The NIHL National Owners group met again last week and are collectively very pleased with the progress being made towards the return to competitive action in September. A number of key topics were reviewed and wed like to give you a short update.

Competing Teams
All ten teams have confirmed their intent to participate in the league in 2021/22. As you...
1st of December 2019

GAME REPORT: Swindon Wildcats V's Bison Friday 29th November 2019

Final Score: Swindon Wildcats 2 Trane Basingstoke Bison 4

Refs : Mr Brooks and Mr Rose
Lino's : Mr MacPhee and Mr Ormond

MoM Wildcats : L Taylor
MoM Bison : Mettam

Wildcats Stats : L Taylor 1+0, VanKleef 1+0, Birbraer 0+1, Jones 0+1, F Taylor 0+1, Whitfield 0+1.

Nets : Marr 40/3 (92.50%) Empty Net 1/1

Bison Stats : Tait 1+1, Harewood 1+0, Klejna1+0, Malinsky 1+0, Sampford 0+2, Sutton 0+1.

Nets : Mettam 39/2 (94.87%)

PiMs : Wildcats 16 Bison 10

SOG: Wildcats 40 Bison 39

It's an unusual Friday evening match night, as the Trane Basingstoke Bison made the short-ish trip to Wiltshire, to take on the current league leaders, the Swindon Wildcats.

The Wildcats roster, on paper, is one of the most potent offence line-ups in the League, boasting numerous "foreign born" players in Bebris, Birbraer, Malasinski, VanKleef and Kostal, as back up, (if injuries occur). Add to that, Nell, Jones, Bullas, Johnson, and the Taylor Brothers, Floyd and Loris. The defence is pretty solid too, with Renny Marr in net and then defencemen, like old stalwart Neil Liddiard. Add Whitfield, Godfrey and Plews and you see how good this roster is......... I bet it cost a lot too though!! Ching Ching !

Bison took to the ice still without injured Bordowski, Norcliffe and Sam Talbot wasn't added tonight, but Marek Malinsky did return to the line-up, after missing the Hull defeat last Sunday.

Brooks and Rose were Refs tonight, joined by MacPhee and Ormond on linesman duties.

The puck dropped for the start of the game and it was a fast and furious opening few minutes as expected, with both netminders being called into action early doors.

Sam Bullas took the first penalty (2.07), when he stepped in and caught Liam Morris with a High Stick, after a coming together between Morris and VanKleef just before. Swindon put Bison under pressure whilst shorthanded and almost took the lead, but for a lovely glove save by Mettam from Malasinski. Wildcats returned to full strength soon after. Then it would be Liam Morris who picked up a penalty (5.12), when he grabbed hold of Birbraer a little too long against the boards. Like before it was the shorthanded side that took the initiative offence-wise. And it would be Bison that took the lead at 7.13. Just as Morris's penalty was ending, Klejna played the pass out to Ash on the left wing, Ash skated in and saucered a lovely backhand pass goalwards, only for Klej to stretch and get a tip on the puck and it beat Marr under his pads. This made the very noisy travelling fans scream with delight.

Bison hit penalty trouble soon after, when firstly Sam Smith (Interference) at 8.03 and then Bison Captain Elliott Dewey (Delay of Game) at 8.41, for deliberately pushing the goal post off, with Wildcats pushing hard for an equaliser around Mettam's goal crease. This gave Swindon a two-man advantage for well over a minute. Bison managed to see off the first penalty, but constant PP pressure from Wildcats finally paid off, when Chris Jones's initial shot was well saved by Alex Mettam, but the puck escaped his clutches and Loris Taylor was on hand to poke home the puck as it sat all alone in the crease. Goal timed at 10.24. Birbraer also picking up an assist.

The rest of the period flew by and at the first break, it was all level at one goal apiece. The Shots on Goal surprisingly read as 15 on Bison and 16 on Wildcats!!

The 2nd Period started very much like the first. Both teams creating lots of chances and each netminder was called upon regularly to keep the scores level. The refs appeared to be letting the game flow, but there were times when I felt penalties should've been called, but it's all about consistency I guess. Some will call them, and others won't. That's when I totally understand why players get frustrated at times.

The Bison then took a good stranglehold of the game with 2 quick goals. The very impressively talented Bayley Harewood evaded two Swindon d-men who had collided, and he went in all alone against Marr and finished beautifully top shelf (29.29) with Sutton credited with an assist.

Within 30 secs of the restart, Marek Malinsky pounced on a loose puck at mid ice, his speed allowed him to poke the puck past Liddiard and as he did, he appeared to catch him with his stick, but no call was forthcoming, so Marek skated in one on one and duly slipped the puck five hole past Marr, sending the Bison fans into raptures of ecstasy. Alex Sampford was credited with an assist.

It was all Bison at this stage. We were out-playing, out-muscling and out-working the Wildcats on their own ice, very much to the Bison fans approval. Michal Klejna almost made it 4-1, when he displayed silky hands and great stickwork to get himself free, but his shot went agonizingly just wide, much to his disappointment.

Then Jay King picked up a Tripping call (36.50), but the Bison PK stood big and firm and killed the penalty successfully. The remaining few minutes ran down and at the buzzer for period end, the Bison held a well-earned 3-1 lead on the scoreboard. Shots on Goal for this period read as 12 on Wildcats and 15 on Bison.

During the period break all the talk amongst the Bison fans, was just hoping the guys could keep it tight in the 3rd period and leave the Link Centre, with a well-deserved victory. The teams came out for the 3rd and the puck dropped. Swindon obviously needing to up their game to try and get back into the match.

Alex Mettam was going to be busy and that was the case, but he saved everything thrown at him early on. A pad save here, a glove save there, he was like a cat, launching himself all over his crease.
At 49.27, Tyler Plews got penalised for a Cross Check penalty behind the Wildcats goal. Bison set up the PP and were looking for that killer goal. But as the powerplay progressed, Michal Klejna was hooked on the play, but his overreaction earned him an Unsportsmanlike penalty for Diving (50.47). Swindon returned to full strength and tested Mettsy again. Bison killed their penalty soon after.

Time was slowly going down, but I'm sure every Bison fan must've been watching the clock and willing time away.

The pressure Wildcats were putting on the Bison finally paid off at 53.12. Stevie Whitfield and Floyd Taylor combined to set up Tyler VanKleef, (who'd finally made his Swindon debut the previous weekend, after missing the first quarter of the season, due to picking up an injury a couple of weeks before the season had started). VanKleef skated in and finished well with a nice backhand shot past Mettam.

With just over 6 minutes to go, it was all about Bison keeping it tight at the back and making sure the puck cleared the zone at every opportunity. The time slowly ticked by, seconds became minutes. However, there was one more big scoring chance for Wildcats, when the puck was fired in on Mettam, he saved it, but the puck popped up and Malasinski tried to bat it out of the air, but thankfully failed. Mettsy had been fouled and was on the floor, frantically trying to grab the puck when it finally landed. After the whistle finally sounded, Alex made it known, that he wasn't impressed with the officials and how much protection he felt he should be getting. Into the final 2 minutes and all eyes would be on the Swindon bench and of course Renny Marr making way for the extra attacker.

There was a face-off just outside the Bison zone, which Wildcats won and moved the puck around. Marr was pulled and Nell made his way onto the ice. Bison managed to break up the play and Klejna fed Tait, who had enough time to despatch the puck off the boards and it was heading goalbound with two Wildcats players in hot pursuit. Sam Godfrey made a last-ditch attempt to stop the puck, but his dive was fruitless, as the puck crossed the line, just as he piled into the net. The Bison faithful roared with delight at the goal (58.46) and that was the final nail in their coffin. Within seconds of restart (58.52), there was a sour moment, when Max Bibraer checked Liam Morris to the head with his stick. A clear cheap shot, but I'm not surprised at all. Same old Birbraer !!

He was awarded a 2+10 penalty, but I felt it warranted a more severe penalty, because it was that blatant.

The final minute ran down, the buzzer sounded, and the Bison players and fans equally celebrated a glorious and very well-deserved victory.

There were many good performances though. Tait, Harewood, Klejna, King and Stone to name a few, but all the guys played their part for this "W".

The Bison return home on Saturday when they face the Raiders IHC, with Aaron Connolly and Dan Scott making a welcome return to Basingstoke. Find out how the game unfolds, when you read Matthew Church's match report, which will be online and, in the programme, next weekend.

Here's hoping for a 4-point weekend !!