The Bison train was gathering speed, fuelled with six consecutive wins as the Sheffield Steeldogs paid their second visit of the season. The Steeldogs first visit saw them come very short-staffed due to injuries but this time their import line up was complete.
Basingstoke Bison 5 Sheffield Steeldogs 3
Tomas Hiadlovsky and James Hadfield got the starts in between the pipes and match referee Dave Cloutman called the players to centre ice to start the game.
Bison got off to a great start when they were a goal ahead at 2.17. They’d played an intense start to the game that saw Liam Kirk levelled by Aaron Connolly and it was speed and skill that outworked the visitors early on. Matt Towalski worked hard to keep the puck in and Tomas Karpov found himself space. Towalski laid off an inch perfect pass and Karpov completed a swift one timer
Sheffield tried to break back quickly and Kumilauskas came down quickly with Bosas but Hiadlovsky made a big save. Bosas was called for cross checking at 3.45 which put the Bison on the powerplay.
The Bison powerplay was clinicial. They gained the zone and controlled the play. The puck was circled around well and fed in front of the net. There were chances but from a sea of bodies in front of the net Ciaran Long managed to get the puck through the 5 hole and double the Bison advantage.
Bison kept the pressure on, Rene Jarolin worked hard behind the net and fed the puck out in front where Vanya Antonov was denied by a pad save from Hadfield. It was Bison pressure that led to the first Steeldogs goal as the Bison were in the zone and passing the puck when Derek Roehl didn’t get a clean connection. His intended cross ice pass was picked up by Ashley Calvert and he was joined on the rush by Liam Charnock. Roehl tried hard to keep pace with Calvert but the Steeldogs player kept just far enough ahead that Roehl couldn’t poke the puck from his stick. As Calvert closed in Hiadlovsky advanced to meet him but Calvert slid the puck across to Charnock who tapped home into the net.
The frustration showed on the Bison and they came back hard. Karpov rushed up into the zone and centred for Lackey but he couldn’t connect. He did soon after though when he netted his first Bison goal at 11.27. It was Karpov again who made the play, forcing his way to the net before passing to Lackey who squeezed home his shot for 3-1.
Sheffield enjoyed powerplay time next when Shaun Thompson picked up an interference call. It came about during a sequence of hits that took place in front of the Steeldogs bench but it was just the Bison 13 that got penalised offering the visitors a chance to roll out their powerplay.
Bosas came steaming into the zone and fired but Hiadlovsky deflected away his shot. Wood looked for a man at the back door with his pass but nobody connected. Matt Towalski managed a shorthanded chance after he created a turnover but as he fired wide Shaun Thompson returned.
Grant Rounding sped off down the ice, speedily evading one defender but being stood up by the second. Then came a huge save from Hiadlovsky as the Steeldogs fed the puck through the zone Hiadlovksy looked to hook it in an freeze it. The puck took a rebound from him and bounced out into the slot. Hiadlovsky left the net and dived to hook the puck back in with his stick and freeze the play about 5 feet out of his crease with Steeldogs players sniffing for the loose puck.
Hiadlovksy was sharp again when the Steeldogs passed the puck around with ease but their final pass, looking to find Bosas waiting at the far side of the net was stopped as Hiadlovsky intercepted and froze the play.
A few quick-fire chances came for the Bison, first a shot from Roehl from the high slot was saved by Hadfield, he did the same moments later to a Karpov back hand and then a blast from the point from Kurt Reynolds was deflected away safely by the Steeldogs stopper.
Then the Steeldogs pulled themselves back into the game totally against the run of play. Liam Kirk was alone in space and Morgan found him with his pass, he shot in with pace and beat Hiadlovsky meaning at 17.31, despite the Bison dominance of the opening period they only led by a single goal in a 3-2 game.
Pavel Mrna found his way in alone on net and a huge save from Hiadlovsky ended his hopes. Bison grabbed the puck and as they headed over the far blue line with Roehl barrelling down on net the whistle blew as Mrna was down behind the play. After the Sheffield therapist rushed to the ice Mrna was up and off under his own steam clutching his ear.
Hadfield ended the first period with a couple of sharp saves denying first Thompson then Karpov and the buzzer signalled the end of the opening period with the Bison dominating the play but only ahead by a goal.
The Bison would have been wondering how they were ahead by just a single goal! The gamesheet shows near identical shots on goal, with the home team edging the count by 1 but the Steeldogs had a plan and they stuck to it. It seemed the first part of the plan was to deny Bison the opportunity to play the free flowing hockey that’s seen them build a six game winning streak. Conversely they had taken their chances when they came. The opportunity for the first goal was a gift but it was a well executed move, the second goal was just a well taken goal.
The referee was in action early in the second period as he called Tomas Karpov for a trip just 21 seconds in which allowed the Steeldogs another powerplay. After some good work to get Tim Smith the puck his shot was unlikely to succeed as it was straight at the goaltender. The penalty ended as the Steeldogs lost control of the puck and it exited the zone but Karpov couldn’t get hold of it properly and start a breakaway. He did however quickly get the puck and set up Grant Rounding but Hadfield made the save. Another couple of chances fell to Rounding but he couldn’t get the clean connection and Hadfield did what he needed to do.
Vanya Antonov showed skill beyond his years as he sailed in on the Steeldogs net and left a drop pass for Rene Jarolin but he couldn’t quite get enough of it to advance the score.
Sheffield turned up the pressure and made the Bison defence work hard and the goaltender too. Bison snuck a break the other way as Aaron Connolly was the only man free after a collision on the blue line but his shot was blocked before it reached the net. Balmer then sent a speculative puck on net which nearly made it through after taking a deflection from Brcko but it edged past just wide. Thompson and Jarolin combined behind the net to find Dan Davies in front but his shot was an easy save for Hadfield.
Steeldogs broke for a quick chance with Bosas shooting but Hiadlovsky made the save. Roehl then fed Reynolds who’s shot was tipped in front by Connolly but hit the metal work and away.
Momentum swung between the teams as the midway mark of the second period approached. Neither team could claim dominance in a scrappy period. Both teams had chances but neither made the most of them until 31.13. Cole Shudra blocked a shot, the puck fell to Bell who found Mrna. He skated quickly round the Bison and shot high into the net for the game tying goal.
Still momentum swung, first Towalski fed Thompson in the slot but Hadfield made the save, then Mrna danced through the Bison ranks but couldn’t get his shot on target. Steeldogs made nothing of a powerplay when Aaron Connolly was called for holding at 34.18.
With 2.50 left in the period Bison were back in the lead. Karpov found Antonov who found Jarabek and the defenceman let loose a huge blast that Hadfield just couldn’t react to in time and it was 4-3.
With hits being laid straight after each other in the neutral zone Dan Davies went just a little too far for the referee’s liking and consequently got a tripping call at 38.56.
In the 1.04 of powerplay time the Steeldogs had before the break Mrna managed the only shot but it was off target and the second period ended with the Bison once again ahead by a goal.
Basingstoke killed off the remainder of the Davies penalty to start the third period well but the first real chance of the period still fell to Sheffield as Wood outmuscled Stuart Mogg and squeezed past Ciaran Long but Hiadlovsky deflected the shot away. Chances kept coming, Thompson, from behind the net, fed Towlaski but Hadfield flashed the glove. It was the same glove that denied a second Jarabek slapshot and then the Steeldogs goalie dealt with a Jarabek backhand.
Matt Towalski took a clumsy hit from Bosas and when Joe Baird went in he ended up called for elbows at 45.35. Arnoldas Bosas had a prime opportunity to equalise as he was alone at the back post but totally missed the pass fed to him giving the Bison a big escape.
Back at full strength Lackey made a valiant attempt to score his second of the night, down on the ice and impeded by Bell, then with 11.01 remaining Wood and Balmer picked up slashing minors. A double minor for Wood gave the Bison a powerplay.
Roehl sent in a powerplay blast and but it was deflected out of play. Connolly tried to send in a rebound but Hadfield had it covered. Then Antonov was called for tripping at 50.54. There was a brief period of 4 on 4 before Steeldogs powerplay started for 1.54.
Both Kirk and Calvert tried their luck with the powerplay but neither could level the game.
With 4.42 left to play Karpov scored his second of the night to open the gap between the teams. Antonov fed the puck in and Karpov did the rest as only he can do.
Drama followed as Hiadlovsky came out to play the puck and was taken out by Bosas. Roehl challenged Bosas who wanted nothing of the willing combatant and skated away meekly to the bench. Roehl then demolished Ben Morgan with a huge open ice hit.
At 57.52 the Bison bench took an abuse of official penalty but there was little harm down as Kumeliauskas took down Connolly at 58.27, collecting an interference penalty for his troubles.
The final 1.33 ticked away and Bison completed their seventh consecutive win.
It was a funny game. The beginning was really good, the end was really good and the middle was entertaining but not that good! The Steeldogs identified that their best hope was to upset the smooth play of the Bison. The minute the Bison gained the zone the Steeldogs collapsed in around their net forcing Bison to shoot from further out.
Bison dominated the opening period but the Steeldogs made the most of their chances as they came. The middle period nobody dominated and the third period Bison came through strongest. The referee allowed the game to flow as much as possible and the players decided the result.