3rd of September 2017
Bison reap rewards early - Weekend ReviewAfter a long summer of early uncertainty, certainty finally returned as the puck dropped on the first of the new seasonís fixtures. Challenge action started the season as the Sherfield School Basingstoke Bison and Peterborough Phantoms, both former EPL sides, battled out home and away for the Billy Glover Memorial Trophy.
Where possible over the summer Doug Sheppard had retained as much of the team as possible that had become an EPL powerhouse over the last few seasons. Rule changes had meant farewell to Tomas Hiadlovsky, Rene Jarolin, Derek Roehl and Joe Rand. Opportunities in the Elite League also meant the departure of Ciaran Long and Declan Balmer too.
Crucially though within the new NIHL rules Sheppard had managed to retain a good core of players to build the new roster around and you also have to ask what other ice hockey teams fansí in the UK spent their Saturday night watching an Olympian in action.
Basingstoke Bison 5 Peterborough Phantoms 0
There were some early hits dished out in the game as both sides looked to play a physical opening few minutes despite the gameís challenge status. Dan Scott was providing offensive zone feeds for the Bison but the puck was just falling wide of any real scoring chances.
The Bison were put on the back foot at 4.44 when Vanya Antonov caught James White with a high stick and in doing so picked up an automatic match penalty which would later be downgraded to 5+game with the sticked player returning to action. This earned the Bison a five minute penalty kill which they did so efficiently, helped by an interference penalty to Nathan Salem making it 4 on 4 for 2 minutes of the 5 original minute penalty kill.
During the penalty kill Dean Skinns faced some quality rubber, the best of chances coming from Darius Pliskauskas but he played well, spotting the puck early and combining well with the defence to keep the sheet clean.
At 10.15 the clean sheet ended but behind Adam Long rather than Dean Skinns. After some quality chances from the Bison it was their captain who scored the first goal of the new season. Ryan Sutton and Dan Davies combined with Sutton getting the puck on net where it sat in front of Long for Aaron Connolly to finish the move and light the goal light.
Two sharp saves from Dean Skinns followed before Phantoms gave the Herd another powerplay. While they didnít convert this one they visibly dominated the game and importantly tired their opponents out.
Back at full strength Phantoms were still frustrated as Will Weldon and Leigh Jamieson both were turned away by Skinns. Full strength though didnít last long as Phantoms were penalised again at 18.03. With the buzzer imminent Bison missed an opportunity to clear their zone allowing a couple of close shorthanded chances but Skinns held on and froze the puck with 0.3 seconds to play.
As the puck dropped Tomas Karpov went down awkwardly and once the 0.3 seconds had elapsed the majority of players started making their way off while Bisonís trainer made his way on to help their injured star off the ice.
Fortunately Karpov took his place as the second period started and it was off to a good start for the home team when they doubled their score. A bad turn over by Greg Pick just inside his own blue line saw Aaron Connolly head to the net and slide across to the advancing Jaroslav Cesky who sold Long a dummy before shooting the puck home.
Phantoms soon got a powerplay when Paul Petts took a boarding penalty after an unfortunate hit. Phantoms failed to get going though with the 5 on 4. They got another chance soon after as Jaroslav Cesky and James Ferrara collided with the Bison man called for holding.
With three seconds left in the penalty kill Grant Rounding took a tripping penalty at 26.42. Cesky returned and played a huge role in killing off the Rounding penalty.
It was just seven seconds after Rounding returned that he raced to join the play and Karpov spotting him advancing and fed him to add the Bison third goal of the night.
After chances for Dan Davies and Tomas Karpov it was Dan Scott who blasted in the fourth of the night. Dan Davies seized on a loose puck and sent it back to Scott who wound up and fired home at 31.29.
With 5.25 left to play in the second period Paul Petts scored what would be the last of the night as he back handed the puck past Adam Long for the fifth time of the night.
The second period saw both netminders deny chances and ended with Bison starting a penalty kill as Grant Rounding picked up a delay of the game as he cleared over the glass at 39.50.
The final period of home action in the opening fixture saw coach Doug Sheppard roll his lines and allow everyone good ice time. It was a chance for the new, young members of the squad to get some valuable ice time in game situations ahead of the season proper starting next weekend.
It also saw some good saves from Long in the Phantoms net while Dean Skinns continued to deny everything the visiting team threw at him. The third period wasnít as faced pace or intense as the opening two and as time closed out focus for the Bison turned to helping Dean Skinns complete the shut out on his return to the Herd.
Basingstoke: Connolly 1+2; Davies 0+2; Scott, Rounding, Petts, Cesky 1+0; Sutton, Karpov 0+1. Net: Skinns (60.00) 27/0
Peterborough: Net: Long (60.00) 23/5
Period Scores: 1-0/4-0/5-0
Shots On Goal: 23-27
Penalty Minutes: 33-10
Referee: Belfitt. Linesmen: Sytch-Cunningham & Strain
On Sunday the teams swapped home ice and competed for the second game in Bretton.
Peterborough Phantoms 6 Basingstoke Bison 5
It would be the home team that got off to a great start when Ales Padelek netted at 0.27. Bison then killed a penalty to Dan Scott before Tom Norton and Aaron Connolly took matching double roughing minors. At 12.41 Dan Lackey levelled the game finishing from Josh Smith and the teams settled for a share of the opening period spoils.
Leigh Jamieson scored his first Phantoms goal at 22.10 but Kurt Reynolds equalised at 28.12. Padelekís second, this one on the powerplay, made it 3-2 to the Phantoms and that was how the middle period ended.
Doug Sheppard changed the Bison netminder for the third period with Dan Weller-Evans getting his first ice of the season. Joe Baird would make it 3-3 at 47.07 but Will Weldon re-took the lead for the home team 2 minutes later. Pliskauskas scored for 5-3 with 3.49 left but Vanya Antonov pulled a goal back at 57.40 to keep the game alive. A hat-trick strike from Padelek at 58.08 made it 6-4 but the scoring wasnít quite done yet though as Grant Rounding netted with 11 seconds to play for a final score of 6-5.
Thanks to their home win the previous evening the Sherfield School Basingstoke Bison took the first Billy Glover memorial trophy.
Peterborough: Padelek 3+2; Weldon 1+3; Jamieson 1+2; Pliskauskas 1+0; Norton, Salem, Ferrara, Billing 0+1. Net: Long (60.00) 29/5
Basingstoke: Wilson 0+3; Lackey 1+1; Baird, Reynolds, Rounding, Antonov 1+0; Connolly, Cesky, Smith 0+1. Net: Skinns (40.00) 26/3 & Weller-Evans (20.00) 13/3
Period Scores: 1-1/2-1/3-3
Shots On Goal: 39-29
Penalty Minutes: 16-56
Referee: Hewitt. Linesmen: Stanniforth & Clark
Head Coach Doug Sheppard reflected on the first weekend with positivity; ďIím happy with the challenge weekend. Everyone got a chance to play and due to Vanya getting kicked out early Saturday and Tomas getting injured Sunday the whole team had to step up on both nights.Ē
ďI tried different line combinations and saw some really promising signs for the season ahead. I was impressed with our compete level, energy and intensity. Itís early season, we made some silly mistakes which weíll improve on quickly but overall Iím happy with how we started and of course it was great to see such fantastic support for the team at both games too.Ē
The next game for the Bison is the season opener this Saturday at the Basingstoke Arena when the Invicta Dynamos are our opponents.