The capacity crowd in the Basingstoke Arena showed their appreciation for the life of Bob Wilkinson who passed away in the week before referee Dave Cloutman called the players in for the opening face off.
Basingstoke Bison 4 Guildford Flames 2
Linesmen Justin Lalonde and the referee both noticed a careless change from the Flames early in the game leading to a Bison powerplay as the Flames bench took the too many men call. 20 seconds into the powerplay Ciaran Long took a cross checking call levelling play at 4 on 4.
A couple of Flames chances saw Savage and Satek both fire wide. Joe Miller missed outside the post as the Flames bench minor ended. Tomas Karpov raced down the wing and cut in front but Skinns hugged the post as Long returned.
At 4.33 the Bison were in the lead with Joe Rand driving to the net and firing the puck virtually through Dean Skinns for the game opener.
As the fans celebrated the game’s first goal Dan Davies found Vanya Antonov who fed across to Ciaran Long but the finish ended up wide. Quick transition saw Ben Campbell fire at Tomas Hiadlovsky but he kept hold of the chance. Rene Jarolin fed Aaron Connolly who drew a blocker save from the Flames goaltender before Tom Duggan collided with Hiadlovsky taking him over.
A couple of swift saves from Hiadlovsky kept his team in the lead as he turned away Kevin Phillips and Marak Maslonka. Bison were back with the man advantage when a Grant Rounding journey along the wing ended with him taken out by Sam Godfrey, earning the Flames man interference minor at 9.14
Ciaran Long was in and shot at Skinns but he’d advanced to meet the shot. The rebound fell near Long but by the time he had it under enough control Skinns was back and the second shot went just wide. Flames were putting together a good penalty kill and Michal Satek managed a good shorthanded chance from the boards which Hiadlovksy held for a whistle. Soon after Flames were back at full strength.
After an icing call against the Bison, Flames won the face off in their attacking zone and controlled the play. The puck went behind the net to Hiadlovsky who came out to play it but the clearance found the Flames player but as quick as he could release from the goal line Hiadlovsky was back in the crease to make the save.
Flames got a powerplay chance at 14.25 when Ciaran Long took a tripping minor. Danny Meyers blasted a shot which Hiadlovsky had. The Bison goaltender pulled off an even better save when Duggan tried his luck.
Just inside the Long penalty a huge hit from Matt Towalski earned him a 2+10 checking from behind at 16.23. Off the face off Long returned, Maslonka shot and Hiadlovsky kicked the pad but Santavouri couldn’t get the rebound home. A good penalty kill saw Towalski’s 2 minute minor expire safely.
The first period ended with a scuffle behind the Flames net and Santavouri and Reynolds both awarded 2 minute roughing penalties on the buzzer as the Bison left the ice ahead by their goal.
Bison enjoyed a good start to the second with two early Antonov chances before Sihvonen raced up the middle but found Hiadlovsky in good form. It was the same player who took at seat at 21.59 giving the Bison a powerplay that would begin 4 on 3 for a second before turning to 5 on 4 as the end of first period penalties expired.
Joe Miller fired drawing a Skinns save and he held on for the whistle. Karpov then stepped in and fired but his shot struck Skinns’ helmet and play stopped again.
Flames then got a huge slice of luck as their clearance was being chased back by Derek Roehl Tomas Hiadlovsky left the net and headed to the corner to play the puck. With Roehl and Hiadlovsky on the same side the netminder cleared across the ice but his pass went straight to Michal Satek who made no mistake with the open net for a short handed goal at 23.38 to level at 1-1.
As the Flames returned to full strength Tomas Karpov tried to stuff one in but couldn’t convert and then Vanya Antonov was stopped in his tracks by the referee’s whistle as Derek Roehl and Marak Maslonka were pushing and shoving at each other. Maslonka quickly slipped himself the other side of the official and skated happily half way to the penalty box before gesturing for Roehl to take him on.
As Maslonka sat a cross checking penalty and Roehl a holding the stick penalty Joe Rand took a high sticking minor at 26.53 Flames used the 4 on 3 space to scored their second of the night as they cycled well, finishing Meyers to Santavouri who fed Jens Eriksson and he did the rest at 27.11
Kurt Reynolds took a slashing penalty at 28.00 but the only thing of note to happen during the powerplay was the eventual return of Matt Towalski. Reynolds followed and Bison were back at full strength on the half way point.
The game continued at a high pace as players played on the limit, carefully watched on by the officials. The Flames net remained further un-breached as Karpov found Rounding but he shot wide, then Reynolds passed to Long but Skinns made a pad save.
Two quick goals swung the balance of the game back to the Bison. With Bison buzzing from Hiadlovsky denying a Flames 2 on 1 Aaron Connolly pulled the game back level. Good work from Towalski and Reynolds sprung the Bison captain who raced into the zone and comfortably roofed the puck into the net.
Within 40 seconds Maslonka had given the Bison a powerplay with a pretty obvious cross check and 1.50 into the powerplay Dan Davies pounced on some poor defensive work to score the game winning goal. As Rene Jarolin looked to find Davies Kevin Phillips intercepted the puck but then proceeded to turn it straight over to Dan Davies in front of the net who barely moved before feeding the puck through the 5 hole for 3-2 at 34.56
Fresh from the celebrations Bison were quick to the zone and fed the puck back to Kurt Reynolds but his shot took a deflection on the way in.
As period 2 came to an end Michal Satek was racing through the middle but was dispossessed by Stuart Mogg and the second period went on to end in a crowd formation as McKinney followed through with a shot he could have pulled out of as the buzzer sounded. Declan Balmer stepped forward to defend his goaltender and the two players drew roughing minors.
An exciting third period lay ahead with the Bison edging the game by a goal and the players continuing to play at 100% intensity. Dave Cloutman called the players back to centre ice to start the third period and Kevin Phillips nipped in and rung the iron work behind Hiadlovsky.
Action was quickly back at the Flames end and Grant Rounding fed Derek Roehl who blasted and the rebound flew back quickly but not within reach of Joe Miller’s fully extended stick. Pressure continued from the home team but they couldn’t breach Dean Skinns. Aaron Connolly took an objection to an elbow from Marak Maslonka but despite the Bison captain voicing his displeasure Maslonka skated away uninterested in any further action.
With Phillips having rung the iron work early in the period Flames fans were left further frustrated when Santavouri was at the far side of the crease with an open net. Hiadlovsky was still at one side of the goal, a quick pass came across the crease and Santavouri was all alone at the back door but fed it wide.
Bison sprung a 3 on 1 with Tomas Karpov, Grant Rounding and Aaron Connolly but the captain missed the final finish. Stuart Mogg seized on a broken play, stepped into the puck but his shot went wide.
An intense period then finally got a break but at the expense of Rene Jarolin who took a puck to the face by the hash marks. The Slovak has worn a fair few pucks this season so far and was bleeding heavily from this latest one. He was up and off under his own steam and the players got a breather while the blood was cleared from the ice.
Patched up, Jarolin was soon back on the ice as played continued. Declan Balmer found Derek Roehl who moved in, dragged and shot but it slipped wide. Aaron Connolly shot wide too then Sihvonen went down on his way to the net.
Flames won a face off and drew it back to Kevin Phillips but Hiadlovsky saved as a crowd formed.
With 1.21 to play another crowd formed when Maslonka ran down Stuart Mogg. Derek Roehl stepped forward to defend his team mate and Jez Lundin left the bench to try and take on Roehl. Maslonka took 2 for tripping and 2 for roughing, Lundin 2+2+game for leaving the bench and Roehl 2 for roughing giving the Bison a powerplay.
At 59.40 Bison sealed their win when Long fed to Karpov who shot and Joe Rand got a tip in to deflect the puck into the net past Skinns.
Even at 4-2 the game hadn’t seen its last drama when Grant Rounding was taken out at 59.50. A line brawl ensued with Dan Lackey even getting involved and more penalties were called to conclude the game. With Dean Skinns having come down to see if Tomas Hiadlovsky was interested Doug Sheppard took the opportunity to put Dan Weller-Evans in goal for the final 10 seconds and see out the win.
With the Flames having an un-catchable 4-1 lead in the season series and this being likely to be the final regular season meeting between these two teams with both opponents heading to different leagues next season this was a show piece game. Add into the mix the teams could end up grouped together for the play offs and it had all the haul marks of a barn stormer.
Bison were missing Joe Baird who took no on ice part in the night but Dan Scott did take the warm up but not the game. After the nasty injured he suffered a few weeks back it’s great to see him back on the ice again and hopefully he’ll be back in the line up soon.
With the absence of Scott and Baird, Bison were down to 3 defenseman meaning Ciaran Long would play on defence as he had the previous week against the NIHL select. This meant a forward playing out of position and a reshuffle to the forward lines for a tough game which isn’t ideal but Ciaran has developed into a great two way player. He gets regular ice time at the back on powerplays so was the logical choice to fill the void.
The game itself was highly entertaining. Credit goes to the players and the officials. Both teams left nothing behind and gave 100% for the full sixty minutes. The officials allowed players to dictate the play as much as possible and the biggest attendance of the season so far in Basingstoke saw a good, high intensity game.
Looking at the home team it was a strange mix. Some players have had much better games this season and some have had much worse games this season. While some players were short of their best others stepped up and filled the void which is what team work is all about. Against the Flames opposition on the night a Bison at full strength with everyone firing would have run out much bigger winners but what made the win special is that a real team effort won the game.
For the Flames it was a strange night. They were never really quite in the game. It’s fair to say Hiadlovsky gifted Satek his goal as there just wasn’t a defenceman in sight when the netminder sent off the outlet pass. From that moment on he was doomed and it was Satek’s to miss. Hiadlovsky had no hope of getting back to the net and watched on as Satek scored. Eriksson did put in a good goal but other than that Flames didn’t really look much like scoring.
Flames also tried to play a Bison style of play last night and with their roster it just didn’t work, and certainly not against a team who’s style of play they were trying to emulate. The Flames performance was littered with cheap shots which saw the game threaten to boil over a couple of times. Towards the end of the game both Mogg and Rounding were levelled in cheap plays which caused scuffles on both occasions. Earlier in the game Derek Roehl and Marak Maslonka had come together but when it became apparent Roehl was prepared to go Maslonka was gone quickly. Only when half the ice away and accompanied by a linesmen did he then gesture to Roehl but by then he had avoided the danger.
That’ll be the last time we’ll see the Flames in Basingstoke, save for the possibility of the play-offs. They head off to the Elite league for next season and on the showing in this game they’ll need wholesale changes in the roster. While the Flames fans cheered at the end of the game that their team is going up they were also almost chanting the last rights to some of their team who won’t be making the jump upward with the Flames.
At the same time the Bison fans know that ahead for them they’ll be losing at least 2 of their imports as the PIHL, to replace the EPIHL will be two less imports. It’s a strange time in ice hockey as the two teams that are going up know they are losing fans favourites who just won’t cut it a league above while EPIHL teams know the league they’re playing in is in it’s final days and big changes are coming for their clubs and league too.