The Basingstoke Bison were back on home ice on Boxing Day to start a home and away Bank Holiday series with the Swindon Wildcats.
Bison were without Joe Rand while Swindon were without Oliver Stone, Toms Rutkis, Aaron Nell and Callum Buglass.
Officiating duties were handed to Stephen Matthews with Justin Lalonde and Andy Cook.
Basingstoke Bison 3 Swindon Wildcats 1
With the previous day’s Christmas Dinner still settling the game was underway and an early demonstration of what was ahead was given when Declan Balmer was up-ended at the blue line, there was no call on that play but Bison were soon whistled for a hand pass.
Derek Roehl made his way up the boards and laid off a nice pass for Tomas Karpov but as he wound up to release the shot he was bumped off the puck. The Bison pressure didn’t relent and Stevie Lyle was tested well in the opening minutes of the game.
Bison won a face off and got the puck back to Ciaran Long but good positioning from the Swindon goaltender saw him square on to the shot and he held on for a whistle. Long was back in the action again shortly after when Kurt Reynolds stretched out his stick to hold in the puck at the blue line and floated it to the net but Long couldn’t managed to shove it home.
Joe Miller then dangled round three Wildcats before being taken out by a hit that could, on another day, have been called as elbows. Adam Finlinson looked to test Tomas Hiadlovsky but his shot took a deflection which saw it pass safely outside the danger zone.
Bison were ahead at 6.52 thanks to Vanya Antonov. The hard work was done with some great forechecking by Rene Jarolin who fed Mogg and then the puck was in the slot for Antonov to finish off.
Tomas Malasinski shot from the blue line, Phil Hill got the tip in front but quick reactions from Hiadlovsky made the save and he covered over as Hill headed away behind the net and Malasinski came in looking for a rebound.
Steve Whitfield shot but Bison took the rebound and quickly got a 3 on 2. Long made the final run on his own and the Bison celebrated. It looked initially like the referee had pointed to award the goal but the goal light hadn’t come on. After deliberations and a consultation with the goal judge the goal was washed out.
There was no repeat of the debate on the next play as Tomas Hiadlovsky confidently met the shot at the top of his crease and the puck disappeared with no rebound on offer. Wildcats then generated a 2 on 1 but as Hoog came into the zone looking to pass across the slot Joe Baird intercepted the pass in the slot and cleared the danger.
Derek Roehl would get the puck at the blue line and skate in under pressure from the Wildcats defence all the way but he still got the shot off but not surprisingly under impedance it was a relatively easy save for Lyle.
At 10.32 there was a lengthy delay as Kurt Reynolds took a puck in the face in the neutral zone. He was down for some time but did make his own way off the ice for treatment and the blood was removed from the ice.
A couple of chances fell for the Bison soon after the restart. A battle in the corner was won by the Bison but a sharp save from Lyle pinching the post ended that hope. Karpov then picked up a puck in the neutral zone, sped into the attacking zone and shot but the puck took a deflection and went wide.
With Bison looking to clear Jonas Hoog grabbed the advantage from a failed Mogg clearance attempt and shot quickly. Hiadlovsky made the save but Wildcats grabbed the rebound. They were causing chaos around the net but the advantage ended when Jan Kostal shoved one of the Bison into the goal forcing the ironwork off its moorings.
At 13.17 the game got its first powerplay when Neil Liddiad took a tripping penalty. Rene Jarolin found Dan Davies who sent the puck out wide to Aaron Connolly but his shot was saved. Balmer gave away a shorthanded chance to Hoog but despite Hoog getting the breakaway the Bison goaltender made another save and again offered no rebound.
Karpov shot at the other end and the puck hit Mark Smith. The resulting face off was in the Wildcats zone but no sooner was that taken than the Wildcats returned to full strength and the penalty was killed.
Reynolds fired in a perfect pass but Antonov couldn’t get a clean connection. Malasinski took the puck from Baird at the other end but as he cut to the net Hiadlovsky got a stick on it to take it from the Wildcats forward.
With 15 seconds left in the period a farce occurred when the teams were lining up for a face off in the Bison half of the ice. Swindon changed lines three or four times and as the officials sent fresh players back off the ice another set were sent out. After the fourth time the referee called a delay of the game penalty on the Wildcats bench meaning the Bison ended the first period with a 15 second penalty.
The first period ended with Bison having 1.45 left on the powerplay and ahead by Antonov’s earlier goal. As the teams left the ice Swindon’s coach, Aaron Nell, caught up with the referee and a lengthy discussion ensued by the benches before the referee and the visiting coach both left the ice and headed to their respective rooms
Swindon killed off the penalty at the start of the second period before a close call in front of the Swindon net saw both Aaron Connolly and Stevie Lyle end up down but both returned to their feet quickly. Soon play was at the other end and Tomas Malasinski was in front of the net looking to stuff home the puck near a busy crease but couldn’t get it over the line.
Bison were penalty killing at 23.07 when Dan Scott took a two minute tripping penalty. Jonas Hoog was in close and shot at the Bison net but his shot was straight at Hiadlovsky and he turned it away. Phil Hill then coughed up a good pass which allowed Bison to gain total control of the puck and skate away wasting Wildcats powerplay time.
As Dan Scott returned to the ice he was ahead of the play and when the puck came free he sped off down the ice. Ciaran Long joined him and Scott centred for Long but he couldn’t get a good shot and the puck trickled to Lyle who made the save.
Wildcats got another powerplay at 27.11 when Aaron Connolly was called for hooking. Karpov was away shorthanded and advancing to the target with Ciaran Long racing to catch him but as Long joined the play Karpov lost the puck. Connolly returned soon after and it was back to 5 on 5.
As had happened when Dan Scott returned earlier Aaron Connolly found himself on the puck as he exited the penalty box. He had Rene Jarolin coming up with him and Connolly centred for Jarolin at the top of the crease but Jarolin’s connection wasn’t perfect and Lyle pounced for the save.
As half way came and went Bison were penalty killing again when Grant Rounding took a tripping minor at 31.05. As Swindon tried to control the play with the man advantage an over adventurous outlet pass missed everyone and flew away for icing bringing the face off back to their own end. Derek Roehl broke away shorthanded and was in alone when he beat Lyle anticipation quickly turned to frustration as his rocket rattled back off the crossbar and away into the corner.
As Rounding returned Bison had a player down in front of the bench but there was no call made on the play. The whistle didn’t blow until Tomas Hiadlovksy had been taken down in the Bison net. As the player down by the benches regained his feet the Bison medical staff went to check on the goaltender.
After a delay the game restarted and Dan Davies tested Stevie Lyle cutting from right to left behind the net and trying to squeeze the puck home near side but Lyle had his glove ready and waiting.
As the feistiness of the game increased the penalty count didn’t increase correspondingly until both Neil Liddiard and Rene Jarolin took matching tripping minors at 34.24. As Dan Davies entered the zone carrying the puck Malasinksi took him down and Bison got a 4 on 3 powerplay at 35.52 as the Wildcats import served a 2 minute tripping penalty.
Karpov shot and drew a glove save from Lyle and then Jarolin and Liddiard returned. The Bison powerplay was now at 5 on 4 and Declan Balmer sent in a blast from the blue line but Lyle got in behind it and the rebound bounced off safely for the Wildcats and Malasinski was soon back making it 5 on 5.
Good back check work from Derek Roehl broke up a dangerous looking Wildcats move and ensured the Bison were still good for the 1-0 lead as the second period ended.
Tomas Malasinski was looking to get things moving but in a beautifully executed hit Declan Balmer stood him up and put him down, at the same time getting control of the puck back for the Bison. Wildcats cleared the puck back down the Bison end and finally got a breather.
As the Stampede looked to advance again Stuart Mogg offered up a turnover and Jan Kostal stole the puck, skated in and fired high into the back of the Bison goal to level the game at 46.25.
As play got back underway Matt Towalski was back helping out defensively when he took a Wildcats’ player’s stick to the face which went uncalled. Two shots in quick succession followed, Kurt Reynolds shooting wide and Rene Jarolin drawing a save. Ciaran Long then shot from the top of the zone but Lyle saw it all the way.
With the Wildcats looking to clear their zone Joe Baird fed the puck to the net where Derek Roehl was positioned in front and his tip beat Lyle for the Bison second goal at 49.24
Jonas Hoog waltzed in to the zone but Declan Balmer forced him wide to the corner. Hoog let off his pass but it was picked up by Joe Baird at the top of the crease and the danger averted.
Soon after it was 3-1 when Balmer found Antonov and Antonov got the puck to Tomas Karpov. The Czech did what he does best and beat the Wildcats goalie for the third time for 3-1 at 51.34.
With 6.45 left on the clock Karpov tried for his second but Lyle made the save standing up tall and played the puck away with his own stick.
4 on 4 was back in play at 55.11 with Declan Balmer and Maxim Birbraer both taking roughing penalties.
The penalties expired at 57.11 and an awkward bounce saw the puck right in front of the Bison goal but Hiadlovsky forced it away to the corner. With 2.12 left on the clock Matt Towalski took a roughing penalty and Aaron Nell called the Wildcats timeout. Stevie Lyle remained on the bench when play re-started.
Dan Davies found Rene Jarolin in front of the Wildcats bench but as he entered the zone he was kept wide and missed the empty net. A huge save from Hiadlovsky saw the puck to Ciaran Long who flung it down the ice, it was set on target for the net and the Bison fourth before taking a bobble on the way down, jumping to it’s side and re-directing to the side of the target.
With a 2 man advantage thanks to the empty net and the Bison penalty plus a set of fresh legs on the ice Wildcats gained the zone and passed around well leading to their second goal. With 17 seconds left in the game Benjamin Nethersell finished from Hoog and Birbraer.
Lyle remained on the bench but neither team could get anything going solidly from the re-start and the buzzer sounded signalling the win for the Bison.
A game with potential for feistiness had just that. As the game progressed incidents went uncalled but frustratingly minor penalties were called. This became more obvious in the second period in terms of the penalty calling.
Two frustrating incidents did occur in the first period. Ciaran Long believed he’d scored at 8.26. It had been a good move and initially the referee appeared to be pointing to the goal awarding the goal. However the goal light didn’t come on and there started a couple of minutes of discussion among the officials before the goal was disallowed. The frustration and tension could have been awarded by taking a moment to decide rather than apparently awarding the goal then washing it out.
The second incident led to the Wildcats delay of the game penalty. Wildcats rolled their changes multiple times, the referee and linesmen both pointing incoming players back to the bench but during all this the referee still had his arm raised allowing the changes. After numerous send backs of players the delay of the game call was made. At the other of the period 15 seconds later the referee was in discussion with the Wildcats coach.
Bison were good for their win. They played the game well and didn’t allow the frustrations of the calls and non calls to get to them. They shut down the dangerous Hoog, pretty much nullified Birbraer too.
At the end of the game Derek Roehl showed his leadership on the ice. With Wildcats fans sat behind the team goal booing him he cupped his ear in their direction before whipping the Bison crowd up into a frenzy. He did the a few times generating an electric atmosphere in the presentations.