Another good turnout gathered at the Basingstoke Arena as the Sherfield School Basingstoke Bison entertained the Peterborough Phantoms for the second time in three weeks.
Last time the Phantoms had won in penalty shots but the Bison went into the game on a four game winning streak so were looking to reverse that result.
Basingstoke Bison 3 Peterborough Phantoms 1
Peterborough Phantoms handed a start to Adam Long in nets in the absence of Janis Auzins for this game. The Phantoms were therefore playing short an import with only 4 non EIHA trained players listed for the game.
Roman Szucs was the man in charge with Justin Lalonde and Andrew Cook on the lines.
Just after 6.30pm the game got underway and it was the visitors who got the early jump. Ferrara sent a hopeful pass through the crease which Hiadlovsky got the blocker too ensuring it never reached its target. Ales Padelek’s first attempt was stood up by Dan Davies in the slot and then even a huge shot from Stepanek couldn’t beat the Bison goaltender.
Robson took a shot from the blue line that lifted last minute from an odd bounce but Hiadlovsky was in line behind the shot and cradled it into his chest. A wrap around chance for Griffiths saw the net come off behind Hiadlovksy as he dived back for the save.
A couple of Bison tip in chances then followed, firstly Derek Roehl shot and Ciaran Long tipped but it went wide, then Reynolds shot but a Connolly tip ended in the glove of Adam Long.
The first powerplay went to the Bison when Tom Norton cross checking Stuart Mogg at 9.26. The powerplay gave the Bison a boost and they knocked down some of the early Phantoms intensity but despite some good puck movement and a couple of good chances the man advantage ended scoreless.
Less than a minute after the cross checking penalty ended Norton was back in the bin, this time for slashing at 12.22. Again the Bison played a good two minutes of powerplay but couldn’t breach the net. Roehl sent a blast from the point through traffic but Adam Long never once lost sight of it and made the save. Phantoms defence collapsed in tight around the net so even though Bison could get traffic around the net the Phantoms were there to disrupt the play and the 2 minutes ended still with 0-0 showing on the scoreboard.
Phantoms would get a powerplay of their own at 15.35 when Mogg was called for holding the stick. Early on Bison took the attacking zone and wasted some time on the Phantoms powerplay which helped kill off the advantage and the game’s third powerplay passed by without scoring.
Soon after the return to full strength Hiadlovsky took a rising puck in the face mask and play stopped. The Bison goaltender was unfazed and an immediate restart took place.
With 1.26 left in the first period Bison broke the deadlock. Antonov and Jarolin combined to set free Roehl. He moved with skill to the net, easing round one and powering past another Phantom before sending the puck in past Adam Long for 1-0.
The first period ended just in time for Will Weldon to get some recovery time after he took a full on Ciaran Long slapshot somewhere in the midriffs.
The first period had been a strange affair. Phantoms came out and played an uncharacteristic opening to the game but the first powerplay saw Bison knock back some of that speed and zip. There were chances at both ends but it was the Bison that had converted the chances to shots as they led the shot count 11-5 after the opening period and the scoring 1-0 too.
James Ferrara started the second period shooting while falling but was soon in the penalty box as he picked up a high sticking call at 20.58. Ciaran Long shot first on the man advantage and his attempt went wide, Derek Roehl then did the same.
With just 6 seconds left before full strength Roehl made it 2-0 with his second of the night. Rene Jarolin and Shaun Thompson did the work getting the puck to Roehl and he blasted in with no chance given to Adam Long.
Darius Pliskauskas raced to the slot but found Hiadlovsky flick out the right pad for a save and then the game went to 4 on 4 as Towalski and Robson came together, Towalksi taking a cross checking minor and Robson a slashing minor.
Antonov stole the puck and quickly set up Jan Jarebel who’s shot went just wide and that was the highlight of 4 on 4.
With 6.01 of the second period played Phantoms fought back into the game with Ales Padelek finding a way past Hiadlovksy. Pliskauskas found Archer and he sent the puck on to Padelek, in position to deflect the puck into the net.
Soon after Towalski and Archer were racing for a loose puck and with Towalski clearly in the lead Archer hauled him down in full view of the referee who awarded the hooking penalty at 27.34.
Bison dominated the next two minutes, Ciaran Long tested his Phantoms namesake first, Roehl fired from the blue line which Adam Long covered leading to a bit of pushing and shoving in front of the net. Bison didn’t let up and the Phantoms netminder was forced to work hard. Shots came in from Jarabek, Ciaran Long and Antonov but Adam Long kept his net un-breached.
Even with James Archer back Phantoms were still kept under pressure by the now stampeding Bison until a blocked Bison shot fell for Stepanek and he sprung away. Hiadlovsky had himself at full extension to deny the chance. As the intensity from both teams was building Joe Baird was off for hooking at 30.19 and Phantoms had a chance on the powerplay.
Phantoms put on a good powerplay, they passed the puck well and controlled a lot of the play. Their best chance came as Padelek was fed in the slot but Hiadlovksy advanced and blockered away the chance.
As Joe Baird returned Ciaran Long got another chance to test Adam Long but the Phantoms goaltender denied the Bison forward from the slot.
With 5.35 left to play in the second period Dan Lackey picked up an interference call and Phantoms were back on the powerplay. This time Bison didn’t allow their opponents the chance to settle and played fast and challenging on the penalty kill. Phantoms managed nothing of note with this man advantage.
With just 9 seconds left in the period after a period of rapid play James Ferrara took a tripping penalty as Kurt Reynolds went down and the second period ended with Bison have 1.51 left to play on the powerplay at the start of the third period.
After a good early save at the start of the third period Adam Long was then assisted by quick work from his defence after a Roehl shot was tipped and lost in a crowd of players.
With 1.51 gone in the final period Owen Griffiths returned and picked up the puck, racing towards the Bison net but Jan Jarabek had other ideas and put a stop to that rush. For the second time in the game Hiadlovsky had to be alert to an awkward bounce on a shot but trapped this one between his arm and chest. Pliskauskas tried to test the Bison shot stopper but his shot went wide. The net came off behind the play as Mogg raced the length of the ice but provided an easy save for the Phantoms goaltender as he shot straight at his body.
A bit of coming together happened at 45.22 as a Phantoms move was called off side but Stepanek decided to still shoot after the whistle. Balmer rushed in and then Levers joined in to with both those players getting matching delay of the game penalties and Stepanek was free to stay in the play.
With both players in the box a long debate took place on the ice between the officials as a call for too many imports was debated. The officials then explained to both benches why no call was made and play restarted.
Hiadlovsky made his biggest save of the night when Stepanek tried a 4 on 4 chance. A quick transition saw Mogg away again but he was denied by Long in the Phantoms net. With Phantoms advancing again Susters fell over at the blue line leaving an easy off side call to be made.
As the teams returned to five out skaters each Lackey fed Thompson who was off and away but his shot hit the goaltender’s shoulder and flew away safely.
There was 10.27 left on the clock when Vanya Antonov picked up a tripping call. In a one goal game this was the big chance the Phantoms needed to fight back but the Bison responded well. Norton’s stick broke as he looked to shoot and Ferrara fanned his chance right in front of the net. As Antonov returned the whistle blew as referee Roman Szucs lost sight of the puck in a scramble in front of the Hiadlovsky.
Bison raced off down the ice as Towalski and Karpov took the lead Jarabek sped with them but as Towalski’s pass was slightly mis-handled by Karpov Jarabek started heading back, making sure, in a 1 goal game, he was back doing his own job meaning the pass that Karpov laid off for him when un-used.
A careless penalty to the Phantoms for too many men gave the Bison a powerplay at 54.47. The penalty was served by import player Darge. Pliskauskas made a shorthanded move but laid a drop pass off in response to Derek Roehl tapping his stick behind the play and the Bison cleared the danger.
With 3.56 left to play Dan Davies took a tripping minor meaning 4 on 4. Phantoms returned first and got powerplay time but Hiadlovksy stayed strong in the net. Davies returned with 1.56 to play and with 1.14 left Bison had the game safe with their third goal.
A Declan Balmer feed to Rene Jarolin on the left wing set him away but he quickly fed on to Matt Towalski who was away on a breakaway. As he sped in on net he waited patiently before slotting the puck under Adam Long’s arm for 3-1.
Phantoms took their time out immediately after the goal and with a minute to play pulled their goalie for an extra attacker. A scramble in the Bison zone failed to see a Phantoms shot result and Roehl came away with the puck. His last second attempt on the net missed but the Bison had already done enough to claim their fifth consecutive win.
The Phantoms were forced into a different game plan with the absence of Auzins. I didn’t see him around the rink at all so Phantoms went into the game with just Adam Long and would have nominated a player to play in goal in the event they needed a backup goalie. Auzins absence gave Slava the ability to rotate his outskating imports more freely as Long provided 1 of the 3 needed British trained players on the ice that Auzins usually doesn’t.
Phantoms were short an import too. Susters is Latvian but qualifies as British trained as he’s played over the minimum 2 years needed in junior hockey here. Padelek, Pliskauskas and Stepanek all played and all played well. Padelek scored the Phantoms goal, Pliskauskas put in hard shifts all night long and Stepanek used his size and skill well. Wehebe Darge went into the weekend at a point per game with 1+3 from his first four outings but other than a few first period shifts and serving a third period bench minor for his team he seemed absent through the evening. I noticed the other 3 imports all night long but Darge I just didn’t notice.
Bison were playing without Lack who had stepped aside during the week. He brings energy to the team and hustle and bustle. He works hard, particularly around the net where his tenacity makes him difficult to move.
The Bison got off to a slower start than of recent, with Phantoms getting the early jump. They looked good early on and the absence of Auzins gave them the impetus to play a more attacking game without their star to fall back on in net. Bison soaked this up early on but the game’s first powerplay saw them right back into the game. They never really looked back from the early powerplay. Shots on goal were easily in favour of the Herd in all three periods.
Low shots on goal against a good EPL netminder will mean low goals! Phantoms gave themselves 18 shots to try and score on a netminder with a save percentage over 90% just isn’t enough. Bison on the other hand gave themselves 37 shots on a netminder with a save percentage of 90%.
This season Bison have done well in concede few shots. Early on in the season, despite conceding few shots they conceded some good chances. Now as well as giving up few shots they’re ensuring the majority of shots aren’t quality chances.
I wrote earlier of the energy that Alan Lack brought to the team but since the additional of Derek Roehl the whole team’s energy levels have gone up. Last year, Bison won (and occasionally lost) as a high energy team and early doors that energy was missing this year. Now it’s like a train thundering along and that’s showing in the results that are going on the board.
Phoenix make a trip to the Manchester / Blackpool Phoenix before being back on home ice to take on the Steeldogs.