On the final weekend of November the Paul Baldwin Agencies Bison welcomed the Hull Pirates to the Arena still with their home winning run in tact. It was debut night for Rene Jarolin who joined from rivals MK Lightning during the week, replacing Joe Rand who had stepped down following the previous weekend’s game. Two way players Ryan Sutton and Jacob Ranson iced for the Bison while Alex Symonds was still a scratch.
Matt Thompson led the officiating team and just after 6.30pm the first puck was dropped.
Bison won the opening face-off and straight away came the opening goal. Joe Greener found Ciaran Long who created all the space he needed and nonchalantly slotted home the first goal at 12 seconds. It was reminiscent of a move you’d see in an exhibition game as he dangled the puck before lifting it over the netminder.
By 2.20 it was 2-0 as Joe Greener scored the Bison second, again with a relative ease. Balmer and Baird worked the puck between each other before giving Joe Greener the puck to tip in from in front of the net and for a second time in the opening 140 seconds Bison proved if you go to the net good things happen.
Pirates came back hard at the Bison through Lee Bonner who fired at Tomas Hiadlovsky giving an easy save, then forced a more difficult save through traffic from the Bison shotstopper.
At 7.12 Hiadlovsky denied the Pirates a wrap around chance with a fine save but with the whistle blown the goaltender didn’t get up. Bison therapists and trainers rushed to aid the downed player who after a long time returned to his feet. Dan Weller-Evans was warming up on the bench, signalled by the training staff but after a while Hiadlovsky returned to his feet and indicated that he would carry on. As the backup left the ice and the starter returned to his crease to stretch out it became apparent he wouldn’t be continuing. With full weight back on himself his optimism turned to reality and he was helped from the ice by the support staff while Weller-Evans warmed up, composed himself and took to the net.
A couple of weeks ago DWE had got ice time at the end of the Bracknell Bees game. He played the final 16.28 which was his first home ice time. In that situation with the Bison swatting the Bees 8-1 and the game in the bag it’s totally different to the situation he found himself in now. At 2-0 with nearly 53 minutes left to play this game was far from won and pressure would be on the young shotstopper to perform to the highest standard.
Rene Jarolin continued making an impact on debut as he fed Joe Greener who set Ciaran Long to go but the puck found the side netting.
Bison were on the powerplay at 9.00 when Lee Bonner picked up a hooking minor but Bison failed to capitalise on the chance. Mogg’s low pace shot was tipped by Connolly but a save from Raitums saw the rebound just fall out of reach of anyone and eventually the puck was cleared.
15 seconds after the return to full strength it was Hull’s turn on the powerplay when Ciaran Long picked up a hooking penalty. The Pirates did find Luck on their side when Dominic Osman was credited with their opening goal at 11.42 which took a deflection to get past Dan Weller-Evans.
Two different saves followed as Martins Raitums sat on a Shaun Thompson effort before Jonathan Kirk saw a more conventional save from Dan Weller-Evans deflect his shot away and out of play.
Bison third goal came up at 15.17 when Balmer passed to Baird who set free Tomas Karpov. Karpov skated to the slot and fired home via the 5 hole.
Dan Weller-Evans showed he was growing in confidence, emulating his now injured colleague with a poke check of his own denying a Pirates move before then making a conventional save from Kirk and covering up.
Period one ended with the Pirates on the powerplay as Grant Rounding picked up a hooking penalty with 57 seconds to go but play with still with the Bison, dominating the shorthanded spell. Ciaran Long fed Vantroba who released a boomer on the buzzer which angered Dominic Osmon. The Pirates player/coach was having heated words with whoever would listen but common sense says you play until the buzzer so Vantroba was right to release the shot. Osmon was quickly moved away by the linesman and Matt Thompson ordered him off the ice.
At the start of the second period the remaining Hull powerplay time was tidied away nicely by the home team before a Ciaran Long shot hit the glove of Raitums and deflected away. Soon after Aaron Connolly managed to fend off three Pirates players to get to the net alone but his shot was saved by the cross bar as luck favoured the visitors.
Pressure continued by the Bison as Jarolin fired just wide and then Raitums came up with a good save from a Grant Rounding effort. The pressure then finally cracked the Pirates defences as Rene Jarolin scored his first Bison goal. Joe Greener held the puck long enough to drag away the inexperienced Pirates defence away from the danger area where Jarolin had gone and the fed the puck to the Slovak who tapped home his first goal for the Herd.
It wasn’t long before it was 5-1 as Jarolin doubled up his personal goal tally. Balmer fed Long, Long fed Jarolin who this time controlled the play, moving into the zone and letting his shot go which still entered the net despite a sizeable interruption from the goaltender’s pads. This forced Osman into taking the Pirates time out.
A couple of good saves from Weller-Evans followed before a penalty shot situation arose. With Jarolin in alone on net he was hooked by James Hutchinson at 36.15. He took the puck off wide before closing in and cutting across the net. Raitum’s pad got enough of the shot to deflect it onto the post and then wide so it stayed at 5-1.
Cameron Brownley got a breakaway chance but the Weller-Evans shoulder save denied that before a penalty to Joe Baird saw the final 35 seconds of the period end with a Pirates powerplay.
It was a high frenzy start to the third period as DWE was forced into a quick save by Lee Bonner before a save at the other end from Raitums left an easy rebound but Lack just got enough of it to send it agonisingly wide.
End to end play followed, helped by a Pirates powerplay, but at 46.23 Pirates got caught with too many men on the ice and off went one to serve the game’s first penalty that wasn’t hooking! At 47.39 Connolly converted the powerplay with help from Jarolin and Mogg. It had been a text book powerplay, crisp passing lead to the opportunity for Connolly to finish with 12.21 left to play.
Hull quickly came back at the other end with Pasi Salonen completing from Joshua Gent and Thomas Stubley. Salonen’s move would be the highlight of the night for the Pirates as he made his own space and sent the puck high over the glove hand and into the net.
Neither team could quite finish their chances for a spell of 4 or 5 minutes and the game stayed at 6-2 then at 56.09 Ryan Sutton took an interference penalty to put the Pirates back on a late powerplay.
Things didn’t get off to a good start as the first chance of this powerplay was a shorthanded chance from Aaron Connolly which Raitums made the save from. At the other end two sharp saves from Weller-Evans denied Osmon, first a kick save and then a full save from the rebound which he covered up to freeze play.
The powerplay ended at 57.51 as Samuel Towner took a tripping penalty meaning 18 seconds of 4 on 4 before a Bison powerplay. This final powerplay proved too much for the visitors to kill and Ryan Watt scored with a one timer from the slot after Karpov fed him the puck with 23 seconds to go.
With the final 23 seconds passing scoreless the Bison home rule continued thanks to a comprehensive 7-2 win. Positives to come from the game for the Bison were the debut performance of Rene Jarolin and the play of Dan Weller-Evans in the net.
As a backup netminder you don’t expect much ice time. Traditionally if you’re going to get a start you know in advance, otherwise you usually only get ice time late on in the game when the result is decided or if the starting goalie is having a shocker. Both of those you can see coming and your coach will usually give you the nudge and tell you to start getting warmed up. The other reason you’d get ice time is injury to the starter where you can’t predict that you’re going to take to the ice. That’s what happened for DWE in this game where he was called at a moment’s notice and went on to give a solid performance.
On paper and in the league table the Bison are much stronger than the Pirates. The Pirates are a start up club, a team full of players who could develop to EPL standard. The Bison are a team full of EPL standard players, one is contesting for the title, the other is struggling at the bottom end of the table.
The game went pretty much as it should have done for the Bison. A clinical performance saw them dismiss their opposition and take two points. The home rule continues into December.
Hull Pirates took the Bison to penalty shots on their last visit and the big difference was the goaltending. Jon Baston, the 21 year old Finnish goaltender looked a good netminder. He single handedly kept his team in that game that went to penalty shots. For whatever reason he was released and replaced by the 9 year older Latvian Martins Raitums. Raitums just didn’t look as good as his predecessor and finished with a save percentage of 81.08. Compare that to the 88.89% of Bison’s backup goaltender who came in cold in the 7th minute of the game. The Pirates import was outdone by the Bison Brit in the battle of goaltending.
Speaking of Dan Weller-Evans it’s hard to see how he didn’t scoop the man of the match award. Rene Jarolin picked up 2+3 on debut which was a good performance but I had my thoughts on the young netminder for the Beers after a good, confident performance. I wrote last year that I felt for him as his ice time opportunities were very limited. This year they’ve also been limited but he’s made the most of the opportunities he’s got and proved that in the event of Hiadlovsky not playing the goaltending isn’t the huge worry it could have been.
In a strange quirk of scheduling it’s another single game weekend for the Bison who now turn their attention to “Tartan for Tony” as the club retire the #20 jersey of Tony Redmond next Saturday when the Telford Tigers visit.