Photo (C) Jo Loat
Final score: Basingstoke Bison 5-4 Milton Keynes Lightning – after penalties (League)
Saturday 1st January 2022
Refs: Brooks and Matthews – Linos: Cook and Prior
Welcome to 2022! For their first contest of the new year, the GalxC Cooling Services sponsored Basingstoke Bison welcomed age-old rivals Milton Keynes Lightning to town for what was set to be a classic. The Herd were glad to welcome back a number of players who had been missing from the previous weekend of play, which was well needed when coming up against a team who were now challenging for top spot in the league.
The early stages of the game were nothing out of the ordinary, both sides focused on establishing a physical presence to set the tone for the rest of the night, before out of nowhere, the game’s opening goal appeared thanks to a stunning solo effort. At 4:08, Liam Stewart (assisted by Tyler Nixon and Russ Cowley) showed off his natural talent by going coast-to-coast around the outside of the whole Bison team before lifting the puck past Alex Mettam in net.
This left the crowd stunned, but with the quickest response anyone has seen in a long time, the Herd brought themselves level just 10 seconds later. A face-off win at center ice saw the home side move forward instantly before Alex Roberts (Milton, Tait) swept the puck past Matt Smital at 4:18 for a 1-1 game.
With the crowd re-energised, the Bison kept their foot firmly on the gas and finished off a ‘minute of madness’ in some style as a turnover in the MKL zone left the home side with a man advantage and in-form import Alex Roberts (Milton, Tait) rifled home from the right to huge applause at 4:57, putting his side 2-1 ahead.
(C) Jo Loat
The remainder of the opening period would see no further goals, although the Herd would be forced to see off a couple of penalties, which they navigated successfully to keep the lead after 20 minutes.
The middle frame progressed in a slightly less hectic manner than the first, with both teams working hard to notch the next goal but finding the netminders in fine form. This was, until just before the halfway point in the game, when the Bison would be rewarded with a goal from a rare source. A puck cycled around the perimeter found its way to defenceman Jay King (Milton, Tait) who fired a quick wrist shot into the net and back out off the back-bar, before many had noticed, at 29:14, extending his side’s lead to a commanding 3-1 scoreline. Three consecutive penalties on the Lightning provided the Herd with golden opportunities to essentially put the game to bed, but somewhat disappointingly, they were unable to convert and remained just 3-1 ahead after 40 minutes.
(C) Jo Loat
A frantic third frame started with the visitors punishing the Bison for their missed chances late in the middle period as Bobby Chamberlain (Norris, Talbot) batted the puck home from in close at 44:11, reducing the deficit to a single goal. Shortly afterwards, a Hi-Sticks penalty on Paul Petts threatened to allow the Lightning back onto level terms but the Herd had other ideas as Alex Roberts (unassisted) broke away down the right wing and sent a bullet through Smital in net at 48:15 whilst shorthanded, to roars from the crowd, as the import completed a second hat-trick in as many games and took his side 4-2 in front.
Not to be deterred, however, the Lightning began their comeback in earnest at 52:01 when Sean Norris (Chamberlain, Nixon) pounced on a rebounded shot to fire home and bring the away side back within one goal. Not long after that, an Ollie Stone penalty for Hi-Sticks saw the Lightning on the powerplay and they broke Bison hearts at 53:51 as Leigh Jamieson (Laishram, Chamberlain) stepped in and sent a pin-point shot over Alex Mettam and into the roof of the net, levelling the scores at 4-4. A late Tripping penalty on Russ Cowley and the resulting powerplay made no difference to the scoreline as the game made its way to Overtime!
In familiar fashion, the 5 minute period of 3-on-3 play produced no shortage of thrilling moments, as both sides went end-to-end and had clear chances on the odd-man breakaway but neither team could find the vital winning touch. Meaning, that the contest would be decided with a best-of-5 penalty shootout.
The scoring went as follows:
Harding – miss
Norris – saved
Doughty – score
Stewart – score
Roberts – saved
Chamberlain – miss
Milton – score
Talbot – saved
Norcliffe – SCORE! The legend that is George ‘Gordon’ Norcliffe stepped up and rifled home to hand his side the extra point, in a thrilling 5-4 shootout win.
Credit to both the Bison and the Lightning for a fantastic battle.
Bison stats: Milton 0+3, Roberts 3+0, Tait 0+3, King 1+0
Netminder: Alex Mettam 30/4 (86.67%)
Lightning stats: Chamberlain 1+2, Nixon 0+2, Norris 1+1, Cowley 0+1, Jamieson 1+0, Laishram 0+1, Stewart 1+0, Talbot 0+1
Netminder: Matt Smital 27/4 (85.19%)
PIM: Bison 8 – Lightning 8. SOG: Bison 27 – Lightning 30.
Bison MOM: Alex Roberts – Lightning MOM: Hallden Barnes-Garner
Our next home game is Saturday 8th January vs the Peterborough Phantoms, see you there!
Tickets are available for Saturday’s game by clicking the following link