A packed Basingstoke Arena stood by to watch the opening game of a home and away weekend for the Sherfield School Basingstoke Bison who opened up the weekend on home ice to the Hull Pirates ahead of a trip north the following day.
Roman Szucs was the man in the arm bands with Ali MacPhee and Amy Lack on the lines. Both back up goaltenders led out their respective teams and the two imports, Tomas Hiadlovsky and Vlastimil Lakosil got the starts in net.
The game was off to a frenetic start, Tommi Laine speeding across the blue line before letting go of the game’s first chance but Tomas Hiadlovsky made a good save. The opening two minutes were rapid, Bison edging the possession but no real clear chances were generated until a Bison turnover gifted Pirates a chance but Laine couldn’t get much on the puck and Hiadlovsky saved.
Bison team and fans were celebrating at 4.20 when the home team took the lead. Ciaran Long found Dan Davies who carried the puck into the zone and saw Vanya Antonov left alone at the back door so fed him the puck and a sweet finish saw Lakosil beaten.
Bison continued to generate chances, on more than one occasion pucks flashed in front of the Hull goal just out of the reach of finishes that would have seen 2-0. Pirates had a tactic though, they were keeping a man high and looking to catch Bison. They did but despite generating some pressure in the zone couldn’t get a shot off. Rene Jarolin stole the puck and fed Ciaran Long who got a nice pass on to Joe Miller but Lakosil had it when Miller tried his shot.
Dominic Osman got through the back checking forwards and managed to get a shot away but Hiadlovsky made the save and the Bison defence cleared it away. Lee Bonner got down almost to the goal line before releasing a back hand feed but with no Pirates connecting it went all the way across to Grant Rounding who fed it out the zone. As he and his team mates carried it down the ice Rounding headed to the slot but a weak pass trickled towards him and was poached away before he could get any of it. Pirates iced the puck to get a line change.
Pirates generated a wrap around chance but when the net came off it’s moorings behind Hiadlovsky Ryan Watt seemed to want a piece of Derek Roehl. Dan Scott quickly stepped in separating the players and there was no call on the play.
Hiadlovsky made two totally different saves in quick succession. Osman floated a shot to the net which he saved with ease and covered. Soon after in the 12th minute he made a huge reaction save as a shot on it’s way in took a sizeable deflection at close range. Hiadlovsky’s save sent the Bison forward again but as Derek Roehl laid off a huge hit in the corner the referee saw it as boarding and sent Pirates to the powerplay at 11.57
Ugnius Cizas got the puck behind the Bison goal with the man advantage but his feed out in front was fumbled by his team made leaving an easy clear for Tomas Karpov. Pirates kept up the pressure on the Bison, good powerplay formations allowed them to work the puck around but when they got the puck in close Hiadlovsky made the saves he needed to and was well supported by his defence.
Soon after Derek Roehl returned Rene Jarolin got in on a breakaway but Lakosil kicked out his left pad to deny the chance. Pirates quick transition saw them down at Hiadlovsky but he made a confident save and froze the puck for a whistle.
Pirates were back on the powerplay again when Matt Towalski was called for hooking off the play at 16.41. An initial good start to this man advantage chance saw them coming close to scoring but Hiadlovsky wedged the puck into his side trapping it between his shorts and his arm.
Bison won the face off and Ciaran Long and Tomas Karpov were soon away on a 2 on 1 shorthanded chance. As Karpov continued at full speed Long slowed allowing Karpov to get ahead and in the slot, Long fed Karpov who lifted it into the back of the net for 2-0 at 18.08.
Matt Towalski returned from his sit out and Andrej Themar rushed into the Bison zone and forced a save from Hiadlovsky who again covered for a whistle. Lakosil made a save and drew a whistle with 8 seconds left in the first period and off the face off Hull cleared the puck out to the neutral zone and the first ended with the Bison good for the 2-0 lead.
Hull Pirates had managed to outshoot the Basingstoke Bison in the first period 10-7 but Bison had got the better shots. Bison defence had backed up Hiadlovksy well, keeping his view clear, keeping the slot free and when needed clearing away rebounds.
The second period got off to an end to end start but neither team could make a chance until Rene Jarolin and Joe Miller raced in on a 2 on 1 but Lakosil had himself positioned squarely behind Miller’s chance. Bison retained pressure around Lakosil and in the frenzy in front Matt Towalski managed to take a match penalty for spearing at 23.53.
Towalski’s penalty offered the Pirates an automatic 5 minute powerplay. They were almost caught out early on after Lakosil left the net to play the puck but it took a funny bounce. He only just made it back into time to block Karpov from scoring into the previously open net.
3.03 into the 5 minute powerplay Bison had their second shorthanded goal of the night. Joe Baird got the outlet pass through to Derek Roehl and he cut into the zone. He was almost on the goal line when he back handed in past Lakosil at 26.58 to give the Bison two shorthanded markers in their tally of three so far in the night.
Tomas Hiadlovsky made a diving save just ahead of Grant Rounding, who served the Towalski 5 minute major, returning. Having failed to do anything with the 5 minute advantage Josh Gent did finish from Liam Kirk at 30.01 with Hiadlovsky prone Gent lifted the puck into the net for the Pirates goal.
Grant Rounding raced down to the net but couldn’t finish. The puck fell back to the Pirates who cleared but not far as Joe Baird got it and sent it on to Dan Davies. Davies set up Vanya Antonov for his second of the night at 33.09 and he backhanded in.
Liam Kirk dispossessed Tomas Karpov just as he entered the attacking zone and quickly shot from neutral ice leaving an easy save for Hiadlovsky. With Bison back on the attack the net was lose again behind Lakosil prompting a whistle from the referee to put it back again.
Off the face-off Bison worked hard around the zone and it took Pirates a while to clear the zone to get a change.
Bison completed a dominating middle period when Antonov scored his hat-trick goal at 39.33. Ciaran Long did the hard work and laid off a perfect feed which made the goal for Antonov who was at the top of the crease waiting giving the Bison a 5-1 lead.
The visitors went in at the end of the second period down by 4 goals with a mountain to climb and on the back of a very good period by the home team where they created and finished well.
With a dominant lead in place Bison made an attacking start to the third period but were soon penalty killing again at 40.48 when Joe Baird was penalised for hooking. Just 35 seconds into the Pirates powerplay what looked like an elbow to the face saw Dan Scott go down and stay down in his defensive zone. Bison medics were soon on the ice tending to him and with the aid of players helped him off the ice. He was aided straight to the dressing room and took no further part in the game.
With no call made on the play the Pirates powerplay continued on the resumption of play. With Pirates camped around the net a shot from the high slot from Salem saw Hiadlovsky out at the top of his crease to make the save and hold the puck denying the waiting Pirates any rebound. Themar shot from the right side and hit the far post, then fell helpfully for the Bison allowing them a clearance opportunity as Joe Baird returned.
At 45.05 Ciaran Long and Marcus Maynard got tangled up with Maynard starting pushing and shoving Long. Referee Roman Szucs awarded a holding penalty to Maynard who said or did something that attracted an additional 10 minute misconduct penalty.
The only real chance on Bison’s first powerplay was Rene Jarolin who tucked himself in behind the Pirates defence but Lakosil made the save. It had been a good two minutes from the Bison who had worked the puck well but the Pirates denied them, other than Jarolin, a chance to finish and the powerplay expired.
After Vlastimil Lakosil had made a long save Jordan Stokes and Tomas Karpov engaged in a small tussle but both players ended up with delay of the game minor penalties at 48.44. Soon after there was a fracas in front of the Bison bench which saw Derek Roehl cross checked by Andrej Themar and then equally called for the retaliation. Declan Balmer and Luke Boothroyd both got delay of the game penalties and all four sat out 2 minute coincidental penalties at 49.18
With 9.16 left to play Tomas Karpov and Jordan Stokes returned at the same time as a Pirates shot hit the high netting above Tomas Hiadlovsky’s net.
A defensive zone face off was won by the Bison and Aaron Connolly used his speed to break but was denied by Lakosil. As play came back the other way Hiadlovsky came out to play the puck and as Ugnius Cizas came in looking for the puck he tripped by the goal line and collided with the boards allowing an easy clear from the Bison goaltender. The puck found it’s way across to Grant Rounding who took a delay of the game penalty when his clearance left the ice at 51.51.
Hiadlovsky made a couple of quick saves including a point blank tip from Sam Towner before more penalties were awarded. Kurt Reynolds and Nathan Salem got delay of the game and hooking penalties which were also served coincidental at 53.33.
With 4.24 to play Bison were back on the powerplay when Lee Bonner was called for slashing and cross checking aimed at Tomas Karpov giving the Bison a 4 minute powerplay. Face-off was in the Pirates end and it took Bison just 12 seconds to convert the first of their two 2 minute powerplays resulting from Bonner’s sit down. Dan Davies fed to Vanya Antonov who shot and Rene Jarolin was on the door step waiting for the rebound which he shoved home for 6-1 at 55.48.
The second of the Bonner powerplays started with the centre ice face-off but soon Bison were back attacking. A Karpov wrist shot went wide far side but Bison controlled the puck back to Ciaran Long who shot and this time it was Vanya Antonov in front for a tip in for his fourth goal of the night and Bison’s seventh at 57.43.
The final 2 minutes saw tension continue to build ahead of the return fixture in Hull the following night but neither team could make any further impression on the scoreboard and Bison completed a dominant win.
I’m going to be honest, on what I’ve seen of the Pirates so far I’m amazed that they were up in the top echelons of the league table earlier this season. Yes, they’ve been badly affected in the table in terms of the Phoenix leaving the league, but I still find it hard to see how they got that high.
Jordan Marr was released and Vlastimil Lakosil brought in. This was done by Dominic Osman before he was replaced as coach by Jason Hewitt. This was similar to last year when Jon Baston was replaced by Osman with Martins Raitums. It seems it’s an Osman instant reaction to poor results to blame the netminder!
Last night clouded the issue a little. Two weeks ago when the Pirates were in Basingstoke they allowed 70 shots and Lakosil saved 64 of them with a save percentage of over 90%. This time he condeded 7 goals from 28 shots with a less than impressive 75% save percentage.
The issue I think is in front of the goaltender. He is the last line of the defence but in Hull’s case it seems more often than not he’s the only line of defence. The actual defenceman are all too often inadequate in offering protection and reducing score opportunities.
For the first time since boxing day Bison played at full strength. The travelling university lads were back and after skating the warm up the previous weekend Joe Miller made his return to the line up. I’m not sure they’ll be at full strength certainly in the short term as Dan Scott’s injury looked bad. I am genuinely surprised there was no call on the play but if the referee doesn’t see the offence then he can’t make the call. Hopefully one of the Bison TV cameras will have captured the events clearly. Dan Scott is a tough lad, he’ll get up and play through most things so for him to stay down and need assistance off the ice means he was in a bad way.
If Dan Scott is forced to miss games through this injury it will imbalance the Bison defence. Scott came in two days after Jan Jarabek was released, allowing Joe Rand to slot in as the fifth import and all four outskating imports play forward. Scott plays the body well, he’s aware positionally and is also good at providing the outlet pass to start a quick rush forward. Should he miss time through injury he will be a big miss for the Bison.
While the Pirates, on the night, were poor, the Bison put in a good team performance. It’s hard to look past a 5 point night for Vanya Antonov but it’s equally hard to find anyone who didn’t put in a good performance. Ciaran Long continues to have a stand out year, he can do things with the puck that few other British players can. During the game he also became the leading British point scorer for the Bison in the EPL.
Derek Roehl had a great game too. He contained Andrej Themar well all night. It seems Themar doesn’t like the physical game and Roehl played him physically all night keeping him quiet. He scored a sweet goal as well but one play in particular showed his skills. He came in down the left wing, as a Pirates defenceman cramped him for space he took the puck with his skates, kicked it around before flicking it back on to his stick when he’d freed himself into space and continuing his play. I’m not sure how many, if any other, EPL player could have done what he did. While he finished 1+0 he also needs credit for the way he totally nullified the dangerous Themar all night long.
Bison put in a good all round team performance against a Pirates team who probably would feel they’d let themselves down a bit.