The Sherfield School Basingstoke Bison kicked off their weekend on home ice looking for an overturn of the result six days ago when they faced the Telford Tigers in Shropshire.
The Tigers would be the ones to be short benched for this one as the Bison welcomed back Jaroslav Cesky but still had Dan Davies sidelined.
Basingstoke Bison 2 Telford Tigers 5
The game would be under the control of Stephen Matthews and after a minute’s applause in memory of Julie Green followed by the National Anthem the players gathered at centre ice.
The short benched Tigers matched the Bison in the early encounters. Joe Miller looked to create the game’s first chance against his former team but Kurt Reynolds stepped into the play.
Supporters didn’t have to wait too long for the first goal though when Bison opened their account at 3.03. A laser pass from Jaroslav Cesky to the front of the net was deflected past Bell in the Tigers net leaving the goalie no chance at all.
Jason Silverthorn provided the perfect chance for the Tigers to equalise when he fed Tom Watkins at the front of the net but there was no finish on the pass. It was the same Tom Watkins who was called in the neutral zone for a clipping penalty at 4.35 giving the Bison the game’s first powerplay.
Despite being short benched the Tigers put in an excellent two minutes to kill off the Watkins penalty. Not long after Watkins returned Joe Miller offered another powerplay when he got called for hooking at 7.02. Two saves with a combination of helmet and face mask denied the Herd a second goal before Miller returned.
A good glove save by Dean Skinns denied Dale White. Play quickly swung to the other end when Ryan Sutton fed Jaroslav Cesky advancing to the net but a reaction save by Dennis Bell kept the net empty. Bison kept pressure up with Paul Petts getting laid up a superb feed from Tomas Karpov but didn’t have the finish to convert and Karpov couldn’t get to the puck in time to make use of the rebound.
At 12.03 Bison finally got reward for their pressure round the net when Cesky fed Antonov in front who slotted the puck in via the five hole for 2-0.
Paul Petts took a holding penalty at 13.05 and it was 13 seconds into the man advantage that the Tigers scored when Joe Miller put a nice finish on to a Rick Plant pass to beat Dean Skinns. Bison were under powerplay pressure again soon after as Stuart Mogg sat a high stick minor at 13.56. This one they killed off well and Mogg returned with the scoreboard still 2-1.
Tigers showed the Herd and the Basingstoke crowd that they weren’t being held back by their low bench numbers and kept pressure up in the first period. As the period passed the 19 minute mark Grant Rounding did all the good work getting to the net but failed to finish. There was no such escape for the Herd though as at 19.48 Jason Silverthorn found Dean Skinns’ 5 hole to equalise.
The second period didn’t start well for the home team as Paul Petts took a hooking penalty at 22.09, holding back Ricky Plant as he advanced to the net. A sharp and fast Tigers powerplay saw them take the lead as Jack Watkins finished from Silverthorn and Miller at 22.51 after a text book powerplay.
A period of Bison advantage followed but just evaded the equalising goal they were searching for. Cesky shot high, a pad save denied Antonov and Connolly saw his deflection kicked away safely by Bell. A scramble in front of the Tigers crease saw the puck fall for Reynolds but it was deflected away before he could do any damage to the Tigers’ net. As Telford looked to clear Sutton intercepted the pass and shot but Bell held strong.
Finally there was relief for the visitors as Joe Miller sprung free on a breakaway but the forward vs goalie solo battle ended well for the Bison when Dean Skinns forced him wide of the target.
Bison were back on the powerplay at 30.48 when Ricky Plant took a hooking penalty and the Bison best chance with the man advantage produced the save of the game when Dennis Bell flashed a glove on a Cesky shot.
Plant returned and soon after was gifted a huge space to work in but finished by shooting at the body of Dean Skinns who made the easy save. Tomas Karpov came close with a wrap around but it flashed across the front of the net with nobody near to finish.
Bison took to the penalty killing again at 35.49 when Vanya Antonov was called for hooking. A couple of good saves from Dean Skinns saw out the penalty and Antonov returned. Just shy of the final minute Skinns made another massive save keeping it at 2-3 as the second period ended.
The Bison needed a big third period and skated back out for the final stanza ready to clear the deficit and take the lead. Bison started well with a Dan Scott blast falling to Aaron Connolly but he couldn’t quite finish. Played stopped moments later when Stephen Matthews was the unfortunate victim of another Dan Scott shot which struck him on the elbow.
After a few moments for the referee to recover the game re-started and it wasn’t long after that Elliot Dewey was called for tripping at 44.03 giving Telford a powerplay. Ricky Plant had a golden chance to make it 2-4 when a perfect pass fell to him but he re-directed wide and as Dewey returned no further damage had been done.
At 47.14 after a pretty even start to the final period Tigers added to their score as Adam Taylor shot and converted his own rebound.
With the clocking on 50.07 Bison got a much needed powerplay when Corey Goodison got called for cross checking. The Herd looked sharp on the powerplay and fed Ashley Jackson but a pad save by Bell was a good save. Karpov fed Antonov for a tip but he couldn’t get at it and again Bell made the save. Text book passing saw the chance from Reynolds, to Rounding for Sutton but another Bell save saw the powerplay end unconverted.
After a spell of good play and pressure from the home team the visitors would grab the game’s final goal. As Dan Scott pinched forward chasing a loose puck nobody covered his position and Tigers got the better of a scramble in front of the net with Silverthorn lifting the puck over Skinns at the second attempt for 2-5 at 52.59.
End to end action followed as the teams tested each other’s nets but neither could create significant chances and the final 7.01 counted down and ended an unsuccessful night for the Herd on their home ice.
It was a curious night in Hampshire. The Bison had played in Telford six days previously and had to go short benched. The result had gone in the favour of the home team by a single goal leaving hope of a good chance of a reversal in Hampshire.
Telford skated out with just 12 skaters and 2 goalies. Other than last season’s Manchester/Fylde/Atrincham Phoenix it’s been a long time since the Basingstoke Arena has seen a team start so short benched so early in the season!
My initial thought was that although the Tigers would be a handful they’d tire! With just 12 skaters there would be a lot of double shifting going on and I thought it inevitable that the team would be tiring by the midway point in the game.
The jewel in the Tigers crown was their EPL line they’ve retained. Silverthorn, Plant and Miller would be a very respectable line if the EPL hadn’t gone over the summer. When it comes to taking on some of the original NIHL teams that line is going to do some severe damage!
Bison got off to a good start, 2-0 ahead just after midway through the first period but then things changed. By the end of the first period Tigers were level although I still thought Bison were the better of the two teams.
Into the second period where I predicted the Tigers would run out of steam and they just didn’t.
The game turned frustrating as Bison generated chances but lacked finishing. In recent years there’s been no shortage of quality finishers and providers. Tomas Karpov and Vanya Antonov both provided good feeds regularly through the game but the man driving the net wasn’t Derek Roel, Ciaran Long or Rene Jarolin. Equally with Karpov or Antonov at the net there wasn’t Roehl, Long or Jarolin providing feeds.
The younger players are in pressure situations that they’re still getting used to. Finishing in a game situation is different to finishing in practice and with time they’ll be just as good in the game as they are in practice as they’ll learn to soak up the pressure and ignore it.
The decision to be made is whether to team up Karpov, Connolly and Antonov for an all star line or to spread that undoubted talent out among the lines.
The next test is the Bracknell Bees who’ve not been without their fair share of problems over the last few years. Now back under the control of the Nike Group but under the leadership of Scott Spearing it’ll be interesting to see what challenge they bring.