The Sherfield School Basingstoke Bison started a busy period of 5 games in 8 days by welcoming the Swindon Wildcats to the Basingstoke Arena.
The Wildcats were without Rutkis, Nell, Buglass and Nethersall while the Bison were without Baird. It was Dave Cloutman who was the man in charge with Amy Lack and Andy Cook on the lines and with formalities done the referee got the game underway.
Basingstoke Bison 4 Swindon Wildcats 1
Straight away Bison once again set out their stall as they were in at Lyle and as he made the first save players gathered in front for some pushing and shoving. It was end to end stuff at first as Maxim Birbraer shot at Tomas Hiadlovsky but his wrist shot effort was grabbed from the air. Neil Liddiard shot in from the blue line, which Hiadlovsky saved.
Declan Balmer picked up an elbows minor at 2.17 but the visitors failed to really get anything going on the game’s first powerplay. A shot from Höög as he sped into the zone caused drama as it caught Stuart Mogg full on in the visor but thankfully no harm was done and he was soon up and off the ice to return next shift.
As Balmer returned to the ice the physicality of the game seemed to be upping. Lots of hits, mostly with the play but some off the play too but all watched on carefully by the referee.
Scoring was underway at 4.57 when Jan Jarabek fed Rene Jarolin who skated in to the zone, avoiding everyone as he skilfully made a run to the net before leaving a nice drop pass for Aaron Connolly to finish which he did for 1-0.
Almost straight off the face-off Wildcats were in penalty trouble when Matt Selby picked up a roughing minor at 5.05. With their first powerplay Bison pressured the Wildcats net and for the second time in the night the puck was across the line behind Stevie Lyle but this one was washed out immediately as a no goal and a delay of the game penalty went to Floyd Taylor.
With a 2 man advantage Bison looked to double their scoreboard advantage. Ciaran Long lifted the puck top corner but was denied by Lyle. Seconds later a shot from the point saw a crowd form looking for a rebound to bury but Lyle had it covered.
As Selby returned for the Wildcats this set them off on a 3 on 1 but Bison got a chance to get a 2nd man back as the Wildcats mishandled the puck temporarily. Hiadlovksy came up with a huge save to deny Höög and end that particular danger.
Comedy moment of the night came when Declan Balmer lined up a check in front of the Bison bench but as he completed the hit he also swiftly executed his line change as he went straight through the open bench door as other players were already in the process of changing.
Hiadlovsky was having a good game, every chance Swindon through at him he saved. Some non dangerous but some point blank chances.
As the midway mark passed in the first period Bison were heading to the powerplay at 10.26 as Birbraer lined up Connolly off the play he was called for charging.
An uneventful powerplay saw the Wildcats kill off the penalty. As Birbraer returned Shaun Thompson was taken out just before releasing a shot from the slot.
Credit to Swindon who managed to break up the usual Bison smooth passing but equally the Wildcats weren’t putting together many successful passes of their own. Jan Jarabek showed his worth as twice he stood up Höög. The second time Tomas Karpov broke with the puck and fed on to Vanya Antonov but Lyle denied the youngster.
Höög had created himself the chance to equalise by the side of the net but couldn’t finish. Then soon after there was frustration and disbelief for the visitors as Hiadlovsky went down to stop an almost certain goal but gave up a rebound. The Swindon bench and every player must have believed they would bury the rebound into the open net but at the speed of light Hiadlovsky was back up and denied the rebound chance.
The first period had ended much scrappier than it had started but the Bison were a goal to the good thanks for a great start by Rene Jarolin and Aaron Connolly and some between the post heroics at the other end of the period by Tomas Hiadlovsky.
The second period started frustratingly for the Herd as Connolly and Long both shot wide. At the other end Sam Bullas ended up inside the net but it was back to normal when Karpov blasted on target at the Wildcats net but Lyle made the save.
Connolly floated a shot to the net which Lyle reacted quickly to cover before Grant Rounding managed to get at the expected rebound. The Bison pressure finally got its rewards again at 26.12. Ciaran Long forced a turnover and Rene Jarolin shot, patiently waited for his own rebound to come back out then buried it at the second chance. Rene launched himself at the back glass to celebrate as the Bison crowd stood to cheer their second goal and the Wildcats took their timeout.
Bison were back on the powerplay at 27.03 which Whitfield called for an obvious cross check to Rounding but the best chance came shorthanded when Jan Kostal shot from a tight angle but Hiadlovksy closed the door.
Soon after the return to full strength there was tension as Birbraer took a Jarabek shot in his ankle but after a brief stoppage he was up and away unaided.
Sam Bullas was the next to fall foul of the referee with an interference penalty at 32.00. As Swindon cleared the puck down the ice with no fear of icing Hiadlovsky left the crease to start the puck movement back forward but was taken out by Taylor who picked up a goaltender interference penalty for his trouble at 33.34 giving the Bison 26 seconds of 5 on 3.
Bullas returned as the Herd failed to capitalise on the 2 man advantage but they would make Taylor pay for his penalty as they upped their score to 3. Jan Jarabek did the hard work, leading the break out and fed Long who shot after a single step in to the puck and his blast was in the back of the net at 34.34.
Karpov looked to offer Rounding the chance to make it 4-0 but the latter couldn’t quite get to the feed in front. Höög then stole a puck and made his move only to be thwarted again by Hiadlovsky. As the whistle blew Balmer was awarded a 2 minute slashing penalty with 3.26 to play in the second period.
Swindon’s best chance on the man advantage came as Aldridge fed in a slap pass for Malasinki but he missed the pass altogether and it sailed away safely.
The Herd safely weathered the penalty kill and Vanya Antonov had a chance with some space but his shot sailed by wide. Bullas broke free but not for long as Antonov stood him up and with that the second period ended with Bison in complete control at 3-0.
There were chances at both ends in the opening of the third period. Aaron Connolly received a feed from the corner but the play was broken up by Jan Kostal. Jarabek soon after sent in a blast from the blue line which Shaun Thompson looked to get the tip on but the tip wasn’t quite enough to direct it past Lyle. Birbraer wound up for a huge blast but the effort was wasted as it was shot straight at Hiadlovksy who made a relatively easy save. As the third period progressed it was Derek Roehl who charged forward but found Lyle closing the door on him.
Kurt Reynolds sent in a blast which ended deep in the mid-rift of the Wildcats goaltender ahead of Höög trying his luck at the other end but as Hiadlovsky made the save the net came off and the whistle blew. Lackey and Whitfield exchanged cross words but nothing more came of it and play restarted.
Jarolin fed Long and Long shot but Lyle trapped it between his blocker and body. As play restarted Wildcats raced up and Höög shot from the wing but it was another save for Hiadlovsky. Smith was next to test the Bison goaltender but he shut the pads on the chance.
Both goaltenders had to be sharp. A Bison won face off to the left of Lyle was drawn back to Reynolds who shot but Lyle deflected it up into the roof for a stop in play. Jarolin then fed Antonov who fed on to Connolly but another good save came from the Wildcats goal. Davies then laid the puck on for Rounding who raced in behind the net and tried the wrap around but found Lyle alert and hugging the post.
With 4.02 left to play, and against the run of play, Swindon bagged their first goal of the night. It was a pre-defined play that saw the puck passed from Richardson to Malasinski who fed across to Whitfield who scored with the one timer to end hopes of a well deserved shut out.
Bison team spirit showed through as the Wildcats dominated play for moments after the goal. Even Tomas Karpov, sitting on the ice in the slot was defending like his life defended on it!
With over 2 minutes to go Aaron Nell took Lyle off the ice in favour of the extra attacker. As Malasinski coughed up the puck Bison cleared the zone as the final two minutes started. With the face-off being in the neutral zone and not the Bison defensive zone Lyle returned to the ice but as soon as the Wildcats had possession he was gone again.
Wildcats were pressuring the Bison net but play stopped when the referee spotted a man in the crease. Face-off remained at the Bison end so the Wildcats net remained empty and with 21 seconds to play the game was effectively over when Bison netted their fourth. It was Malasinski again who turned the puck over and Ciaran Long set off with Rene Jarolin. With all the time in the world the two advanced to the net before Long laid it off for Jarolin who tapped into the huge open target.
It wasn’t the usual smooth Bison game that saw the first two of the three consecutive home wins won. The Wildcats came with what appeared a clear tactic to disrupt the Bison flow as their primary objective meaning the game was a scrappy battle.
The Bison in all fairness did also do well to shut down the Wildcats. Their main threat is Jonas Höög but he was controlled well all through the night. His quality chances were few and far between despite being a player who is usually dangerous enough to create many for himself.
The shot count shows that Tomas Hiadlovsky faced 22 shots but he was much busier than that. He’s a pro-active goaltender who works hard to break plays as well as make saves. When called into action to do the latter he was probably the best he’s been for a while. There was one particular incident in the first period where he committed his all to making a save but left a rebound. Virtually every opposing player would have believed the game would have been 1-1 but he managed to regain his feet and deny this certain goal scoring chance.
In many teams the goaltender is the anchor around which the team is built. Think of that save in the context of the game. That save ensured the Bison retained their lead but that save also tells every player in front of Hiadlovsky that the net is virtually impenetrable and that gives them extra confidence to go about their own games.
In front of Hiadlovksy, with Baird missing, the defence continues to play short. The defensive quad had another good game. It’s perhaps harder to get a man of the match award as a defenseman than a forward or indeed a goaltender. Forwards score the highlight reel goals, netminders make the impressive saves, defenceman just do their jobs. In writing that I’m not knocking what they do as the very best defenceman will do their jobs that well that they won’t be noticed doing them! In fact, I was told by a well respected coach a few years back that the very best defenceman will be that good you’ll rarely notice them.
Ciaran Long bagged the man of the match for the Bison and he had a good game and probably deserved the beers but it must have been a close call between so many of the Bison for them last night.
The Wildcats game starts a big run for the Bison. It was a vital cup game which secured the Bison two important cup points. They now go on to face Hull in Hull before a run of 3 in 3 next week. The weekend starts on the road as there’s another vital cup game being played in Milton Keynes next Friday. Then there’s the tough test of the table topping “boom and bust” Tigers in Basingstoke next Saturday ahead of a trip to Blackpool to face the Phoenix next week.