The Basingstoke Bison lined up for the final time pre-Christmas in the Basingstoke Arena starting a home and away weekend with the Bracknell Bees.
Dave Cloutman was the man in charge of the M3 derby with Justin Lalonde and Nathan Carmichael on the lines.
Basingstoke Bison 4 Bracknell Bees 2
After an end to end start the first scoring chance was squandered by Olegs Lascenko who’s shot was wild and too high at 1.02. There were words between Joe Rand and Mark Galazzi at 1.20 but the Bees were on the powerplay when the referee awarded a boarding penalty to Rand.
With the Bees looking to secure a lead on the man advantage Derek Roehl sped in shorthanded and carried the puck to the net, catching out Mettam but his pass to Aaron Connolly saw the Bees defenders back in time to help out their goaltender.
Martin Pavlicek tried to get a shot through traffic but it went wide. A failed clearance attempt saw the puck fed to Lukas Smital but he saw his close in effort ruined by a Tomas Hiadlovsky poke check at 2.56. With no further threats the powerplay ticked down and Joe Rand returned.
Joe Miller undressed David Gaborcik with his moves, picked the puck up on the other side and shot but Mettam made the save. Ciaran Long was next to test the Bees shotstopper who made the save, the rebound fell back to Long racing to the net, he rounded the pipes, came back out in front and tried again but the second time Mettam made a cleaner save and drew a whistle.
Scott Spearing tried his luck but found a Hiadlovsky save at the end of his shot. Rene Jarolin and former team mate Shaun Thompson battled for the puck in the front of the net, the Bees player coming away with it but stuffing it wide.
Suddenly the ice filled with bears as the Teddy Bear toss was invoked by Derek Roehl. He took the puck from the blue line, raced in and the puck climbed its way into the top of the net rocketing off the stick at 6.32
With the stewards collecting the bears the arena had plenty of time to celebrate the goal.
Lukas Smital tested Hiadlovsky but he flashed his glove and the puck disappeared only to re-appear appear for the linesmen. Joe Miller quickly, off the face off, was at the other end testing Mettam again. Mettam made the save but the Bees failed to clear the zone however their goaltender remained alert and saved the second chance too.
Against the run of play Bees levelled the score as they made their way through the defence and a shot from Gaborcik bouncing off Scott Spearing with the latter credited for the goal at 9.48.
Hiadlovsky denied an almost certain goal soon after as the game turned a bit scrappier. The smooth Bison play from earlier was disrupted by the Bees grinding .
A face off in the zone was drawn back to Ciaran Long who fired a shot through traffic but Mettam saw it all the way. Quick transition had the puck down by the Bison net where a scramble took place but Bison forced the Bees attempt wide. Grant Rounding quickly forced a turnover but couldn’t get his shot off. Ciaran Long was found by a Stuart Mogg pass but Mettam made another save.
Mettam couldn’t prevent the Bison taking a 2-1 lead with 1.15 left to play in the period when Kurt Reynolds scored. Tomas Karpov had two attempts and two saves were made, then he slid the puck to Kurt who was advancing in and scored from a tight angle.
The end of period buzzer brought to an end an ugly period of hockey. It had started well for the Bison but the Bees had quickly changed the flow of the period as they disrupted the flow of the Bison.
Rene Jarolin started the second period with an early shot at the Bees goaltender before Derek Roehl beat Mettam but was denied by the iron work. While Bison were having a good start to the period and with play in the corner James Galazzi came racing in and laid off a huge hit on his own player, Martin Pavlicek, crashing him into the boards!
Ciaran Long went back behind his own net to start a play he’d then race down to finish as he passed it out and then raced away to receive the pass back Mettam pulled off a huge save.
As Bees set away Gaborcik the play ended as he stood on the pass and ended that hope. Derek Roehl then rounded James Galazzi but couldn’t get the puck home.
As the 27th minute started Bison were off with a 3 on 1 as Rene Jarolin, Joe Miller and Tomas Karpov went in, Jarolin finding Karpov but the trio just got a bit too close and the Bees avoided falling further behind. At 27.46 Jarolin centred for Miller to deflect but the deflection went wide.
Just a minute later Rand and Rounding exchanged a 1-2 play but Rand’s finish slipped passed wide. Bison were enjoying almost unquestioned chances with Bees hanging all the pressure on their goaltender. Bees were trying to outplay the Bison but this just allowed the Bison regular opportunities to generate scoring chances and heaped the pressure on Alex Mettam.
Then Bees manage to get a chance of their own but as Hiadlovsky made the save Balmer and Spearing starting a shoving battle which ended rapidly when referee Cloutman had words!
Tomas Karpov then filled the arena with the unmistakable sound of puck on metal as he hit the very bottom of the post. A Joe Miller hit on Luka Basic brought about a turn over, Miller found Jarolin but his pass was just out of controllable reach.
At 32.59 Derek Roehl scored his second of the night. Rene Jarolin set him free and he skated in quickly and lifted the puck high in the net starting another memorable celebration.
Soon after Roehl was after a wrap around goal but a sprawl by Mettam took away the angles. Shaun Thompson tried a wrap around at the other end, lifting the puck but it was shouldered away by Hiadlovsky.
Bison put together three quick chances. Dan Davies laid the puck off for Derek Roehl but a glove save met his attempt. Miller then skated into the zone but put his shot wide then Roehl rounded Foord before centring for Dan Davies but the shot was mistimed providing an easy save.
Derek Roehl and Alex Mettam ended up tripping each other over but both were up and OK.
As the end of the second period loomed Bees enjoyed a bonus as Shaun Thompson scored their second goal. Thompson shot high on his former team mate after a Bison defensive lapse and the visitors headed to the interval down a single goal. They would also head in defending a penalty as with 14 seconds left Alex Mettam shoved Joe Miller into the goal with enough force to take it off it’s moorings earning himself a 2 minute roughing penalty.
Bison started the final period with 1.46 of the powerplay remaining. With the man advantage killed off Bees weren’t at full strength for long as Shaun Thompson picked up a 2+10 check to the head penalty. At 42.26 Thompson collided with Tomas Karpov in the defensive zone. The two players were both turning at the same time and Thompson turned into Karpov but the Bison man stayed down for some time before being helped off by players and the Bison medical staff.
Derek Roehl cut across the goal and quickly switched forehand to backhand but Mettam tracked it all the way into his glove. Ingoldsby, who had sat the two minutes of the penalty, returned while Thompson started the 10 minute portion.
Great team work and individual skill led to the Bison fourth goal. Reynolds found Long and Long found Davies with an excellent pass, Davies rushed to the net with the puck on the forehand before cutting across the top of the crease, quickly switching to back hand and finessing it through the open 5 hole at 45.12
Bison got good news doubly as the goal was scored as not only did they advance their lead but Tomas Karpov also returned to the bench.
The game turned chippy with the penalty box getting a lot more use than it did in the opening 40 minutes. Matt Foord offered Bison a powerplay as he took a tripping call at 46.12 but the advantage was short lived as Joe Miller got a holding the stick penalty 7 seconds from the re-start meaning 4 on 4. Penalties didn’t stop there as Matt Towalski took a cross checking penalty at 46.57 giving Bees a 4 on 3 advantage.
The visitors worked the puck into the zone at 4 on 3 but just lacked the finishing touch. The game headed to 3 on 3 at 47.45 when Alex Barker took a cross checking penalty as he levelled Kurt Reynolds.
Players starting returning, Foord first then Miller. At 4 on 4 Ciaran Long tried with a blast that rebounded back to Derek Roehl who’s shot was more confidently saved by Alex Mettam.
Towalski returned then Barker but it wasn’t even strength for long as Ciaran Long got a hooking penalty at 49.51. Luka Basis wound up for a big blast but the only netting in danger was that behind the goal above the glass as Hiadlovsky watched it sail harmlessly over.
Quick end to end play saw a shorthanded chance for Joe Miller who skated with ease round the Bees defence but couldn’t quite finish. Smital then danced round the Bison before coming up against Hiadlovsky who denied him.
Long returned leaving Bison just 1 player down but it was Joe Miller with the puck. Again he made a skilled move to the net evading everyone and shot but somehow, the reason unknown also to Alex Mettam, the puck failed to cross the red line. Mettam got himself behind the shot but the shot got him rather than him having the shot. He kept looking behind him in the net for the puck then moved gingerly away from the goal before the puck became visible again and a massive bit of luck had saved the Bees from going 5-3 down.
Five seconds after Joe Baird returned Declan Balmer was off for an interference minor. A powerplay attempt by Alex Barker hit Hiadlovsky in the face mask, he dropped quickly to cover the lose puck in front of him then the whistle blew.
Bees looked desperate to pull back a goal and scrambled in front of the net and Harvey Stead ended up on top of the Bison netminder. As play moved away Joe Baird laid a hit on Shaun Thompson and Lukas Smital raced into the play, earning himself a 2 minute cross checking play to go with Baird’s interference. With Balmer still sat out the 2 penalties were assessed as coincidental.
A second huge slice of luck favoured the Bees as Mettam lost out in a race to the puck with Joe Miller and while the goaltender was stranded Miller’s wrap around was denied by two Bees defenders covering the goal line.
With 3.07 left to play Hiadlovsky went down in front of his net, taken down by the trailing leg of Alex Barker who took a tripping penalty. Hiadlovksy was down for some time before returning to his feet and finishing the game.
With 47 seconds to play Lukas Smital called the Bees time out and play re-started with Mettam on the bench. Hiadlovsky went for the open net but he was wide. Despite the icing call and face-off back in the Bison zone they ended the game 4-2 winners.
Bison are a team in transition. Miller, Scott and Rand are all integrating into the team. The dynamic of the team has changed from 3 import forwards, 1 import defence and 1 import goalie to 4 import forwards and the import goalie. Despite that at times they made the battle with the Bees look easy.
Alex Mettam had a great game between the pipes. Bison were made to work hard for all four of their goals. He enjoyed two huge slices of luck but that can’t take away from his man of the match performance. But for Mettam the game would have ended in a complete blow out score.
After an inconsistent start to the season Dan Scott and Joe Miller both added to the team considerably. The unfortunate departure of Jan Jarabek took away a lot, he was a very good defenceman at this level but he wasn’t released for any issue in the standard of his play.
The Bracknell Bees are in a difficult situation. Over the summer they retained the nucleus of their team but perhaps more by default than anything else. Antonov and Turner both signed for Basingstoke. Waller, who had started last season in the Bees before finishing it in the Hornets, signed for Guildford. Thomas Relf left for the Steeldogs and Thomas Beesley dropped to the London Raiders. Those left were signed, maybe by default, when Bees got their league membership approved.
Thanks to the ongoing calamities affecting the Phoenix the Bees have avoided bottom spot at Christmas. Phoenix aren’t playing Sunday as their borrowed “home” rink is hosting a skating show meaning the single point difference can’t be caught up before Christmas even if Bees lose on home ice against the Bison.
The new ownership at the Bees have a difficult task. Their first priority surely has to be to secure the financial stability of the club. Nothing can be built on instable foundations so they have to make sure the Bracknell Bees have a sound financial footing. That means spending within their available means.
This is the problem for any hockey club. If your available means only allow you to put out a 9th placed team it’s hard to attract new supporters and new sponsors. This then means the spending budget doesn’t increase and it’s a decreasing circle. In order for the on ice performance to improve that needs more resources to be put to the playing budget but that can only happen by either boosting the income streams or a rich owner willing to subsidise the team.
Whilst six wins from 28 starts isn’t an impressive on ice performance we should commend the Bees owners that they’ve managed to rescue the club and keep them on the ice. Quite where the future lies for the Bees I don’t know.
Bison will travel to Bees for their final game before Christmas. The team took a pounding the previous night with Aaron Connolly missing from action since the end of the first period, Kurt Reynolds and Tomas Karpov were also injured but carried on in the game.