Photo (C) Jo Loat

Final score: Basingstoke Bison 5-3 Swindon Wildcats (League)

By Matthew Church

Monday 27th December 2021

Fresh from a brilliant Boxing Day victory away in Swindon the previous night, the GalxC Cooling Services sponsored Basingstoke Bison were looking to make it a four point weekend as the Wildcats made the journey east to Hampshire, for the final Bison home game of 2021.

With the home side still missing five players as they had been the night beforehand and the visitors minus their regular netminders, the game was set to be a fascinating battle. Although, the Bison were happy to add Elliott Lewis, Will Birch and Thomas Banner to their line up, as well as Cain Russell who has signed temporarily from the Wildcats.

The early stages were fairly even and although the Wildcats were out-shooting the Herd, the home team were working hard to create chances and nearly opened the scoring through Alex Roberts who blasted his shot just wide. The first penalty of the contest went to Paul Petts for Boarding at 8:08 and thus, allowed the Wildcats’ dangerous powerplay unit an opportunity to take a lead, but the Bison held firm and minutes later were rewarded with the first goal of the night.

A series of neat criss-cross passes in the offensive zone saw import forward Alex Roberts (assisted by Zack Milton and Alex Sampford) left with only netminder John Dibble to beat and he dispatched with ease for a 1-0 lead at 12:54. The Herd would have their first opportunity on the powerplay late on in the opening frame, when Jack Goodchild picked up a Slashing penalty, but were unable to seize the chance, meaning their lead stayed at one after 20 minutes.

Despite missing multiple regular first-team players, the Bison continued to look promising going forward and a part of this was the excellent work of young forwards Will Birch and Elliott Lewis, plus the very impressive Thomas Banner on the back end who was stifling the powerful Swindon attack. To the delight of the home crowd, the Herd deservedly doubled their lead at 24:46 as they broke forward 2-on-1 where an initial shot, that rebounded off netminder Dibble, fell to Ryan Sutton (Roberts, Sampford) who slammed the puck home with conviction for a 2-0 lead. Momentum, at this point, was clearly with the Bison as they looked a totally different team from the one which had struggled for form across the early part of the league campaign and when Neil Liddiard was called for Tripping at exactly 30:00, the home team looked to extend the lead again.

Fast forward to 31:36 and the scoreboard changed to Bison 3-0 Wildcats! After a desperate scramble in front of the net, the Bison worked the puck around on the man advantage to great effect before Alex Roberts (Milton, Jones) used the extra space to send a quick wrist shot past Dibble into the roof of the net, almost lifting the roof off the rink too.

However, a team filled with the level of quality that the Wildcats’ possess, should never be discounted and when Alex Sampford took a Hooking penalty with less than one minute remaining in the middle frame, they took full advantage to remind everyone the battle was far from over. A sneaky shot by Edgars Bebris (Nell, Jones) flew past netminder Jordan Lawday at 39:23 before he could react, leaving his side 3-1 behind after 40 minutes.

The final period was set to be a tense affair with the Bison looking to finish off an impressive weekend by taking all 4 points against the league-leading Wildcats, but when Aidan Doughty was penalised for Hooking at 46:16, this became slightly more at risk. Unfortunately for the home side, the visitors’ lethal powerplay unit once again struck to make it a one-goal contest at 47:18 as captain Sam Bullas (Nell, Svec) fired home from close range. The Bison took a few minutes to stem the tide and regain their poise, knowing how vital another goal could prove. Thankfully at 53:53 they made sure the next goal went their way and it was a beauty. A slick pass through the heart of the Wildcats connected with Aidan Doughty (Roberts) who homed in on goal before a gorgeous deke move left John Dibble with no chance in net and the puck slid through him, putting the Herd 4-2 up.

The final nail in the coffin came at 57:53 when the Bison, already on the powerplay due to a Boarding penalty on Declan Balmer, took advantage of the Wildcats’ decision to pull netminder Dibble in favour of an extra attacker and Adam Jones selflessly passed to Alex Roberts (Jones) so that the import-forward could complete a memorable hat-trick and a 5-point night by handing his team a 5-2 lead. There was still time for the opposition to score a late consolation goal at 59:34 courtesy of Aaron Nell (Bebris) but this made little difference to the overall score… as the Basingstoke Bison completed an enthralling 5-3 victory and therefore a brilliant 4-point weekend over their Wiltshire rivals.

Bison stats: Roberts 3+2, Jones 0+2, Milton 0+2, Sampford 0+2, Doughty 1+0, Sutton 1+0

Netminder: Jordan Lawday 31/3 (90.32%)


Wildcats stats: Nell 1+2, Bebris 1+1, Bullas 1+0, Jones 0+1, Svec 0+1

Netminder: John Dibble 16/4 (75.00%)

Bison MOM: Thomas Banner  – Wildcats MOM: Emil Svec

PIM: Bison 10 – Wildcats 16. SOG: Bison 17 – Wildcats 31.

Refs: Brooks and Matthews – Linos: O’Neill and Olczak

Next up at home, a New Year’s Day clash against the Milton Keynes Lightning. Until then, Happy New Year to one and all, best wishes for 2022!

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