the Bison having (sort of) swapped Dan Lackey for Sam Brooks and still being without Dan Davies due to reasons unknown, Sheppard hopefully gets the contract signed on Cesky’s replacement sooner rather than later or the Bison face being even more unsettled just a time when they’re starting to get their feet back under themselves and really need to be settled. There’s always been a plan. Whether Sheppard has earned the benefit of the doubt from you, dear reader, to be given the time to make this change to make the Bison better is your own decision.

Thanks for everything, Jaro; see you around.


Running with the Herd – Bison vs London Raiders 07/10/2017

NIHL 1 South

Basingstoke Bison 7-1 London Raiders

Jackson x2 (1pp)          Nahlik dpg

Antonov x2 (1pp)

Karpov pp

Connolly x2

It’s a start:

After an improved performance in Sheffield last Sunday, this game was the perfect tonic for Bison fans who were disappointed with last weekend’s cup outing against the Bees. It’s too soon to be celebrating too much but this was exactly the sort of game that the Bison needed.

The Herd were without Stuart Mogg in addition to Dan Davies for this one but the Bison were able to roll 4 defencemen and were rarely troubled. We talked last week about the Bison lacking that bit of swagger because of a lack of confidence and, with all respect to the Raiders, this was a game to get that and it showed quickly.

The Bison realised that they could and would hold the Raiders at bay and started to press down on their opponents, a task made all the easier by some uncharacteristically effective powerplay work as they converted 3 of 4 powerplay chances in the first period.

Once the first period ended, the Bison swapped into snuffing out the game and getting out with minimal injuries and fuss, the score only reaching 7 because of the injury to Euan King seeing Raiders captain Tom Davis’ forced into going in goal and one of them was essentially an own goal. Whilst we know that’s how the Bison play, part of me feels that given such recent inconsistency I would have preferred if the Herd had tried running up the score a bit; allow players a chance to get a feel for scoring again and get more confidence heading into a tricky away game at Invicta today but once Euan King could no longer continue, that was never going to happen and that’s understandable.

Aaron Connolly took the man of the match beers for the Herd and this game saw the captain look more like Aaron Connolly again. Back to his vocal best his first goal, a particularly nice shot that went “bar dizzle” off of a lay off from Jaroslav Cesky, was just reward for a line that looked to be finding its feet but did work. Josh Smith, rewarded for his recent excellent performances with a move to the second line, was used to clear the way and that allowed Cesky and Connolly to do some damage.

Meanwhile I’d like to sit down and see what the Raiders fans thought about the continued combination of Tomas Karpov and Vanya Antonov. When at full flight and whoever their linemate, this combination must be terrifying for defences when coming at them. Karpov’s powerplay goal in particular was an example of a team that sat back too far not just being taken advantage of but made to look a bit foolish as Antonov passed around the defence then Karpov drew King out of his crease and down before firing home. It was a pretty goal and some pretty play. The other thing that came out of the first period’s vast number of powerplays was that Antonov/Karpov duo worked well with Ashley Jackson and I wonder if we see more of it.

Dean Skinns will want the one Raiders goal back but otherwise it was an assured and comfortable evening for the defence. Hopefully Mogg is not out for long as it won’t be ideal for the Bison to be running four defencemen for a lengthy period but this was an evening for them to continue their impressive performances. If nothing else, we also learned that Dan Scott will literally dance to anything. The end of season disco is going to be a riot.

A word on our opponents:

From a simple hockey perspective, the London Raiders didn’t play well enough to win this game. 12 shots across 60 minutes sees a performance from the Raiders similar to that of Invicta during their visit to Hampshire earlier in the season. London came in, made a few early pokes at the Bison to see if they could get through but then decided that they would need to sit back and break on the counter. That’s a reasonable strategy but they sat back so far at times that they were practically in the bar. They tried a bit of physicality, that didn’t work so they did their best to maintain their shape and stick to their systems. They certainly gave a good account of themselves.

Sadly the game was over as a contest by the end of the first period thanks to a raft of silly penalties that the Raiders took. When you’re making the Bison’s powerplay look effective, something’s wrong.

The Raiders were then dealt the massive blow when Euan King was forced out of the game with what the club announced as an MCL sprain following a hospital visit. The Raiders do have a backup in Zachary Grandy-Smith who didn’t travel for unknown reasons.

As captain of the Raiders, Tom Davis stepped up to the task of replacing King in net for the final part of the game. Whilst I don’t think Davis’ future hockey career lies between the pipes, that’s what a captain does; with his team’s back against the wall he stepped up, chucked on King’s gear and did what he could. His attempt at a windmill glove save was great to see if nothing else and he was unfortunate to concede one goal after Olegs Laschenko managed to deflect it off of him and over the line. He rightly got the beers for doing what he could.

Nobody really had a standout game for the Raiders but there was lots of hustle from them. Brandon Ayliffe and Tom Beesley as a forechecking pair looked very useful and Andy Munroe is still managing to put himself about. However both Nahlik and Huska were kept quiet as were the Raiders’ top end Brits and that was that in terms of them catching the Bison. They’ll chalk this up as a bad day at the office, try to figure out what they do for a netminder and go again.

Lowlight of the night: King’s injury; it’s never nice to see anyone go down injured let alone a goalie.

Highlight of the night: Karpov’s powerplay goal was a prime example of what this Bison team can do when they have a tiny bit of confidence and a bit of space.


The BOTW Podcast – episode 60

A day late but worth it for the guest alone we think.

Anthony chats to British hockey legend and Whitley Warriors player/coach David Longstaff about the Warriors, his career, his biggest hockey regret and his football playing sons.

We also round up the results and talk about the new NIHL player of the month awards.

Remember to subscribe to The BOTW Podcast on iTunes HERE (go on, leave us 5 stars) and make sure you let us know what you like on Twitter or the BOTW Facebook page once you’ve listened.

The BOTW Podcast in association with Victory Hockey UK; the news, action and views from the NIHL and all levels above, below and in between.


Building the Herd – Sam Brooks

(c) 5 Hole Photography

#?? Samuel Brooks

Position: Forward

Born: Basingstoke, Hampshire

Announced as signed: Two-way contract with Buffalo confirmed Bison website, 3rd October

The second of the Bison’s two part announcement was the news that the Bison had formalised Sam Brooks’ involvement with the club. Having guested in games since the start of the season, the Bison under 18’s alternate captain has been moved onto a formal two-way contract with the Bison and Buffalo following some impressive early season performances which included his first Bison point on Tomas Karpov’s goal in Bracknell in September.

Brooks started his junior hockey career in Guildford eventually making his way to the under 16 Firestars where he spent parts of 3 seasons. The Guildford youth system, known for its quality and depth was a good place for Brooks who whilst not a massive point scorer in junior hockey made an impression in an impressive Firestars team. Brooks scored 13 points in 32 games and was part of the league winning side of 2014/15 alongside now Bison under 18s captain Cameron Buckle and Invicta Dynamos defenceman George Hoang.

In the summer of 2015, Brooks decided to continue his junior development in Basingstoke with the Bison and was immediately in the thick of things with both the under 18s and under 20s. 21 points in 18 games with the under 18s and 11 points in 13 games with the under 20s was a good foundation for the inevitable transition to senior hockey that would no doubt follow.

It came last season as Brooks appeared in 6 games for the Buffalo in NIHL 2 South where he registered 2 goals and 2 penalty minutes. Brooks also had productive seasons at under 18 and under 20 level, going over a point per game in both (26 points in 18 games for the under 18s, 17 points in 13 under 20 games) combined with 1 goal in the u18’s short playoff run.

Named an alternate captain for the under 18 Bison this season and with ice time for the Buffalo also pretty much a certainty, it seemed that Brooks was set for the season. However with Doug Sheppard wanting to get a look at players in pre-season and then the injury to Dan Davies, Coach Sheppard took a chance on Brooks who has now formally played himself onto the Bison roster. Along with his appearances for the Herd, he has 4 points in 3 games for the Buffalo at the time of writing.

Amongst all the head scratching with the removal of Dan Lackey from the Bison roster, the team’s physical edge or lack thereof and any perceived problems with consistency, this is a fantastic chance with a talented young player.

In some ways Sam Brooks has been in a “no lose situation” since he has been added to the roster. If he hadn’t been what Doug Sheppard wanted then he at least got the experience of training the bit of game time that he got. However he’s played well, raw at this level but well and well enough to earn a place on the roster for the remainder of the season.

At 17 years old, the key thing for Brooks is to go out and do what’s asked of him. He clearly has an eye for the pass and an eye for goal as well as not being scared to play alongside the Bison’s top end players when asked. The fans will hopefully show Brooks some patience as he learns and develops rather than demanding too much of him too soon. Generally Bison fans have been very good at supporting young players who find themselves in this position in recent years whether it be Wynn, Ingoldsby, Petts, Goddard or anyone else.

The Herd fans are generally good at getting behind the younger players and want them to do well. Doug Sheppard will not be as forgiving and if Brooks doesn’t perform to the standard required then he’ll spend more time in NIHL 2 and juniors until he is ready. Sam Brooks has a chance to start making a real mark in senior hockey. We naturally wish him all the best.


Goodnight and Good Luck – Dan Lackey

The Bison’s inconsistent start has led to some changes being made. There’s one in, one out and we’ll deal with the departure first as Dan Lackey steps aside.

What have we lost?

Lackey was a depth forward for the Bison and I don’t think anyone would argue that, even Lackey himself. He’s the sort of player who, for the Bison was asked to go into the trenches and the dirty areas and be that physical player. He was asked to go into the corners and be the checking forward or clear the way. He wasn’t, at least for this writer, there to put up lots of points.

The Bison lose a bit of physicality from the line-up as there is arguably now few players prepared to go and play the body as well as throw the hands if required.

Where has he gone?

Lackey has moved to the Buffalo in NIHL 2 as part of the roster moves.

Who replaces him?

I suppose technically Sam Brook (who we’ll cover tomorrow) in the sense the club covered them both in the same press release but given the skill set of both players, it’s not much of a like for like swap is it?

Final thoughts:

I have to confess to being slightly confused with this roster move unless one specific thing is happening.

I didn’t think that Lackey had played particularly badly so far. There have been issues with the forwards producing offence but again, what is Lackey being asked to do? Score? He was doing all the things above that he was being asked to do, wasn’t he? That’s what makes this move somewhat unusual.

I feel bad for Lackey as a result; a player who can play forward or defence was asked to do a roll and when the top end guys are struggling to produce the numbers, the Bison release one of their role players instead and release him, if you believe the press release as gospel, for a 17 year old who is also added on a two way.

The thing is that we don’t necessarily believe that Sam Brooks is Lackey’s actual replacement. We’ll look at the potential of Brooks in another piece because the departure of Lackey means that the Chris Wiggins sized elephant in the room.

If the Bison have signed Chris Wiggins after his appearance at the end of the bench a couple of weeks ago then this move makes a bit more sense because it would be a move that would make sense. The Bison free up a roster spot to add physicality whilst giving a young, skill player a chance at the roster whilst also getting ice time with the Buffalo. That would make sense.

However that’s not what we’ve been given at the moment. Instead it’s a press release outside of the Herd’s usual announcement schedule and we’re all left scratching our heads a bit. Ultimately I don’t think that Dan Lackey did that much of anything wrong, it is just a move that Doug Sheppard thought he needed to make and he’s made it.

Thanks for everything, Dan and all the best.