The Basingstoke Bison hosted the Milton Keynes Lightning at the Bison arena, the Lightning coming in buoyed of the back of an impressive midweek result and the Bison off the back of a 4 point weekend and with an unbeaten home streak to continue.
For The Bison Grant Rounding continues to recuperate from last season’s injury, Declan Balmer sits out following a 2015/16 injury and with all four imports fit and dressing Doug Sheppard stays on the bench.
Tim Pickett was the man charged with refereeing the game and at just after 6.30pm the puck dropped. Bison started Tomas Hiadlovsky in net while the Lightning gave the start to Jordan Marr.
Milton Keynes were in on Hiadlovsky early, forcing the Bison shotstopper into an early glove save. At the other end Bison soon built up pressure around Marr before he made his first save.
The visitors looked sharp and speedy in the first period, Marko Loumala sped down the ice releasing his wrist shot into the chest pad of Hiadlovksy who held on to make the save and deny a rebound chance while the defence caught up.
194 seconds into the game James Griffin scored the opening goal, dragging Hiadlovksy down and slotting past him for 0-1 at 3.42
Joe Greener was looking for the equaliser, driving to the net under pressure from Michael Farn, Greener’s drive ended by a Marr save and Farn’s participation in the game interrupted by a 2 minute slashing penalty.
Ryan Watt was close in on the powerplay and just couldn’t get a stick on a loose puck in the crease before Marr covered it up. Still on the powerplay Stuart Mogg was forcing his way to the net only to have the puck taken from him by a well timed and executed arcing swing of the stick by Lewis Chrstie, the puck then cleared away by the MK defence.
Midway through the 12th minute of the game Shaun Thompson made a solo run into the zone, releasing a wrist shot which was denied by another glove save. A minute later it was Aaron Connolly testing out the Lighting goaltender but again he was up to the task.
At 13.16 it was all level when Bison found the equaliser. The Lighting defence couldn’t break down the Bison attack and with Ciaran Long getting the puck to the net and being denied it was Stuart Mogg who lifted the unprotected puck from just outside the crease and over Marr into the back of the net for 1-1. It was the perfect end to a spell of pressure in the attacking zone.
The goal helper, Ciaran Long, was off to the penalty box at 15.23, adjudged a slashing minor and it was a strong penalty killing spell from the Bison and good netminding that saw the score remain level. A minute after the return to full strength Long was back off to serve a delay of the game penalty and sensing a chance to take advantage of a second quick powerplay the Lightning set about dominating the powerplay chance.
The visitors looked totally in control of the powerplay until the puck came to Joe Rand who sped down the ice on a shorthanded breakaway, gained his position and fired the puck high into the net over Marr for 2-1 at 19.27. It was a fast play which was almost mesmerising by the way Rand made something so fast look like it was happening in slow motion!
The powerplay continued until the buzzer but after Joe Rand’s goal the previously dominant Lightning were unable to mount the same challenge and the opening period ended 2-1.
First period shots on goal had been level at 10 each but the Lightning had looked the better of the two teams. Joe Rand’s shorthanded goal with 33 seconds left in period 1 had blown the game wide open.
Period 2 would turn out to be one the best periods on show so far this season. Two teams, competing at full intensity and while it wouldn’t yield any goals it did provide 20 very entertaining minutes of hockey.
Lewis Hook would get the first real chance of the second period but then two quick Bison chances followed as Joe Grenner travelled virtually coast to coast but shot just wide followed by a Ciaran Long chance invoking a Jordan Marr save.
At 23.40 Alex Symonds laid off the biggest hit of the game, levelling Jack Watkins by the Zamboni gate. If there was a video that showed how to hit in the corners that play would definitely be in it!
As the Lightning looked for their equaliser Stuart Mogg broke up an attacking run and cleared away the puck in the 26th minute, and midway through the 27th minute Jordan Cownie got through to the net only to see Hiadlovsky glove flash end his hopes.
At 28.35 it was almost 3-1 but Jordan Marr denied Ciaran Long. The Bison forward was fed the puck and took his time to steady the puck, and after a couple of strides to gain full control sent off his shot.
At 34.05 Lightning were back on the powerplay when Alan Lack went off for a tripping penalty, the Lightning player almost hooking himself off the ice with his stick, skating on one leg.
As pressure starting to build around the net the whistle blew with Hiadlovsky making the save and after some pushing and shoving from the Lightning the officials stepped in when it was clear there was no intention of going further.
At 34.56 Joe Baird received a slashing penalty giving the Lightning a 5 on 3 opportunity. It took the referee to call the teams back to play as it appeared an unofficial time out was called! At the next stop in play, 35.37, Peter Russell did take the Lightning time out.
Two great saves followed in the 37th minute as Hiadlovsky first saved a close in attempt and rebound and then made a blinding pad save at 36.41.
Lightning still kept coming and with just a second left in the middle period a blocker save from Hiadlovsky high up kept the game 2-1 in favour of the home team after a fiercely competitive and intense period of hockey.
Back for the third period and the Bison made a promising start when Aaron Connolly rushed the net at 41.33 but was again denied by Marr.
The period was another full of good hockey, it saw good chances at both ends, Bison working hard to edge the possession and creating some good chances.
At 53.26 Kurt Reynolds added the Bison third, finishing from Shaun Thompson and Tomas Karpov. The trio gained the zone, and got the puck back to Reynolds who’s shot initially looked saved but somehow found its way into the net for 3-1.
At 55.04 Alan Lack showed his physicality as Lightning pressure built up around his goaltender, the whistle blew following the save and Lack stepped into clear the area of waiting Lightning players. 32 seconds later it would be David Clemments who would pick up a penalty, finding out that blatant slashing in front of the referee will always get penalised and Milton Keynes, down by 2, had to kill a penalty.
With time ticking away Peter Russell pulled Jordan Marr for the final 1.25 of the game but despite the extra skater the Lighting couldn’t score either of the two goals they needed to force overtime.
Joe Greener nearly made it 4-1 but a fraction of a defender’s stick just deflected the puck wide of the net and the time ticked down to sealing another win on home ice for the Bison and setting up a top of the table clash against joint leaders Peterborough Phantoms.