The Planet Ice derby was the last home game for the Sherfield School Basingstoke Bison as they needed just a single point to qualify for the Coventry finals weekend.
The Bison lined up at full strength with the Lightning resting Frankie Bakrlik. Stephen Matthews was the referee, Ali MacPhee and James Ions were the linesmen and after an impeccably observed minutes’ silence for a member of the Bison family who passed away in the week the players lined up for the opening face-off.
Basingstoke Bison 3 Milton Keynes Lightning 2
Basingstoke got off to a positive start, testing Przemyslaw Odrobny early with Tomas Karpov getting off the initial shot and the team sniffing for the rebound. Soon after Ciaran Long provided the shot and the rebound sat tantalisingly again but nobody could get a handle on it to poke it home. Lightning cleared the puck back to Kurt Reynolds, Ciaran Long’s tip saw Odrobny pull off a blocker save. Dan Davies’ shot was met with a kick save before Tomas Hiadlovsky was tested by a Lightning break but he saved and held on.
The high speed period continued with Jordan Cownie and Blaz Emersic both denied by Tomas Hiadlovsky. The easiest save of the game so far came when Declan Balmer floated a shot on net looking for a tip but with no connection made it was easily dealt with by the Lightning goaltender.
Lightning fans were briefly on their feet celebrating when Antii Holli shot and buldged the netting but his shot had hit the outside of the twine and that quicky dawned on them. Milan Baranyk headed up the middle and shot but a glove save ended his effort as neither team could stamp dominance on the opening exchanges.
Lewis Christie attempted to stand up Ciaran Long behind the net but ended up just getting run over as the Bison man easily outmuscled the Lightning man. Powerplay time came at 8.03 when Lewis Hook was called for holding and the home team would get the first man advantage.
Tomas Karpov shot and Odrobny saved but the rebound fell just out of the reach of Vanya Antonov. A glove save from a blue line shot came as the powerplay ended and Lewis Hook returned.
Off the next face off Derek Roehl strung two quick shots together but neither crossed the line. Action then swung round to the other end where Milan Baranyk and Blaz Emersic were pressuring Tomas Hiadlovsky but he held firm and covered up.
Lightning struggled hard to contain Tomas Karpov as he raced away, the defence did manage to force him away from the net but he still sped round behind the net for the wrap around. Play stopped as the net came lose behind the MK netminder during the save.
Aaron Connolly forced the next save but despite it not being a clean save nobody got to the rebound in time. Mikolaj Lopuski shot but a blocker save batted the puck away to safety. Joe Miller then found Tomas Karpov who raced down the ice again with Joe Rand going in tandem. Karpov’s backhand pass across the ice was broken up by Odrobny and the net came lose again.
Leigh Jamieson got a puck to the net at the other end but nobody could connect for the tip. The visitors did open the scoring at 17.07 as Blaz Emersic wristed one past the goaltender. Hiadlovsky reacted with fury but despite his protests to the referee the goal stood.
James Griffin was the recipient of a huge hip check from Derek Roehl and the first period ended with Odrobny saving a shot from Kurt Reynolds meaning the visitors remained ahead by their late goal.
There was an early powerplay for the visitors in the second period as Joe Baird took a boarding penalty at 22.22. Odrobny nearly conceded shorthanded to Ciaran Long but a fortunate bounce while he was out to play the puck saw it evade the advancing Long. Joe Baird returned and Adam Carr soon after sent wide a chance from the slot. Tom Carlon brought about a blocker save from Tomas Hiadlovsky.
Bison levelled soon after when a good run from Vanya Antonov saw him lay off for Joe Miller who fired in as Odrobny dived across and equalised the score at 25.57.
Joe Miller went on to put the Bison ahead under 2 minutes later when he had the puck behind the goal and slid it into the crease from the side of the goal. Miller skated level with the goal line and put the puck into the crease with Odrobny inadvertently knocking the puck into his own net as it bounced off his far leg and across the line at 27.45.
James Griffin tried his luck against the Bison net but Hiadlovsky easily dealt with his attempt. Soon after the home team were looking for a penalty call when Derek Roehl was taken out from behind as he skated behind the visitors net but no call was forthcoming.
Just after half way the game winning goal came when Joe Rand got into the slot and received the puck from Joe Baird and lofted it high over Odrobny’s shoulder into the roof of the net for 3-1 at 31.38.
16 seconds after the restart Joe Miller was called for hooking and despite some good early powerplay chances the Lightning couldn’t pull back. Dan Davies took a nasty hit from James Griffin as he broke shorthanded which saw Griffin penalised and the game continue 4 on 4. A careless play by Milton Keynes saw them abandon the puck on their own blue line so Joe Rand pinched in and shot but Odrobny made the save.
A short Bison powerplay saw little happen and when Griffin returned the game continued 5 on 5. With 2.21 left to play in the period Kurt Reynolds took an elbows call giving Milton Keynes another powerplay. Antii Holli tried to blast in but Derek Roehl blocked the shot. Despite having the man advantage Milton Keynes then iced the puck and when the officials blew down the play Holli expressed his anger at them which saw referee Matthews step in to calm him down.
James Neil tried his luck after waiting patiently but Tomas Hiadlovsky saved his chance and Kurt Reynolds returned so the second period ended 3-1 in favour of the home team with them just needing to hold on for the win and secure their Coventry spot.
Both teams refused to give an inch as the final period of senior hockey in Basingstoke started. Aaron Connolly had an ouch moment early on when he blocked a shot then Declan Balmer turned the puck over behind his own net but got it back quick enough. A couple of quick chances came for the Lightning as they twice tried to get the puck in via the back door. The first time the waiting man couldn’t find the puck as Hiadlovsky already had it trapped under his glove, the second time Milan Baranyk couldn’t handle the Blaz Emersic pass.
Ciaran Long took the puck behind his own net and made it coast to coast but despite beating everyone else couldn’t get past the netminder. Antii Holli broke back the other way and shot as he entered the zone but Hiadlovsky saved. Ciaran Long then forced the turnover and sent an outlet feed to Derek Roehl but the feed was slightly off and Roehl didn’t connect.
Joe Rand came chasing the puck in as it was sent on the MK but Odrobny covered and then there were a few words exchanged between the Bison forward and Michael Farn. Rene Jarolin sent the puck in on net but the whistle blew before Joe Miller could get in looking for the apparently lost puck.
Dan Scott and Mikolaj Lopuski came together at 52.42 but it ended with just Scott penalised as he sat two minutes for cross checking. Off the face-off Lightning controlled the puck and cycled it round until it fell to Antii Holli who scored to make it 3-2.
With the goal celebrations tailing off Derek Roehl ended up with a roughing minor, although if he was guilty of anything his guilt was equal to that of the Lightning player, but this meant a brand new powerplay started for the Lightninig.
There was a brief delay to the game while debris was cleared off the ice when the puck hit the disco light. Nothing further happened in the penalty and Derek Roehl retuned with 5.18 to play.
Joe Miller fed Rene Jarolin who rung the iron work and the tension continued as the final two minutes started. Dan Scott shot from the point but it went wide and with time ticking Odrobny edged from his net but never received the call to leave the ice. Milton Keynes couldn’t control the puck so Odrobny had to stay on the ice and Bison secured their position at Coventry as well as claiming top spot in the table with one game left to play.
Much a do is being made currently in Surrey and Buckinghamshire about the final home EPL games for the Flames and Lightning but in truth by the end of this weekend every team will have played their final EPL home game. For the Bison they sign off their home season and EPL membership with a big win that put them top of the group.
The top of the table clash brought together the two Planet Ice stable mate teams. All through this season results had gone with home advantage. The first play-off meeting between the two teams had done so seven days prior even if Bison were very close to upsetting the trend.
With Frankie Bakrlik back from his match penalty the week prior he was the rested import for the fixture. Bison were finally at full strength with Grant Rounding icing in a full face cage. With just a maximum of 4 games left it was a huge bonus for the Herd having the whole line up icing together at such a crucial part of the season.
The opening of the game was frenetic. Bison came, and came and came in the opening minutes. Odrobny kept them out but didn’t look assured. Each time I’ve seen him, three times in Basingstoke and three times in MK he has shown that while he is without doubt a very good netminder he doesn’t control rebounds well. He offers a few and he offers them big but to his credit he has very good stats so between him and his defence he deals well with them.
Odrobny made some very good saves but he’ll certainly want Joe Miller’s second back. It was the easiest play-off goal Miller will ever score. Miller’s first had been a well taken shot but his second was slid through the crease and deflected in by the goaltender himself.
In the other net Tomas Hiadlovsky was beaten twice. Antii Holli scored a good powerplay goal and the opening strike by Blaz Emersic was a good shot but Hiadlovsky was strongly protesting. Emersic’s shot entered the net while Hiadlovsky believed he was the victim of interference which denied him the chance to make the save. Referee Matthews disagreed with him and refused the call, allowing the goal.
I thought there were many candidates for the man of the match award for the home team. Joe Miller got the award but it could easily have been Derek Roehl, who played a great all round game. He fore checked and back checked and put his body on the line to block shots too. That in addition to the skill he brings to the game made him a candidate. Tomas Karpov as always, would be a candidate. He is rapid, he makes things out of nothing and he is at 100% intensity all game. Dan Davies has had a stand out season, rarely picking up the beers but often deserving of them too.
I thought after 20 minutes the Bison were unlucky to be going in a goal down. They had outworked the Lightning and generated some very good chances. As already mentioned Emersic’s goal was a superb strike but there was protest over the non call on goaltender interference. The middle period saw the Bison outshot but they were superb scoring three un-answered goals! Joe Miller and Joe Rand both bagged nice goals and Miller’s second is one that Odrobny would want back every day. The final period was fast and physical, but for the powerplay goal the Bison shut down their opponents.
So that’s it. The curtain is closed on home hockey for 2016/17 and as two teams prepare to leave the EPL for the EIHL the rest of the league waits for the promised announcement on the PIHL. The Bison finish their home season with the chance to head to Coventry top of the group and that’s not bad!