The season had started a week previously with challenge action for the Sherfield School Basingstoke Bison at the Arena but the Invicta Dynamos were the first opponents making a visit for a competitive fixture of the season.
Bison went into the game missing Jaroslav Cesky and Hallam Wilson but gave a roster spot to Sam Brooks. Dynamos were at full strength. Starting goalie duties went to Dean Skinns and Damien King with Tim Pickett the man in charge of the game.
Basingstoke Bison 4 Invicta Dynamos 0
Damien King had the pattern of his night drawn out early as almost straight off the face off he was shot upon first by Aaron Connolly and then by Dan Scott. Equally he would set out early the plan he had of frustrating the home team.
Bison dominated the offence in the early exchanges while the Dynamos played a more physical game, appearing to want to unsettle the Bison. That would lead to the game’s first powerplay when Bobby Chamberlain laid off a huge hit which instantly saw the referee’s arm extend for a delayed penalty. Bison cleared Dean Skinns for the extra attacker but a good finish from Connolly couldn’t quite beat King so the whistle blew as Chamberlain was called for charging.
It wasn’t long into the man advantage that a Dan Scott slashing penalty levelled the teams at 4 on 4. Ryan Sutton raced to the net and tested King ahead of Scott Bailey getting the first shot on the Bison net which Skinns dealt with comfortably.
Chamberlain returned in due course, swiftly followed by Scott for 5 on 5 just ahead of Tomas Karpov firing agonisingly wide. As Grant Rounding made his way up the middle Harrison Lillis took him down at 7.54 resulting in a Bison powerplay.
Ondrej Zosiak came shorthanded and unsuccessfully tested the Bison net but with the man advantage Aaron Connolly skated down the barriers before centring to Tomas Karpov who fired in the game’s opener at 9.36
A procession of Bison chances followed in a display of good individual and team skill but the skilled play was temporarily suspended when Invicta took objection to a lovely hit from Joe Baird, outmuscling Josh Condren of the puck. Strawson steamed in with a hit called as charging and Kurt Reynolds and Harrison Lillis both ended up with roughing minors, the powerplay advantage going to the Bison.
The only real chance on the powerplay came when Sutton fed Karpov who set Dan Scott up but he sent the puck wide. It wasn’t 5 on 5 for long as Strawson returned Mason Webster took a cross checking penalty with a nasty hit on Dan Scott at 16.20.
Good chances came on the powerplay but Dan Davies and Tomas Karpov both put their chances past the outside edge of the post.
As the first period buzzer ended Bison would probably have thought they could have been further ahead while Dynamos were probably thankful for King keeping them just a goal down in the opening 20 minutes. Shots on goal backed up the flow of the game as the Bison fired off 22 shots while Dynamos managed just 5!
Back for the second period it was more of the same. Aaron Connolly, Tomas Karpov, Kurt Reynolds combined with Karpov all tried early on at the start of the middle period. Invicta made their way to their target but as the puck slid across the crease waiting for connection Dean Skinns had already positioned himself and blocked the net with his pad!
Tomas Karpov dangled down the ice but his feed wasn’t connected with. Aaron Connolly fed Tomas Karpov who quickly sent it back to the captain but Damien King extended the pad to make the save. A sweet move ended fruitless as Davies sent an inch perfect pass to Vanya Antonov who slid effortlessly to Paul Petts but he didn’t finish. Attack continued as Grant Rounding shot and his rebound fell to Ryan Sutton with the latter hitting the ironwork.
Just shy of half way Reynolds and Mason Webster came together for words as Reynolds objected to a slash he received. None of this missed the attention of Tim Pickett who awarded a slashing minor to Webster and a roughing minor to Reynolds.
Callum Fowler cut to the net and his backhand shot forced a save from Skinns but the two penalised players returned to the ice with no change in the scoring. The Dynamos net was still under a sustained attacked and at 32.07 the inevitable second goal came. Vanya Antonov fed Tomas Karpov who sent the puck back to the blue line and Stuart Mogg blasted home bottom corner for 2-0 with the puck in the net before King had even reacted.
A quick flurry of chances at both ends followed. Bobby Chamberlain muscled his way to the middle but was denied by Skinns, Rounding found another King save waiting for him and Callum Fowler managed to ping the post before the Bison defence cleared.
With 5.12 left in the middle period Bison scored their third unanswered goal with another puck sent back to Joe Baird who wheeled in towards the net for a Vanya Antonov tip to deflect it away from the waiting goaltender.
The period ended with more action around the Dynamos net as Karpov and Ashley Jackson both tested King but as the second period buzzer sounded Bison were more than good for their lead.
As shots on goal for the second period were announced over the PA system they confirmed the Bison dominance of the game so far. Invicta were clinging on in the game thanks to their goaltender but the season’s opener was so far all in favour of the home team.
Zosiak entered the zone quickly but lost the puck in a scramble which saw the Bison clear quickly. Somehow Ryan Sutton picked up a slashing penalty. The Dynamos had 1.44 of 5 on 3 when Aaron Connolly took a cross checking penalty at 43.24.
Callum Fowler became a casualty of his team’s powerplay when he took a Bobby Chamberlain slapshot square in the ankle but as Sutton retuned Dynamos coughed a penalty which would turn to a powerplay after a short spell of 4 on 4.
Bison completed the scoring on the ensuing powerplay as Vanya Antonov’s initial shot sat for the Captain who completed the rebound at 45.34.
From here the game slowed a little. The visitors had visibly tired followed their physical first two periods and Bison knew with a 4-0 lead that they were in a comfortable position.
Invicta still weren’t giving up with Adam Rehak gaining the zone but good defensive work from Elliot Dewey forced him to shoot high. Ashley Jackson was on target at the other end finishing from Karpov and Connolly but Damien King came up big to deny 5-0. A combination of luck and good netminding further kept the score from increasing as first King denied Antonov, the Russian’s shot a few moments took a deflection away off a defender but King was called by into action by Sutton and made a pad save.
With 4.02 to play Dynamos had a chance to open their scoring on the powerplay when Dan Lackey sat out a holding call. The best chance of the Dynamos’ powerplay went to the Bison when Antonov shot from deep in his own zone. Dan Lackey returned and the game entered the final two minutes. One final save from Dean Skinns earned his team a 4-0 shut-out win.
Invicta Dynamos are the reigning play off champions in NIHL1. They turned up with only training jerseys to their first game of the season. Not sure why there were no jerseys but it’s an unfortunate start to the season to not have either home or away jerseys. It’s sad that after 40 minutes of hockey the talking point around the arena was the away team’s complete lack of jerseys.
This was the first match up on even terms at the Basingstoke Arena of an ex EPIHL team vs an ex NIHL team. A few years back there had been the ill feted “Challenge Cup” which proved everything but a challenge. Back then it was very much us and them even though the EPIHL teams had to drop two imports to play at the same strength. Now it’s a combined league, all teams had a theoretical even field to start from. That makes it even more sad that the talking point was the away team’s jerseys.
On to the game itself and it’s a game Bison won at a canter. They went in missing Jaroslav Cesky and Hallam Wilson. Sam Brooks iced in place of Hallam Wilson but the Bison were still down an import. These days there’s no spare imports floating around ready to step up and play in place of one that’s missing.
Bison enjoyed a huge shot advantage. 54-15 was the final shot count. That’s a massive imbalance but pretty much shows the balance of the game. Bison were good going forward but denied by Damien King who deservedly got the man of the match award. But for him Invicta would have been out the game within the first 20 minutes.
For Invicta, it’s highly unlikely they’re going to beat the Bison in any meeting generating just 15 shots. I honestly didn’t see either of the two imports stand out from the crowd. In a 5 import league your imports have to be good, in a 2 import league they have to be even better! Nobody could have failed to notice the stand out quality of Tomas Karpov last night but for the Dynamos there was nobody I noticed and thought they must be the import.
We’re early in the season, things may change. I fear for the Dynamos if King has an off day against former EPL opposition. For the Bison, a few more shots that lit the goal light would have been nice but sometimes you do come up against a hot goaltender.