The Basingstoke Bison had a single game weekend with their only fixture being on home ice against the Guildford Flames.
Joe Rand and Joe Miller both made their return to the Stampede while Dan Scott made his debut.
Basingstoke Bison 2 Guildford Flames 4
Referee Dave Cloutman was accompanied by linesmen Justin Lalonde and Ali McPhee and just after 6.30 the man with the armbands got the game underway.
Derek Roehl was off at speed up the wing and fired in a wrist shot on net that beat the goaltender but slid away wide. Almost straight away on the transition Marek Maslonka was away and shot as he entered the zone but his shot also went wide.
Joe Rand announced his return laying off a massive crunching hit along the side wall then Roehl layed off a pass for Rene Jarolin at the top of the crease but the advancing forward just couldn’t quite get there in time to finish off. Roehl then provided a puck for Tomas Karpov who made his way up the wing before letting lose but Dean Skinns held on for the whistle.
After a period of good attacking pressure from the Bison the Flames put together a few chances of their own. A dumped in puck fell nicely for Michal Satek but he was dispossessed by a nice play from Ciaran Long. Andy Melachrino brought about a defensive break which set off Andy Hemmings but Tomas Hiadlovsky dealt with the shot.
Jens Eriksson was making his way to the slot looking to feed a pass across but Hiadlovksy extended his stick taking away the passing lane. After some back tracking Eriksson laid off a pass for Ben Campbell but his shot sailed safely passed the outside post.
With the period of Guildford pressure weathered the home team then created another spell of pressure themselves. There was almost constant chaos in front of Skinns but somehow the puck just couldn’t find a way into the back of the net.
The pattern continued as Flames then had a good consistent spell in their attacking zone before arguably the best chance of the first period when after several close calls the puck sat tantalisingly at the top of the crease for an apparent age, which in reality wasn’t long at all, but eventually a Flames stick connected and cleared it away before Bison could do damage with it.
Bison were first with the powerplay advantage when Derek Roehl was taken down open ice by Jens Eriksson at 9.07. Despite some good play there was no scoring. Long fed Roehl but his power shot was denied by a pad save from Skinns. Dan Davies and Sam Godfrey clashed in front of the net but nothing came of it as the players separated quickly. Eriksson returned and the Bison powerplay ended “close but not quite”.
A poor line change by the visitors exposed Dean Skinns as Dan Davies dropped the puck for Ciaran Long but the goaltender positioned himself well and faced the shot square on.
There was a lot of play in the neutral zone as the teams defence joined in more until the Flames support stood to applaud and cheer as Maslonka failed to score. Eventually, as play continued and came back to the neutral zone the applauding stopped and the visiting fans slowly re-took their seats.
Hiadlovsky was called into action, first against Tuomas Santavuori, then against Eriksson. In the middle Campbell had gained the zone but his shot had been intercepted by Joe Baird and deflected out of play.
Tomas Karpov was trying a wrap around as the referee’s whistle blew when a Flames retracting defenceman checked Derek Roehl into Dean Skinns. It was Roehl who would give the Flames their first powerplay moments later when he took a clipping penalty for what had looked a beautiful hit on Maslonka at 19.57
The first period had been a high energy, high intensity period. Bison outshot their opponents 17-6 and were so close to scoring on many occasions. Frustration must have been working it’s way into the team as there were chances that were millimetres away, either shots just going wide or lose pucks just out of the reach of Bison sticks.
Guildford started the second period with 1.57 left on the powerplay but it was the Bison who would enjoy the better start to the period. With Flames desperately pressing for the go ahead goal on the powerplay the puck was sent in and Hiadlovsky skated from his crease towards the corner where he laid off the perfect pass to Tomas Karpov. Karpov skated in and fired 5 hole, despite Skinns squeezing the pads together the puck had enough on it to slither across the line for 1-0 shorthanded at 21.16
Derek Roehl was back soon after and the Bison returned to full strength. It didn’t take long before another powerplay, this one for the Bison as Satek collected a high sticking penalty as he caught Rene Jarolin at 22.15
Ciaran Long put the back in front of the net and Rene Jarolin tried to tap it in but the goal evaded his best efforts. Soon after the Flames returned to full strength and they tied up the game. It was Satek who set up Kevin Phillips who played the waiting game, out manoeuvring Hiadlovksy before sending the puck in to tie up at 24.31
Bison then had three great opportunities to get back ahead, first a lovely Davies drop pass was left for Long but with nobody to tip it in it proved an easy save for Skinns. Then Karpov and Roehl combined to feed Rounding but he couldn’t get anything into the shot. Miller, Connolly and Jarabek teased the Flames net but the puck just didn’t cross the line.
A sharp save was needed from Hiadlovksy as a blocked shot headed to McKinney for the one timer but Hiadlovsky saved the scare.
Karpov and Roehl raced off together, barrelling down on Skinns who made the save from Karpov and then evaded Roehl who tripped and ended up in the net.
Just after half way Maslonka picked up a cross checking penalty at 31.30. 19 seconds later he was joined in the penalty box by Jez Lundin who also got a cross checking penalty giving Bison 5 on 3 for 1.41.
Bison moved the puck well, passed accurately and cycled well but ultimately lacked the killer blow. The first Flames penalty expired and soon after the second did too with no further adjustment on the scoreboard.
Margins were still counting against the home side as a Karpov backhand shot went wide. Further bad luck hit the Bison when they were called for icing on a puck that didn’t reach the goal line.
It was around this time that Matt Towalski appeared on from the changing room dressed in normal clothes.
Bison were back on the powerplay at 38.33 when Eriksoon hooked Karpov but instead of attacking the Bison were nearly caught but for a huge save from Hiadlovksy on Santavouri. With that storm weathered the second period ended with the score 1-1 and the Bison knowing they’d start the third period with the remaining powerplay time to use.
The third period started and the Flames killed the remainder of the penalty before doing what Bison had done 20 minutes earlier and scoring an early goal. It was 82 seconds into the period that Bison took the puck into their own zone and Eriksson fed a pass from behind the goal to Satek who buried the go ahead goal.
A charging call at 44.06 on Maslonka gave Bison another powerplay opportunity and this time they would go on to level the game. With a shorthanded goal already scored to take a 1-0 lead it was fitting that it was a powerplay goal that levelled the game at 2-2 at 45.55. Balmer shot on net and Rene Jarolin got the puck and fired in before embarking on a now traditional Jarolin celebration behind the net.
With the celebrations just finishing Bison found themselves back on the penalty kill when Derek Roehl picked up an interference call. Jez Lundin got the best chance of the powerplay but shot wide, Phillips mishandled the puck on his powerplay chance allowing Aaron Connolly to dive and clear the danger, then Derek Roehl returned.
Roehl got gifted an opportunity in front of the Flames net but Skinns blocker denied the chance. As the game entered the final 10 minutes the teams were still locked at 2-2 then Flames got another powerplay when Ciaran Long got a slashing penalty with 8.22 to play.
Luck shined down on the Flames on the powerplay as Kevin Phillips shot and the puck raced into the back of the net thanks to a cruel deflection off Declan Balmer’s skate. The deflection left Hiadlovksy high and dry, and in all fairness to Phillips it almost looked as though he had considered using that tactic. He had the puck and appeared to weigh up his options before the drive to the net but whether intended or not it was a huge slice of luck for the Flames that the skates were at just the right angle to deflect it totally the opposite way to that which Hiadlovsky was anticipating.
Bison pressed hard for the equaliser, Joe Baird fed the puck to the net but with Skinns looking to cover Joe Miller tried his luck with a cheeky whack. Time was running out for the Bison, they worked hard but that final finish just wasn’t there.
Hiadlovsky left the ice to allow the extra skater but then was forced to return when the face-off came back to the neutral zone. With the face off won he tensely watched the bench for the call to leave again and at 59.38 Bison took their time-out with an impending face-off deep in the Flames zone.
On the re-start Bison won the draw and straight away got a shot to the net and again the rebound sat tantalisingly until the second chance was also saved by Skinns. In a flash the Flames were off and Eriksson sprung Satek who evaded the retracting Bison defence sending the puck into the empty net at 59.56.
Immediately after the game I wrote on twitter that it was a frustrating loss in a game where never outplayed. Bison dominated great parts of the game, they were aggressive around the net but the final touch just evaded them. There were chances to win the game, the 1.41 of 5 on 3 was a massive opportunity but even right at the end Bison had a chance to tie it with a couple of close in attempts on Skinns but it just wasn’t to be.
Which team played the better hockey? In my opinion it was the losing team that played the better hockey. The Bison passing was good, the powerplay play was good but it was a night where the finish was just evasive.
Bison were good for their two goals, Flames were good for three of their four goals but the go ahead goal was the biggest bit of luck of the night. Cruel luck for the Bison as the defence and the goaltender seemed to have everything covered but amazingly good luck for the Flames who “stole” the win off the back of it. Had that goal not gone in then the empty net goal wouldn’t have either and it would have been down to 3 on 3 OT and then who knows what the result would have been.
The Bison were welcoming three players to the line up. Returns for Joe Rand and Joe Miller who are both known entities for the Bison but not in this current line up. Also a debut performance from Dan Scott too who I highly rate as a defenceman. He can take the body, is very aware defensively and has a good shot on him too.
Miller and Scott had both been playing and were in good game shape. Rand had been training with the club but was yet to play a game this season and there’s no substitute for game time in preparing for any game.
With a double header next weekend against the Bees next week it’ll be a chance to get a good run out as a team over 120 minutes.