After a three game weekend and a midweek road trip too it was just the two games for the Paul Baldwin Agencies Basingstoke Bison this weekend, starting on home ice against the Sheffield Steeldogs.
On their last visit mid January the Steeldogs took the points in a physical game but since then the Bison had been to ice Sheffield and returned with a comfortable win. Bison took to the ice missing Grant Rounding, Alex Symonds, Ryan Watt and Alan Lack and it would be Jon Baston who would miss out as Tomas Hiadlovsky got the start in the Bison net.
It was a bright and energetic start from the Bison as they moved the puck well and worked the Steeldogs hard. The breakthrough came early when Tomas Karpov started the scoring at 5.14. With Sedlar initially beaten the puck snuck past the net and with no clearance from the Steeldogs the opportunity was there for Karpov to beat Dalibor Sedlar at 5.14
Happiness soon turned to sadness for the Bison as Joe Greener was ejected at 5.29 with a match penalty for high sticks. It was an unlucky call as the Steeldogs player had been bending at the time but the rule is one that leaves no room for interpretation so it would have to be an early shower for the Bison power forward. His penalty would later be downgraded to 5+game as the injured player returned.
It was a 5 minute powerplay for the Steeldogs and a chance to start their game but Tomas Karpov snatched the puck and sped towards the Steeldogs net shorthanded, however a poke check just outside the blue line ended that attempt in the 7th minute. With the man advantage continuing Stanislav Lascek let lose a booming shot that saw Tomas Hiadlovsky tested for the first time but he’d be up to the challenge and his save saw the puck deflect up and out of play.
With Joe Greener’s penalty killed off Bison would soon be causing offensive problems for the Steeldogs as Karpov attempted a solo run but with the hard work done he would see his shot just pass on the outside of the post. Bison would continue to pepper the visitors zone and it at 12.49 Rene Jarolin sent off a shot so powerful it took Sedlar off his feet, seeing the goaltender fall backwards into his net and forcing play to stop while he regained his composure.
While the Bison spent a great deal of time in and around their attacking zone they would perhaps rue the fact that the time spent in the zone didn’t translate to an equal percentage of shots while at the other end the Steeldogs did get the shots on goal but the majority were “safer” shots from distance allowing Hiadlovsky more time to make the saves.
A period of Bison pressured ended with Haywood icing the puck to get his team the breather and a line change but still the Bison couldn’t quite convert the scoring chances into shots. At 15.31 Ciaran Long did get a shot after a long solo run but his wrist shot ended safely in the goaltender’s glove.
With 3.36 left in the opening period an open ice collision between Craig Elliot and Declan Balmer saw the Bison man taken down in the neutral zone. It took some time for Balmer to regain his feet and while he did the officials discussed and decided on the correct call to make. Craig Elliot was escorted to the penalty box to serve an elbows minor.
Bison failed to capitalise on the powerplay despite a couple of chances and on the return to full strength Hiadlovsly pulled off a big save from a close in shot and that was enough to see out the first period.
The opening period had seen the Steeldogs take their time to get going and while the Bison had pressured hard the shot count favoured the visitors 5-9.
Period two saw Aaron Connolly, Rene Jarolin and Ciaran Long combine for an early chance but to no avail. Bison then built some pressure around Sedlar and Stuart Mogg got a chance to deflect home a shot but Sedlar made the save and the puck bounced free to the Steeldogs who went straight down the ice and tested Hiadlovksy.
Chances came at both ends as Jarolin and Long combined again, Long dragging the puck like it was on a piece of string before a high shot that Sedlar deflected into the corner. A lose net just into the 25th minute behind the visitors goaltender saw a period of Bison pressure brought to a close.
From the restart an 11 second period of play was all it took for Steve Duncombe to pick up a hooking penalty and put the home team back on the powerplay. As Tomas Hiadlovsky had come out to pick up a clearance and was playing the puck behind his own net but was taken down by Tom Squires who earned an interference penalty. This allowed Bison a 25 second 5 on 3 but when Duncombe returned to the ice the Steeldogs regained an element of control. Bison had looked good on the first powerplay, and the short double man advantage but the second powerplay the visitors had killed off easily.
At 28.07 there was a powerplay in favour of the Steeldogs when Tomas Karpov took a hooking penalty and Sheffield were quick to try and establish pressure in the zone. They worked the puck well and eventually Stanislav Lascek, from behind the net, saw an opportunity to feed an unmarked Arnoldas Bosas in front but Bosas found his shot blocked in the heavy traffic and it failed to reach Hiadlovksy.
As Tomas Karpov returned to the ice Lubomir Korhorn advanced with speed but shot wide. At 32.01 Lascek celebrated after a neat move saw him execute an almost perfect wrap around but referee Matt Thompson cut short his celebrations when he explained the puck had stayed on the outside side of the goal line, Joe Baird clearing the puck from the goal mouth.
The second period was proving far closer than the first and in the 35th minute Ashley Calvert got his best chance of the game when the puck took a strange bounce from the boards, ending up perfectly placed for Calvert to shoot and putting the goaltender under pressure but Tomas Hiadlovsky reacted well and a sharp save was made.
At 35.10 Lewis Bell took a hooking call giving away yet another powerplay chance and this one would turn out to be costly. This time the Bison worked the puck well, gained total control of the zone and passed the puck round their formation. Miroslav Vantroba set up Shaun Thompson to let a blaster go and his shot sailed into the net at speed with Sedlar barely even moving before the puck had bulged the back of the net.
A sarcastic goal horn sounded for the Steeldogs but sarcasm was all that was on offer as it was a player and not the puck that ended up crashing into to net. That was quickly followed by a shot that hit Hiadlovsky on the visor.
Then play swung back to the other end of the ice and the line that had threatened to do damage all night long did so at 38.20. Kurt Reynolds found Rene Jarolin who quickly moved the puck on to Ciaran Long and the Bison forward set a ring sounding around the arena as the puck hit the metal work on its way into the net for 3-0 from the tightest of angles.
The remaining 1.40 played out scoreless and the Bison enjoyed a 2-0 second period to hold an enviable 3-0 lead going into the second interval.
The third period got underway and it would be the home team that started better. Just into the 43rd minute Ciaran Long broke free and advanced at speed but his backhand shot was just wide. Just about a minute later there was more action round the net when Tomas Karpov fed the puck out from the goal line to Ryan Sutton at the top of the crease forcing a save and then 20 seconds later the provider would turn shooter but this Karpov shot took Sedlar on the visor and stopped play.
In the 45th minute Stuart Mogg outmuscled his man and rushed behind the net, looking to feed the puck in front but the Steeldogs intercepted his pass. Soon after Ryan Sutton laid off a neat drop pass to Tomas Karpov who rounded the net and fed the puck to Miroslav Vantroba at the blue line but his one timer sailed past on the near post.
Sheffield began to come back into the period and started pressuring the Bison but it was still the home team who held the advantage. The large attendance at the Bison arena began to cheer when the net bulged but as Rene Jarolin had carried the puck in and fed it to Ciaran Long on the wing his shot had hit the side of the netting.
The 50th minute started with a Karpov back hand attempt denied by Sedlar before action swung to the other end. Play was up and down the ice then Lascek raced towards Hiadlovsky and shot just over the net but the Steeldogs pressured hard to retain control and Lubomir Korhon broke the shut-out with 10.00 left to play.
Buoyed on Lascek tried the same move again but this time his shot was straight into the goaltender’s chest and Hiadlovsky made an easy save the held on to the puck. At the other end Ciaran Long almost had 4-1 but with everyone beaten his shot stopped in the crease behind Sedlar but it was a Steeldogs stick that would contact with it next and clear away the chance.
With 7.44 left to play Bison picked up a too many men penalty with six skaters in the neutral zone referee Thompson had no choice but to make the call and this would offer Sheffield a powerplay and chance to reduce the game to a single goal difference.
The Steeldogs worked the powerplay well, moving the puck with relative ease and tested the Bison shot stopper but the home team saw of the penalty and play returned to 5 on 5 for a whole second before Korhorn took a holding penalty right in front of his own bench meaning the powerplay advantage would swing right around and the home team would be with the man advantage.
Bison failed to get the powerplay going this time around as the Steeldogs broke up the play and dumped the puck but it was back at full strength when Stuart Mogg looked for 4-1 when he sent in a backhand shot and then had 2 attempts at his own rebound. The selfless Karpov set up Dan Lackey close in but his attempt was saved and the Steeldogs called their time-out with 2.14 to play.
Dalibor Sedlar stayed in his net for the restart but had no chance but to do so as the face-off was in his zone to his right but as soon as the Steeldogs felt they had control he left his net with 1.58 to play. Bison’s first attempt to score in the empty net was nullified but at 58.33 Ciaran Long scored his second of the night, fed by Aaron Connolly and nobody could stop Long from finding the open target.
Lascek’s frustration at the empty net goal was evident as he was penalised with a 10 minute misconduct. There was still drama to come in the game when Towalski turned and fired in front with 20 seconds to play but then Callum Pattison, who I’d not seen on the ice before hand, picked up a cross checking penalty with just 10 seconds to play.
Bison put in a workmanlike performance to take the points and with other results going in their favour add some distance at the top of the table.
It wasn’t the smoothest of performances the Bison have put in this season but it was enough to get the points. The Steeldogs were slow to start but got better through the game, and made the last few minutes very tense.
When considering the game you have to consider long term absentees Symonds and Rounding were joined by shorter term injured bodies of Ryan Watt and Alan Lack. A Bison team at full strength would have put in a more clinical performance without doubt and the result could have been sewn up much earlier. In the first period Bison performed well, pressuring in and around the Steeldogs zone but converted few of their scoring chances into shots on goal.
Despite being outshot in the first period the opening 1-0 advantage was deserved by the home team. Steeldogs dug in deep in their own zone and while the Bison were good in their defensive zone and the neutral zone the combination of the Steeldogs and their own growing list of absentees denied them the chance to play their normal smooth slick game in the zone. Sedlar was slow to start as while he faced just 5 shots in the period, it was the 2nd one he faced which resulted in the opening goal.
The second period saw the Steeldogs fight back into the game but by now, after a slow start, the Bison were running through the gears. Fortunately their slow offensive start to the opening period had been paired with a good defensive start so no damage was done. In the second period the Bison were more reminiscent of the team that had got themselves to the top of the table and more chances came. Dalibor Sedlar played well and made some good saves but when goal two came the third wasn’t far behind and the Bison took the second interval with a comfortable cushion and momentum.
The third period saw a bright start again from the home team with chances coming but as the period progressed the Steeldogs came back into the game. Into the final 10 minutes there was a feeling that overtime could be needed to sort the result as while there was a 2 goal margin in place the Steeldogs refused to give up. Bison played plan B, they defended well first and foremost but were still alert enough to take their chances when they came.
Steeldogs eventually called a timeout with just over 2 minutes to go and just inside the final 2 minutes managed to get Dalibor Sedlar to the bench as they gained control of the puck but twice they’d turn it over, the second being costly as the loose puck went straight to the Bison and Ciaran Long was unhurried and with pin point accuracy in his finish.
I’d watched through the game but didn’t notice Callum Pattison take a shift until the end of the game, when the result was decided. I’ve long questioned his role in the EPL, last night did nothing to change that. His first shift didn’t last long before an agricultural cross check caught the eye of Matt Thompson and earned him a penalty. The EPL has advanced and I question whether there is a role anymore for a player lacking hockey skill? In years gone by the enforcer or goon was a genuine role but these days if you want to play the physical role you have to have another string to your bow. Evidence I’ve seen so far from Callum Pattison is yet to convince me he’s a hockey player who can also play physically.
Around the league Milton Keynes had a night off and Peterborough went down to Swindon meaning the Bison win added two more points to the cushion. From this point you’d say the league race is narrowing weekly and the points in the bag that the Bison have are earned and won. While others may have games in hand they are only of use if they’re won. The race isn’t won yet but Bison are in charge of their own destiny.