With the regular season done play-offs rolled around and started on home ice for the Sherfield School Basingstoke Bison as they took on group rivals Hull Pirates in their first of six qualifying games.
Tim Pickett was the man in charge with Justin Lalonde and Andy Cook on the lines. An almost full strength game was ahead with the visitors missing Ryan Watt and the home team missing Vanya Antonov.
Basingstoke Bison 7 Hull Pirates 0
Starting netminder duties went to the two imports with Tomas Hiadlovsky guarding the Bison net and Vlastimil Lakosil on duty in front of the Pirates net.
Ciaran Long backhanded an opening chance towards the net but it was handled comfortably by the Pirates goaltender. With a delayed penalty pending on the Bison Nathan Salem welcomed Tomas Hiadlovsky to the game but a save was made and with that Tim Pickett awarded a boarding penalty to Joe Rand after 92 seconds.
Pirates tried to work the puck around with their man advantage but with Andrej Themar winding up for a shot as the puck was passed to him but Derek Roehl blocked the pass with his stick before playing the body to stop Themar chasing down the deflected puck. Lee Haywood tried his luck too but Hiadlovsky made the save and soon after Bison were back to full strength.
Pirates came closest to scoring as Bison lost control of the puck but their goaltender dug them out diving across the net to make a save from Themar. Dan Scott stepped up and laid a crunching hit on Josh Gent ahead of Ciaran Long getting a shot off at the other end. The puck was just out of his comfort zone and he couldn’t get full power on the shot. Soon after Tomas Karpov cut through the Pirates defence but he also couldn’t get a shot released and the puck tricked away from him.
Joe Rand cut to the net and shot bringing about a save from Lakosil, the puck then squirted back to Declan Balmer at the point but his shot brought about a more composed save and the play stopped.
Hull Pirates coughed up a powerplay when Luke Boothroyd took what was probably a necessary hooking penalty at 8.40 stopping Ciaran Long stepping into a fantastic scoring opportunity. The powerplay saw Bison controlling the zone, first Tomas Karpov fired with a Dan Davies tip resulting in a save but at 9.43 Bison were still in charge on the powerplay and Ciaran Long fired with the Pirates goaltender making a save but the rebound dropped nicely for Aaron Connolly who lifted the puck high into the net for 1-0.
Soon after the Captain nearly doubled the score when he got a pass from Derek Roehl but his shot crept over the net. A rare Pirates chance followed as Dominic Osman one-timed a shot but Hiadlovsky saved again. Chances kept coming around the Pirates net. Dan Scott blasted from the blue line but his shot deflected out of play. Grant Rounding fed the puck back in front of the net to Joe Rand but Lakosil pulled off a lightning fast reaction save to deny the Bison man.
Jordan Fisher got round Stuart Mogg but sent his shot wide, then Nathan Salem got a breakaway but a pad save ended his hopes of levelling the score.
A face off win saw Derek Roehl with the puck but his blast was stopped by Lakosil ahead of a second Luke Boothroyd penalty giving Bison another powerplay at 15.31. Despite being in total control over the two minutes the Herd couldn’t capitalise on their advantage and Boothroyd returned.
The Pirates would end the period with a powerplay of their own when Dan Scott got called for interference at 19.03 but nothing could spoil the good opening period for the Bison. As the buzzer sounded Osman and Balmer shared some words by the team benches as the officials watched on to ensure nothing further happened.
At the start of the second period Tommi Laine looked to be making good progress down the ice when he lost an edge and the puck to Ciaran Long who shot short handed but it was back at even strength when the Bison found their second goal, Derek Roehl drew the Pirates defence to him, manoeuvred them out the way then fed Aaron Connolly who scored despite the goaltender getting a not insignificant piece of the shot at 21.05.
Straight off the face off, with the second goal still being announced, Tomas Karpov rushed to the net and backhanded a shot which Lakosil smothered and held. Tomas Hiadlovsky saw some pucks coming his way but with ease he dealt with them and then 6 minutes into the second period Bison scored again. This time it was Tomas Karpov who raced to the net but saw his options exhausted all but one which he took, slotting a perfect pass back to Dan Scott who stepped forward and blasted a shot ringing in off the post that the Pirates defence and goaltender would probably need a replay to see for the first time.
90 seconds later Pirates were back on the powerplay when Joe Rand was called for hooking at 27.30. With Pirates on the powerplay Haywood got a shot in on Hiadlovsky and then seemed to want to tangle with Derek Roehl until it became obvious the Bison player was happy to oblige. Haywood kept hold of his stick and waited for the officials to come in, only mouthing off again once the linesmen had arrived. Both players sat out coincidental minors at 28.31.
Rene Jarolin took a puck, blocking a shot from James Chilcott, which saw the Bison import hobble to the bench and while he was recuperating Bison added their fourth. Lakosil was already under pressure when Tomas Karpov took a moment out and passed the puck to Joe Miller. Miller skated in and backhanded the puck through the netminder’s pads and with that goal Pirates bench called for their time-out at 29.18
On the restart a check from Aaron Connolly saw Marcus Maynard dumped through the closing Bison bench door. Ciaran Long and Dan Lackey found themselves alone on the Pirates net and when Long’s shot was saved Tommi Laine ended up blocked on the transition by a diving Dan Scott. Stuart Mogg’s shot brought about a save from Lakosil but he had no idea where the puck was however the Bison captain advanced in but couldn’t get the puck home. Derek Roehl was next to test the Pirates net but Lakosil pulled off the save and held the puck for a whistle.
Dominic Osman came in on the Bison net but Tomas Hiadlovsky advanced and poked the puck away which fell back to the Bison and it was Rene Jarolin who put it on net but nobody could get a tip on it and a save was made. With 4.03 left in the period though Bison flicked another goal onto the scoreboard when Derek Roehl put the puck on net and Ciaran Long advanced. All danger for the Pirates looked to be over as Long went down and slid to the net but on his knees he managed to poke the puck through the tiniest gap and put the Bison 5-0 up at 35.57
Bouyed on by a strong lead Bison continued to test their opponents. Matt Towalksi went in and shot high but a rising Lakosil got the puck with his shoulder and forced it up and out of play. Joe Baird floated a puck in but nobody got the tip, after his cheeky goal Ciaran Long found himself denied as he tried a more conventional move but it was a sharp glove save from Tomas Hiadlovsky denying Luke Boothroyd that ended a second period that had been pretty home all Bison.
Bison had conceded just 11 shots in the first two periods while generating 35 such was their dominance of the opening two periods. They were keen to get going again as Tim Pickett called the teams together for the third period opening face off.
Stuart Mogg was looking for an early goal in the final period but Jordan Fisher extended his stick in the way to break the chance. Dan Davies fed Ciaran Long who tried a move on Lakosil but fresh from the period break rest he was alert and saved the chance. A face off win found its way back to Ciaran Long who blasted in but Lakosil saved again.
Lee Haywood hit the ironwork as the Pirates beat Tomas Hiadlovsky for the only time in the night but the puck hit the outside of the net framing and bounced out again. Stuart Mogg fired a clearance out onto his own bench then, underway again, Tomas Karpov charged to the net but he was denied. Karpov was off with Grant Rounding who slid a pass to him but he couldn’t get connection.
Jordan Stokes took an obvious tripping penalty at 48.08 as he hauled down Dan Davies making his way down centre ice. On the powerplay Aaron Connolly drew a good save from Vlastimil Lakosil but the Pirates returned to full strength with no further damage done.
Into the final 10 minutes of the game Bison kept on scoring as the puck went round the zone from Joe Rand to Declan Balmer to Dan Scott who scored an almost identical goal to his earlier strike to make it 6-0 pinging another one in off the bar at 51.29
With eight minutes left Lakosil picked up a tripping penalty but play was level at 4 on 4 at 53.39 when Ciaran Long was called for a high sticking minor. Fisher, a Brit, who had served Lakosil’s, an import’s, penalty returned at 54.00 giving the Pirates a short powerplay of their own. Tomas Karpov was away shorthanded but nothing came of his move. A couple of big saves from Tomas Hiadlovsky saw out the penalty and Bison returned to full strength.
Derek Roehl set up Ciaran Long but he wasn’t able to bundle it home. However with 3.03 left Captain Connolly netted his hat-trick goal. A lovely pass from Rene Jarolin saw Connolly blast through the five hole to complete his hat-trick, signalled by Derek Roehl throwing his helmet onto the ice.
Bison eased out the final 2.03 to claim a shut-out win. Aaron Connolly took the man of the match award in a great team performance with Jonathan Kirk getting the beers for the visitors.
There’s not much to say in summary of the game other than one team performed at the top of their game and one team didn’t. Bison were without Vanya Antonov but looked every part a play-off team. Pirates are of course without Ryan Watt who is suspended for the remainder of the year but looked out of their depth. Their goaltender was exposed to 50 shots and made 43 saves while Bison managed to limit Pirates to just 14 shots.
In a play-off game you’d expect something more competitive but it was a night for shut-outs with Telford being shut out by Guildford and Peterborough completing a blow out win 12-0 over Sheffield Steeldogs.
Man of the match went to the captain for his hat-trick. It could equally have been Derek Roehl who assisted three times and put in a complete all round performance. He played a North American play-off game, never gave up a chase for a puck, never pulled out of playing the body and handled the puck with complete skill. Also in the running for the award could have been Tomas Karpov who was his usual self, leaving the opposition baffled on many occasions. Dan Scott continued to prove what a valuable addition he’s been to the Herd, he’s a complete defenceman and added two goals last night too.
The league form book suggests Milton Keynes and Basingstoke would be the two Coventry qualifiers from this group. Lightning came good with a 5-1 win over Swindon meaning the two group favourites started with wins.
Basingstoke need to carry on the good form they showed against the Pirates and continue to play the same game into a tough weekend. Form has favoured Milton Keynes in their own rink so far this season but if Bison play the same game they did on Wednesday they’ll be a very tough opponent on Saturday night.