The Sherfield School Basingstoke Bison played on home ice for the only game of their weekend. Following the demise of the Phoenix Bison re-jigged their fixtures resulting in Milton Keynes visiting Hampshire for their final visit.
Basingstoke Bison 3 Milton Keynes Lightning 2
Stephen Matthews was the referee with Liv Andersson and Justin Lalonde on the lines.
While Ciaran Long got to test the Lightning netminder early on it was at the other end where the first goal happened after just 1.51 when Lewis Hook bagged the game’s opener. He skated round the zone and slotted the puck glove side for the first goal of the night.
Back at the other end Bison won a faceoff back to Stuart Mogg who blasted in but Przemyslaw Odrobny made the save and the puck stayed wedged under his arm. As the game went on play was hard and skilled but neither team gave an inch. Chances were created by the Bison and Lightning but neither had the finish.
Dan Davies raced away down the ice and left a nice drop pass for Ciaran Long but Long was undone by good positioning by Odrobny and he made the save. End to end hockey followed as Holli shot wide, Roehl was denied by Odrobny then Holli tried to play provider but his feed flashed through the crease and safely away. Bison were given a powerplay when Tom Carlon took the game’s first penalty at 8.16 for holding the stick.
Bison generated some good puck movement on the powerplay but Lightning defended well and deep. As a blast from the blue line got intercepted by Lewis Hook he moved away shorthanded but Hiadlovsky kept him out. Tom Carlon’s penalty expired but Lightning were at full strength for just 14 seconds when Frankie Bakrlik offered an easy hooking call and put Bison back on the powerplay.
Declan Balmer fed a shot in from near the boards but a tip from Aaron Connolly couldn’t get past Odrobny. Despite an excellent shift from the first powerplay line and plenty of action in front of the net nobody could get a stick on the puck and direct it home. Long headed in and shot but Odrobny produced a glove save and Bakrlik returned.
It was Bakrlik who stole a puck and released quickly but Hiadlovsky denied him. Then Dan Davies was fed by Vanya Antonov but the Lightning netminder kicked the pad and made a save. Antonov slotted across for Aaron Connolly but Odrobny saved again.
With 2.45 left to play in the first Bison pulled the game level as Kurt Reynolds slotted across to Vanya Antonov who blasted in from the point and Dan Davies got the tip on it to get sufficient re-direction past Odrobny.
On the very next play Bison set the cross bar ringing with a shot that beat Odrobny all up but then Frankie Bakrlik worked himself into space but his shot was an easy save for Hiadlovksy.
Derek Roehl fed in a blast which Rene Jarolin got the tip on but the first period ran out with the teams locked at 1-1. It was a close period with both teams scrapping hard but level was probably how it deserved to end.
A swift start to the second period saw the Bison creating pressure around the net but the pipe work found its way lose. With the pegs replaced Joe Miller fired a shot coming down the wing but Odrobny saw it all the way for another save. Odrobny found himself busy as Ciaran Long went solo, then Declan Balmer shot in for a Vanya Antonov tip, Odrobny’s save falling for Long but he couldn’t get it in.
The second period had been a good start for the Bison but eventually Jordan Cownie was away with the puck but his shot was hampered by good defensive pressure from Stuart Mogg. As Lightning looked to retain control Derek Roehl became entangled with Lewis Christie and ended up with a holding the stick penalty at 24.52.
The was an early alert for the Bison as a chance flashed through the top of Hiadlovsky’s crease but other than that the Herd put together a good defensive penalty kill. Drama happened at the other end of the penalty too as Dan Davies and Matt Towalski were away shorthanded, the latter getting the shot off but Odrobny made another save.
Blaz Emersic caught Joe Rand with a high stick at 27.13 earning him a 2 minute minor penalty. The Bison man advantage lasted just 10 seconds before Ciaran Long levelled up the strength at 4 on 4 with a tripping call as Lewis Hook fell down.
Joe Rand returned to the bench during the 4 on 4 spell as Derek Roehl gave a display of sheer skill, dancing to the net with the puck never leaving his stick despite the back checking Milton Keynes defenders pressuring him.
Emersic and Long returned in quick succession but it wasn’t back at 5 on 5 long when Milton Keynes took the lead as Frankie Bakrlik finished a passage of good play and good passes firing home for 1-2 at 29.35.
Aaron Connolly nearly bagged the equaliser through a bit of good fortune when his centring feed was intercepted by James Griffin who nearly netted in his own goal. Milton Keynes were soon benefitting from a 2 on 1 but over ran their chance and ran out of options. Antii Holli rounded the net and fed Griffin but Hiadlovsky kicked a pad and made the save.
At 34.41 Bison were back on the powerplay when Lewis Christie was called for a blatant roughing penalty in his attempts to stop the Bison captain.
Lewis Hook had a chance shorthanded when he blocked a point shot and raced down the middle but Hiadlovsky made the save of the night to deny him. Bison put together a great powerplay but were missing the final touch until Derek Roehl levelled the game at 36.37. Miller found Roehl and Roehl fired in a pin point shot with laser accuracy through traffic bagging the bottom corner all for his own.
With 3.09 left to play in the period Declan Balmer was floored by a hit from Frankie Bakrlik. Balmer took a while to get up and the officials deliberated the possibility of a call with Stephen Matthews calling 2+10 for check to the head.
Ciaran Long sent in a powerplay boomer forcing another save from the Polish National Team goalie in the Lightning net, Vanya Antonov couldn’t quite settle the puck on his back hand to get the rebound him.
Milton Keynes returned to full strength before any further changes could be made to the scoreboard and the second period finished with 2-2 still on the board and an exciting third period ahead.
There were frantic chances at the start of the third period, Dan Davies getting a backhand on a bobbling puck and a sharp save from Tomas Hiadlovsky against a Blaz Emersic snap shot. Hiadlovsky had to make two more saves from Emersic and Billing before the defence could get a handle on the puck and clear to safety. With Bison on the transition Ciaran Long slotted forward to Vanya Antonov and he in turn found Rene Jarolin who’s shot was tracked by Odrobny straight into his glove.
The Bison performance was growing stronger and stronger as they continued to generate quality scoring chances. Hiadlovsky was in top form in the Bison net and the team going forward fed from this.
Matt Towalski and Grant Rounding forced a turnover but Odrobny denied Tomas Karpov. Declan Balmer blasted in from the blue line but the puck disappeared somewhere in front of a goal mouth scramble and the whistle blew. Aaron Connolly’s back hand was swallowed up by the netminder’s glove as he took a tighter and tighter grip on the man of the match award.
Ciaran Long eventually beat Przemyslaw Odrobny for the game winning goal with 4.54 to play. Bison had been dominant through the period and in yet another prolonged spell in the attacking zone Declan Balmer fed Ciaran Long who stepped in to the shot and blasted into the middle of the net.
Dropping behind spurred on the Lightning who started to generate a bit of pressure on the Bison but a composed performance saw the home team defend well. The forwards back checked with their defensive colleagues but still took the opportunities to advance carefully forward when they arose.
Odrobny advanced towards his bench, keeping an eye on the coach for the call but his team mates couldn’t gain and retain possession long enough for him to leave until there was just 12 seconds go. Just after Odrobny had left the ice Hiadlovsky tried to find the target at the other end but an icing call was made.
Peter Russell took the MK time out at 59.51 and then, as play was about to resume, Doug Sheppard called his players back for the Bison time-out. With 9 seconds left to play, play did get back underway after the two time outs with Bison controlling the play and Kurt Reynolds cleared the puck down the ice on the buzzer to seal the win.
In what will surely be the last regular season competitive game between the two teams the Bison maintained their unbeaten record on home ice against their Planet Ice stable mates. Bison have won 4-0, 3-1 and 3-2 on home ice this season and they’ve all been edge of the seat games.
The game was off to a disastrous start when Lewis Hook netted on the Lightning first shot. On any day I’d have put money on Tomas Hiadlovsky making that save and I’m certain he would too. However from that moment on he was on top form and led the turnaround in the game. He would be beaten once more during the game but that took a top effort to do and he not only made 22 other good saves but averted plenty more shots too. He’s a pro-active goalie, he’ll happily stop a chance becoming a shot with a well timed and aimed poke check and he can lay off a great outlet pass too.
Bison showed great spirit. They fell behind twice in the game yet never ever dropped their heads. Every player played their role and the team played for each other. We can’t forget that the Bison were without a senior defenceman with Dan Scott out concussed from the hit to the head the previous week. On paper this gave the Lightning an advantage over their opponents but Bison not only battled hard but dominated the majority of the game.
Lightning were spurred on by their early fortuitous goal and it’s fair to say Bison chased the game from that moment on for the early part of the opening period. However they never looked out the game and as they gradually fought back into the game they took control. The three goals were all well worked and good to watch. Dan Davies showed deft touch around the net to deflect in a Vanya Antonov shot that Odrobny had covered. The Derek Roehl goal was a classic hockey goal. He made himself space and when he got the puck he took just the right amount of time to set and let go a pin point shot, waiting for the traffic to form a shield for him. Ciaran Long is having an outstanding year, he’s putting up import like numbers this year and his value to the Herd can’t be underestimated. Declan Balmer gave him the puck and as he often does he made it talk. The pass came across, he stepped in and blasted the puck across Odrobny mid height into the net.
I can’t argue with the tactics of the winning coach but one thing struck me about the Lightning. Once Ciaran Long put the Bison ahead with just under 5 minutes to go the game was Basingstoke’s to lose. Lightning had to chase the game to get to overtime but stop after stop came during the closing minutes and there was no sign of the time-out. Indeed for the majority of the final 2 minutes Odrobny stood level with the hash marks looking to his bench to head off. For the first time since the first few minutes the Lightning were controlling the game but the call Odrobny waited for didn’t come until 59.48, the time out came 3 seconds later.
With the Lightning back out after the time out Doug Sheppard used his too and his troops closed out the game for him for the win.
With Milton Keynes Elite league bound from next season that’s the last regular season visit we’ll see from the Lightning, save for challenge games, for the imaginable future.
The Bison can now turn their attention to next weekend’s fixture arranged against the NIHL select team