Bison 4 Telford Tigers 0
National plays off final
Holy Guacamole! What a one sided game. Not what most of us expected. The Tigers iced 6 more players than Bison. Yes 6. Not 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5, but 6. Not content with already having a full roster, they dragged former Bison favourite, Joe Miller, protesting, kicking and screaming out of retirement. Alas for Joe (we still love him) it was not the final hurrah he had hoped for, but instead a Tigers’ hoist the white flag capitulation on a par with the surrender of Zanzibar in the Anglo-Zanzibar war of 1896 (that conflict lasted only 38 minutes). By the end of 60 minutes of play, Bison had shown that numerical superiority counts for nothing when those players don’t turn up. Or perhaps they did turn up, but were overwhelmed by an outstanding display from the best team in the NIHL. Biased me? Yes of course, but don’t take it from me - listen to what the neutrals were saying. The shot count was 41 to 15 in Bison’s favour. ‘Nuff said. Well actually no there’s much more to be said, so pray, dear reader, read on.
P1 opened and on 6:05 we saw the first penalty of the game with Macauley Halford elbowed into the box for kneeing. It was to prove metaphorically, but thankfully not literally, fatal for the Tigers with Bison snatching a go ahead goal on the power play only 17 seconds later. The Czech chap Roman Malinik, as slippery as the slipperiest eel you could imagine, set up Kurt “The Scissors” Reynolds for a shot. As the puck arrowed towards the net, we heard a click (OK not from the other end of the rink we didn’t) and the puck changed direction, courtesy of a Tigers’ stick, and flew past the hapless Tigers’ goaltender Denis Bell like a jet propelled set of false teeth. Bell seemed shocked. He would have been even more shocked if the thing flying past his had had actually been a set of dentures. In 1940 Ernest Hemingway published his classic book “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. At that moment the bell was tolling for Bell. 1-0 Bison.
Bison continued to dominate and their efforts bore fruit just as the Tree of Knowledge bore fruit of which Adam and Eve partook, thus leading to their banishment from the Garden of Eden. The fruit in this case was a second Bison goal. The Bison Builders, who came to the playoffs clad in Hi-vis jackets and hard hats (see below for a picture of that bunch of crazy lunatics), will know that if you take a bag of Portland cement, 3 bags of sand and 3 bags of aggregate, mix these together with water and leave to set, you end up with concrete. The Tigers’ D needed to behave in a concrete fashion to baulk Aaron “Billy” Connolly as he took a pass from the Antonov twins (I am not sure whether it was Ivan or Vanya or perhaps it was both) and skated across the face of the goal. Alas the Tigerish D had obviously taken to the ice before the concrete had hardened and their resistance proved no more than that of wet slurry. Billy skated across unchallenged, unhindered, unhamstrung, unobstructed and unimpeded. He whipped a wrist shot past Bell with the accuracy of a bullet fired from Wild Bill Hickok’s Colt 45. The puck hit the net and then fell down onto the ice with a sound akin to a Steradent tablet plopping into a glass of water (OK I couldn’t hear that from the other end either). Back in 1979 Rita Ward had a huge hit with “Ring My Bell”. Bison were sure ringing Bell’s bell at this stage. 2-0 Bison.
The 1st period couldn’t end soon enough for the Tigers. They languished lackadaisically and lacklustrely like a load of loafing lounge lizards, 2 goals to the bad. They had been comprehensively outplayed, as the shot count of 13-4 suggested. Time to put Plan B into action and stage a comeback. But Plan B proved as ineffective as Plan A, if it ever happened – it was difficult to tell. Maybe Plan C should have been implemented instead of Plan B to replace Plan A. Bison didn’t need a Plan B as their Plan A worked well in P1 and continued to work well in P2 with the result that further fruit was borne, perhaps not as much as could be found in a Carmen Miranda headdress (see below), but enough to double their lead in the process and finish the period with a Blistering Biriyanis shot count of 31-11 over the two epochs. How many? Yes 31-11. However, I jump ahead, so let us return to 22:15 in the second.
Jason Silverthorn, so often a thorn in Bison’s side in the past, now proved a thorn in the side of his own team. He thrust his stick into the face of Tomas “Grandmaster” Karpov in a manner most dangerous and, as the Czech chap recoiled from the Canadian’s attempt to behead him, Referee Brooks emptied his lung into his Acme Thunderer and stopped play. It was an ugly challenge, which incensed the Bison crowd. Some shouted “Bring back hanging!”, whilst others, possessed of a more realistic understanding of the punishments available to the officials, exhorted “Give him a game!” But no blood had been spilled and Silverthorn copped only a 2 minute minor for his attempted murder. He may have thought he had got off lightly, but, if he did, he hadn’t because 1:34 into the 5 on 4, Bison made him pay the penalty for the penalty with another goal. Set up by Malinik, Reynolds fired in a shot. Bell blocked it but the puck squirted loose in front of the crease and before Bell could say “Jumping Jehosophat on a pogo stick”, although I am not sure whether he wished to say such a thing anyway, the luxuriantly bearded Josh Smith, Bison’s own Long Ciaron Long lookalike, forced the puck through the hapless netman like he was a ghost with no solid form. But he was no apparition, no specter, no spirit from beyond the grave. He was a goaltender in human form who had failed to block the goal. Ding dong Bell - he was now well and truly in the well and Little Tommy Stout wasn’t on hand to pull him out. 3-0 Bison.
Exactly 4 minutes later to the second in fact, Bison bagged another. The 4th goal was a veritable Ooo Matron goal, a zim-zam-zaramango goal, a wacko-the-diddle-o goal, which epitomised the way that Bison had torn their opponents apart with lightning speed breaks and pinpoint accuracy passing. This time it was Desperate Dan Davies breaking forward up the right wing. He didn’t ditheringly dilly dally with a deke and dangle. No indeed. Nor did he did not tortoise forward in a sluggardly fashion. Leaving the covering D-man breathless, listless and lifeless and adopting a state of being bereft of confidence, belief and optimism, Desperate Dan thundered forward, hammered forward and steamed forward all at the same time. Meanwhile the Antonov twins were also precipitating forward in support in a manner most untardy and, in the process, losing their covering D man, whose speed of movement was more akin to that of Puffing Billy (maximum speed 5 mph) than the Bullet Train. Desperate Dan thrust like a rapier over the blue line and speared a pass to the Antonovs, who rifled the puck home with arrow accuracy and thereby plunge a dagger into the heart of the Tigers’ aspirations. 4-0 Bison and the Tigers were getting rather angry with their inept team, which by now had plunged into a cesspool of hopelessness.
And so into P3 we moved. The Tigers had an uphill struggle. How were they going to turn the game around, having been so dominated, out skated, out shot, out smarted, out thought, out everything and failing to make any impression on goaltender Dean Skinns, who was playing out of his skin and looking capable of stopping one of Kim Jong Un’s nuclear missiles? They had to put Plan D or E into effect. Much to the chagrin of their supporters, they didn’t seem to have either and I am not convinced there was even a Plan B or Plan C in P2.
At one point in P3 the game stopped and rink repair men were called over to the Telford bench, which appeared to have suffered a malfunction. With reference to the crumbling sate of their arena, many of the Bison backers had come dressed in hard hats and hi-vis jackets on the previous day. From them a song appropriate to the moment rose up. “Bison builders can you fix it? Bison builders no we can’t.” With the bench repaired, albeit not by the Bison builders, the game restarted and Bison’s dominance continued. The 19 skaters of Telford couldn’t give any sort of headache to the 13 from Basingstoke and a Tigers’ comeback from 0-4 to the bad seemed to be receding as rapidly as Telly Savallas’s hairline
The game surged towards a conclusion. As it did so, we noticed a number of Tigers’ fans sneaking out – dashed bad sportsmanship I’d say. Or were they going to see if there were any Pukka Pies left? Only they will know. The final buzzer sounded and the Skydome burst into scenes of pandemonic joy and overwhelming pathos at the same time. Those who remained in the Telford blocks burst into tears. Were they tears of relief? Their team had had their trousers taken down and had been given a damned good spanking. Ooo Matron! But now it was all over. Those in the Whitley Warriors block threw their babies in the air and there was everything from wild pandemonium to civilised appreciation all around the blocks as they celebrated with their newly found friends the mighty Bison. Were they all jumping on the bandwagon, not a Johnnie Johnson type of bandwagon, but a Bison one? It did rather seem to be an "Anyone but Telford" situation.
Top Bananas were elected. Adam Taylor bagged the Telford accolade and the Antonov twins, Vanya and Ivan, had to share the Bison beers. Well Bison had won the treble. And those will be my last words of an amazing season.