Slough Jets took on the Basingstoke Bison in a home and away series to complete their regular season competition for 2011/12.
On Saturday night Slough came away with two points when the Bison went down 3-8. The last few weeks had been tough for the Bison with injuries and illness ravaging the line up. The Wednesday before the weekend the Bison travelled to Sheffield with just 7 fit players and some of their juniors and came away just losing by a goal. Saturday night a still short team hosted the Jets and after a good start tiredness set in with so few bodies and the Jets pounced and capitalised for a big win.
The weekend’s schedule saw lots of teams play back to back fixtures and the Jets and Bison were no exception. 24 hours after facing off in the Basingstoke Arena the teams lined up for face-off in the Hangar. The Jets were missing Ryan Watt and Sam Waller, with Danny Milton taking the back-up role in place of Tom Devey. The Bison took to the ice with Nicky Chinn once again playing defence with players missing and two juniors part of the line-up.
The usual back to back game boil over started early and Matt Thompson stamped his authority on the game with an early elbowing penalty to Joe Greener giving the Bison the first powerplay but it was back at full strength that the Jets took the lead when Joe Greener scored the opening goal. With the puck got to the net Joe Greener got it past a sprawling Stephen Wall at the third attempt for the opening goal.
The equalising goal for the Bison came soon after and was a mixture of luck and skill. The teams exchanged possession of the puck and a dump in by the Bison was cleared out by the Jets, deflected back to the Bison. The next dump in hit Zach Sullivan and the rebound was snapped up by Steve Moria who quickly got the puck to the goal scorer Joe Miller. Miller’s speculative shot is one that Gregg Rockman will want back as his initial save carried on trickling backwards and crossed the goal line goal making it 1-1.
Spurred on by their goal Basingstoke managed some good scoring chances but quickly after Tony Redmond was on the wrong end of the penalty call leaving the Bison shorthanded. While the Jets were enjoying their powerplay they were pressuring in the Bison end when Adam Calder turned round and his stick caught Kurt Reynolds who was stopping resulting in Calder receiving a match penalty for high-sticks. (The penalty was rightly later downgraded to a 5+game penalty when Reynolds returned soon after)
The Calder penalty could have possibly been a game changer but after the 4 on 4 when Redmond had returned to the ice Slough killed the remainder of the 5 minute major penalty even managing a couple of shorthanded chances. Not long after Melachrino (serving Calder’s penalty) had returned to the ice Slough made it 2-1 with Doug Sheppard netting the goal. Joe Greener carried the puck into the zone, and passed the puck around the back to Shep who picked it up in the corner and made his way to the front of the net eventually slotting the puck in from just in front.
The second period saw chances at both ends before a massive save from Stephen Wall denied the Jets the chance to make it 3-1 with a 3 on 1 chance. A penalty to Melachrino for boarding was accompanied by a bench minor for abuse of official making it a 5 on 3 opportunity for Basingstoke and Marcel Petran was on hand to ram home the 2 man advantage and make it 2-2. After cycling the puck around from the Moria won face-off Petran let lose with a slapshot to level the game.
The remainder of that penalty was killed off before chances again at both ends and then Joe Greener stepped up with his second of the night. This one came from a failed clearance attempt from the young Cameron Wynn (who otherwise had a fantastic game and is a young talent to watch for the future) ended with Doug Sheppard who’s shot from the blue line was deflected by Joe Greener, Wall made the initial save but Joe picked up his own rebound to score the go ahead goal.
Another powerplay attempt to the Jets proved too much for the Bison to kill off and while Daniel Volrab served a penalty Sheppard bagged his second of the night. Plisauskas did the work getting the puck to the net and Sheppard was there ready to pounce with a backhand attempt.
A Nicky Chinn penalty spanned the periods and the third period, after the penalty kill was complete, settled down a little from the intensity of the first two periods. There were still chances at both ends, both netminders played well keeping the score at 4-2. The teams still looked up for the game but the real physical intensity of the first two periods that looked like it could boil over at any time was slightly lessened by the second interval.
With the game looking to be a comfortable Jets win the Bison battled right back into it with Volrab narrowing the deficit with 3.30 left to play. Moria and Miller did the assisting and Volrab’s close in powerful shot buldged the back of the net to make the final few minutes nail biting.
Slough picked up a too many men penalty which they went on to kill and despite Stephen Wall leaving the net for the final 20 seconds of the game and the Bison enjoying most of the possession for the final minute of the game they couldn’t find the game levelling goal to sneak a point and take the game to overtime.
The Jets played a second well organised game in the weekend and took full points from the 60 minutes. Losing Calder early on in the game could have proved a game changer but the remaining players picked up the slack and all four goals came from the line the Calder usually plays on.
For the third game in a row the Jets iced without Ryan Watt who is not only a player but a presence on the ice. The young forward took charge of the bench for the weekend games while still ruled out through injury and again the remaining players covered the absence.
Two accomplished performances from an under strength Jets team completed a four point weekend against possible play-off rivals and put the Jets in a good place heading into a massive weekend. With Guildford arriving at the Hangar on Saturday ahead of a trip to Manchester on Sunday the two games ahead are important fixtures with regards to play off position.
In truth Guildford have sufficient cushion on all but Manchester now and unless something very bad happens for the Surrey outfit the teams from 3 downwards are all competing now for their play-off positioning.
The tilt on Sunday in Manchester will be a tough task for the Phoenix as they look to work by in Tony Hand who has missed over 3 months of action. In the time Hand has been out his team have worked themselves from mid table to 2nd place, have 3 complete and hard working lines who have proven themselves in the elevation up the table and have benefited from having a coach dedicated solely to the bench. You’d argue that if the player in question was anyone other than Tony Hand the best option would be to keep him on the bench but time will tell how well he re-integrates.