Bison 1718 vs Raiders (Game 1)

Saturday home game action again for the Basingstoke Bison who took on the London Raiders in only their second National Ice Hockey League game of the season.

Bison were without Dan Davies and Stuart Mogg while Raiders brought an almost full roster they brought only one netminder which would prove to be crucial as the game played out. Bison did have the two young players, Sam Brooks and Hallam Wilson with them in the line up.

Stephen Matthews wore the armbands and Ali MacPhee and Liv Anderson took care of the lining duties.

Basingstoke Bison 7 London Raiders 1

After both teams tried each other out physically Basingstoke got the first couple of chances. Firstly Tomas Karpov fed Vanya Antonov but he couldn’t connect. Soon after Jaroslav Cesky worked himself space to feed Aaron Connolly but his shot was shouldered away by Euan King.

Bison were the team generating pressure in the opening minutes and it wasn’t until the 5th minute that Dean Skinns faced his first shot as Oliver Baldock held in a Bison clearance and tested the home team netminder for the first time in the game.

Raiders worked hard without generating many clear cut chances while Bison kept the pressure up around King’s net. As Euan King dealt with a Dan Scott shot Vanya Antonov advanced to the loose puck looking to poke home the rebound. A few pushes and shoves followed but nobody fell foul of the referee at that point. The penalty box couldn’t remain empty when Alan Lack got called for an obvious infringement, picking up a roughing minor at 7.54 in a call that could easily have been charging.

Kurt Reynolds sent his feed to the net but Aaron Connolly’s tip took the puck over the crossbar. Things got no better for the Raiders when Jack Cooper got called for slashing during the Lack penalty putting the Bison on a brief 5 on 3.

Bison pressured King’s net hard but the goal came off its moorings and as play stopped Lack returned. His return couldn’t prevent the first Bison goal though as a scorching centre feed from Tomas Karpov got tipped home by Ashley Jackson on the 5 on 4 powerplay at 10.47

Callum Wells came straight back but Skinns made the save and held on for a whistle. Karpov looked to challenge the other goal as he skated virtually the entire length of the ice before flicking the puck just wide.

Andy Munroe took a tripping penalty at 12.46. This powerplay was also converted as great team work produced the opportunity to finish. The Herd cycled the puck round and eventually drew the Raiders defence out of position before Antonov got the puck and skated into position pushing it home through the five hole at 14.12 for 2-0.

On the resumption after the goal Paul Petts took a tripping penalty as Alan Lack was taken out but midway through that Raiders’ powerplay JJ Pitchley was off for roughing levelling up at 4 on 4. As Paul Petts returned Bison got a short powerplay while Pitchely served the remainder of his roughing minor. Dan Scott sent away the deadly duo of Antonov and Karpov and the two of them worked the play drawing King out of position and offering Karpov virtually all the time in the world to score the Bison third of the night into an open net at 16.38

The remainder of the first period was pretty much interrupted Bison as the first period 19-3 shots on goal tally testified.

Raiders enjoyed a more convincing start to the second period as Juraj Huska shot in space but met a glove save from Dean Skinns. Pitchley headed to the net, leaving a neat drop pass to Brandon Ayliffe but again Skinns held strong. Neither team quite had the fluent play needed to advance the score and at 26.57 Aaron Connolly got a tripping call as Juraj Huska tumbled giving the Raiders a powerplay.

Tomas Karpov was the stand out on the penalty kill giving his all and putting his body on the line to see out the 2 minutes. Not too long after the return more relentless hard work from the Bison led to their fourth of the night as Aaron Connolly fired in top shelf from a Cesky feed.

A couple of high stick calls went unseen and unpunished as Karpov and Antonov were both victims and frustration reigned as immediately after being high sticked Antonov ended up called for interference at 31.37.

After a technically good Bison penalty kill Antonov returned. As play continued a high hit from Alan Lack on Grant Rounding initially went unpunished and play continued. As Rounding was helped from the ice while play continued eventually the whistle blew and MacPhee imparted what he’d seen to Matthews who then made a 2+10 call for check to the head. After protesting his way to the penalty box Lack took a seat but not for long as his actions drew the wrath of Matthews who gave him a 10 minute misconduct meaning an automatic game penalty.

Bison went hard on the powerplay but couldn’t convert although they were to get another chance with 11 seconds left in the middle period.

With a comfortable 4-0 lead after 40 minutes Bison generated some good chances in the remainder of the powerplay at the start of the final period.

In the 44th minute of the game King went down after a save and didn’t get up again. He was treated on the ice and after a delay the game continued with the only shot stopper available to them in net. Within two minutes he made a save again and stayed down for a second time. This time after treatment it was clear he wasn’t able to complete the remaining 13.31. The two coaches had words on the benches and both teams headed to their respective dressing rooms while London dressed a player to take over in net.

After a lengthy delay Raiders re-emerged with their captain, Tom Davis in net.

After saving the first shot he faced Davis wasn’t helped by his team mate who scored on him! As the last Bison player to touch the puck Aaron Connolly was credited with the goal but Lascenko’s attempted clearance hit Davis and entered the net for 5-0 at 49.50.

At 50.43 Bison scored their fifth when the team gained the zone and Antonov ambled in and shot.

With 6.30 to play Raiders broke their shut out with Marek Nahlik squeezing a delayed penalty goal into the net. Nahnik got deep into the zone and sent the puck in on net from past the hashmarks. It looked like Skinns had got the puck but then the celebrations started as it had squeezed through into the goal.

The final goal of the game came with 6.03 to go when Ashley Jackson was given the puck by the Bison and space by the Raiders. With all he needed in his favour he fired home for 7-1.

Bison coughed up a late powerplay to the Raiders as Dean Skinns collected a holding the stick penalty at 55.01 which was sat out by Sam Brooks. Skinns himself pulled off a huge save on Nahnik looking to double his tally but the teams played out the final minutes scoreless and Bison took points from a 7-1 home win.

It was two games in one. You can’t gloss over the fact that Bison won 7-1 against one of the teams recognised as being a potential shining light of the teams from last year’s NIHL1. In fairness its likely Bison would have won regardless of the injury to King as they were in a comfortable position at the time of his injury.

Bison were putting in a good performance and had earned themselves a 4-0 lead. Euan King however was keeping his team in the game turning in a good performance. The Raiders defence were also doing quite well in restricting Bison shots as if there were stats for possession and time in attacking zones Bison were dominating those.

The final 13.31 of the game saw Raiders in a pickle. With no backup netminder travelling and King getting injured the game ended with a Raiders’ outskater in goal. That put the Bison in an awkward situation.

It’s fair game to go all out against a netminder who actually is a netminder. If he conceded that’s what he’s trained not to do. He’s spent years learning and honing the skills that he uses in the game and it’s his job to stop as many shots as possible. Thankfully netminder injuries are rare. If you remember back we had one in Basingstoke a couple of years ago when Tomas Hiadlovsky pulled up injured in the first period. Back up Dan Weller-Evans took over and the game finished. Bison did go on to bring in Jon Baston to cover the injury but played the remainder of the game in which Hiadlovsky got injured with the backup goalie. Weller-Evans, although not the starting goalie, has also spent his entire playing time learning and practicing the skills needed by a goalie so Hiadlovsky’s injury didn’t affect the balance of the game.

It became obvious with over 15 minutes to play when Euan King went down the first time that he was unlikely to complete the game. Bravely he did carry on but the next time he went down to make a save he struggled to gain his feet again. I guess the two minutes he played between injury and actually leaving the ice he wouldn’t have played had there been a credible backup option but that’s something we’ll never know.

After discussions between the two coaches on the benches both teams left the ice while the Raiders dressed an alternative player into goalie kit. The fact there was no alternative shot stopper changed the whole game.

Bison were now left in the unenviable position of deciding what to do? It would be bad form to send your top players out going 100% to score on a player just filling the net. But equally on home ice you owe the supporters the cost of their admission with an entertaining game. Knowledgeable hockey fans would understand the predicament but a first time walk up supporter would be left wondering what was going on. That same walk up supporter might be thinking “ok we’ll see a goal fest now” and then feel cheated that they didn’t.

For what it’s worth I think the Bison handled the situation well. They completed the chances they had, they gave regular ice slots to the junior members of the squad and played the end of the game in the best spirit they could given the circumstances.

I’d imagine having a player in goal rather than a netminder would have changed the Raiders outlook on the final 13.31 of the game too. They did have the option of going with 6 skaters and an empty net but that’s just not really a viable option with over 13 minutes left to play.

As I said netminder injuries are thankfully rare but what are the odds that you goalie gets injured when you have no back up with you? Were the Under 18s playing? Surely they’d have two registered netminders who could have travelled? If they were playing were the under 16s? An under 16 could have played under 18 while the under 18 travelled with the Raiders?

I don’t think the lack of back up affected the result but it did affect the game and the way it was played which is a shame for the players involved and the paying supporters who turned up to watch 60 minutes of competitive hockey.