Saturday 11th September 2021
By Matthew Church
Bison MOM: Aidan Doughty – Raiders MOM: Aaron Connolly
Bison stats: Doughty 2+0, Roberts 0+2, Baird 0+1, Milton 0+1, Morris 0+1, Sampford 1+0.
Netminder: Alex Mettam 31/2 (93.55%)
Raiders stats: Scott 0+2, Connolly 1+0, Piatak 1+0.
Netminder: Bradley Windebank 32/3 (90.63%)
PIM: Bison 9 – Raiders 13. SOG: Bison 32 – Raiders 31
Refs: Brooks and Matthews – Linos: Olczak and O’Neill
Have you ‘Herd’? The Bison are back! For the first time in 546 days (is that all?) the Basingstoke Bison returned to the ice, along with their new title sponsor GalxC Cooling Services, for game number one of pre-season against familiar rivals, the Romford-based Raiders IHC. It has been a strange 18 months for everyone across the globe in varying ways but thankfully for the Bison family, some normality resumed on a day where we paused to reflect on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy in the USA.
Despite not having played the previous weekend like their opponents, the home side came out of the traps well and were moving swiftly, testing netminder Windebank at every possible opportunity. It certainly was not one-way traffic however, with the lively Brandon Ayliffe causing the Bison blue-line issues and import Erik Piatak forcing Alex Mettam into early saves. Perhaps it was the lack of action seen over the past 18 months, but the Bison were keen to establish a physical edge and put hard hits out whenever possible, with the referees allowing the game to flow well during the early battles
(c) Jo Loat
Remember that feeling of joy when the Herd scored? Thankfully it came flooding back to the home crowd at 10:43 when newly-signed Aidan Doughty (assisted by Roberts) put the Bison 1-0 ahead, taking the feed from new import Alex Roberts after hard work forced a turnover and finding the gap between post and netminder to the delight of every home fan. Not to be discouraged, the Raiders looked to immediately restore parity and after killing a Hooking penalty on Jacob Ranson, had two good opportunities on the break, only to be thwarted by Bison goalie Mettam who kept his side in front heading into the 1st period break.
The momentum gained late in the opening frame by the away side continued into the second period and at 21:15, they gained their reward. Former Bison captain Aaron Connolly (assisted by Dan Scott) ripped the puck past Mettam in trademark fashion and into the net, levelling the scores at 1-1 which was a fair reflection of play. Fortunately for the Herd, they would be given a chance to regain the lead within a few minutes when Rio Grinell-Parke picked up a Cross Checking penalty and at 24:25, Aidan Doughty (Roberts, Milton) put the Bison 2-1 ahead with his second goal of the game. Beautiful work in the offensive zone left Alex Roberts with time to produce a sublime drop pass for Doughty who lasered the puck past Windebank. The rest of the middle period continued with end-to-end action, Connolly and Piatak threatening to level the game for the Raiders whilst home favourite George ‘Gordon’ Norcliffe was playing like a man possessed and bursting past the opposition defenceman like they were statues, but ultimately couldn’t bury the puck and the second period finished with the Bison leading 2-1.
A fight between Raiders’ new boy Tom Relf and the ever-loved Bison forward Liam Morris at the second stanza buzzer meant they began the final period very much in trouble over in the penalty box. The opening minutes saw both sides having to work hard to try and kill off separate Cross Checking penalties, but it would be the Bison who took their chance with the man advantage and extended the lead to 3-1 at 47:21. Hometown forward Alex Sampford (Baird, Morris) converted after just 5 seconds of the powerplay with a tip-in from a Brendan Baird shot that flew over the shoulder of the Raiders netminder, nearly blowing the roof off the Bison rink. Facing defeat, the Romford-based outfit worked tirelessly to claw themselves back into the game, Jake Sylvester proving to be a nuisance and being denied more than once by Alex Mettam in net. As the clock wound down, the visitors would be given a lifeline at 58:20 when import Erik Piatak (Scott) fired a gorgeous shot past Mettam from between the hash marks, reducing the score to 3-2 in favour of the home side.
(C) Jo Loat
Both teams used their allocated timeout to decide tactics for the final few seconds, but thankfully for the Herd, they managed to keep the puck out and hang on for a jubilant 3-2 victory, their first in what seemed like an eternity! A slightly surreal evening ended with that typical feeling of nail-biting nervousness, but the GalxC Cooling Services Basingstoke Bison emerged victorious and more importantly, brought the Bison family back together again.
Our boys travel to Romford for the return leg on Sunday night where Bison super-fan Nigel will report back from, before the team are back on home ice next Saturday vs the Peterborough Phantoms in cup action face off at 6.30pm.