Sunday, 12 November 2017

Caledonian Concreteness Cements Cats Cruise to Comfortable Conquest

Bison 1 Swindon Wildcats 3

Let’s go back to 1973. A man in pyjamas sneaks downstairs in the middle of the night. He wakes up the dog on the stairs and shushes it. He tiptoes into the kitchen and opens the fridge, which is full of R. Whites lemonade. He was the secret lemonade drinker of the famous advert, of course (see below). He told us he’s been trying to give it up, but it’s one of those nights. Well last night was one of those nights for Bison. Despite outshooting the Cats at a rate of 2 to 1, they found Cats’ Caledonian goaltender Renny Marr a formidable obstacle and managed to breach his defences only once. At 6’2” he’s a big geezer and agile with it. He was well deserving of the Top Banana award with a save percentage of 97.14, but I jump ahead, as always.

Let us go back to the first period. It was a chunderous one for Bison. Outthought, outplayed and outshot, they came in with a 3 goal deficit and it was uphill from then on. The Cats’ first goal followed a flurry of penalties to Bullas, Antonov, Birbraer and Malinik. With so many players having their collars felt it was difficult to keep track of how many were on the ice. It eventually boiled down to a 4 on 3 advantage for the Cats and they took full advantage of the extra man and additional space on the ice. On 11:25 Aaron Nell won a face off. The puck squirted to Sam Zajac, whose pass found Chris Jones in a great position close in. He lifted a shot over Dean Skinns’s right shoulder. It was a perfectly placed shot and Deano stood as much chance of stopping the puck as Wild Bill Hickok had of living see the 3rd of August 1876 (Eh? See footnote). 1-0 Cats.

On 12:46 it was 2-0 as the Cats bagged another power play goal. Set up by a Nell/Taylor combination, Jordan Kelsall found himself in the slot with his back to goal. He swivelled like a ballerina, although he wasn’t dressed as one (we have to be thankful for that) and shot in one fluid movement and the puck flew into the top corner of the net with the accuracy of a javelin thrown by Fatima Whitbread. Kelsall wasn’t dressed like her either. 2-0 Cats.

Bison huffed and puffed as the clock ticked down. Into the final minute we passed. Going into the locker room with a 2-0 deficit looked likely. From there a P2 recovery was a strong possibility for Bison if they stepped up a gear. Could they even snatch one before the buzzer? Well actually no and, worse still, the Cats snatched one for themselves. On 19:32 crisp passing by Nell and Jones found Maxim Birbraer at the back door. Whilst attempting a circumnavigation of the globe in 1937 iconic aviator Amelie Earhart (that's her below) disappeared without a trace. In a similar fashion the Bison D had disappeared without a trace. So there was Birbraer with the puck. How was he going to beat Dean Skins? It was an over the shoulder number, just like the other 2 Swindon goals. That’s how it’s done against a small, albeit agile, netman. You get the impression some thought had gone into all this before the game and, of course, the strengths and weaknesses of ex-Cat Deano should be well known to Coach Nell. 3-0 Cats and Ooooo Betty for Bison.

P2 was interesting. Bison certainly stepped up a gear and hammered away at the Cats’ net, but without reward. The Cats were coasting along in terms of the scoreline and just needed to keep things tight. Well they failed to do that, but every time Bison breached their defenses, there was the gigantic Marr to block like the Berlin wall, catch like a slip fielder, engulf like an amoeba or deflect away like the angled armour plating on a tank. Hadrian built an 80 mile long wall in the north of England to supposedly keep out marauding Scotsmen. (Perhaps that’s where Donald Trump got the idea of his Mexican wall). Now the tables were turned as a marauding Scottish goaltender kept out Bison. 18 shots to 3 in Bison’s favour was the shot count for the period, but the score remained 0-3.

And so into P3 we moved and we were treated to almost more of the same. However, this time the Cats’ defense had tightened up and Marr had only 9 shots to keep out. He was lucky when a Karpov shot hammered against the post with a clunk most sonorous and then we saw Rabbit’s Foot Joe Baird surge forward and get involved in a blue paint scramble attempting to do what his forwards hadn’t. He couldn’t.

On 53:53 there was a massive boarding hit. I didn’t see which Bison player was on the receiving end, but Floyd Taylor was the Cat perpetrating the unsavoury deed. A gaggle of incensed Bison players went to the spot and were confronted by an angry mob of Cats players. An unseemly altercation of the most unspeakable variety ensued. Suddenly we saw Aaron “Billy” Connolly and Sam Bullas locked together. They exchanged opinions regarding the incident. I couldn’t hear their words from Block C, but it would not have surprised me if it had incorporated expletives which would have shocked both a sewer worker from the Gorbals and a fishwife from Billingsgate. Pushes and semi-punches were exchanged, but the blood lust of the crowd was left unsatisfied as the two were separated before a meaty punch could be thrown. The two escaped censure, but Taylor did not. It was a game misconduct for him and on to a 5 minute power play went Bison.

At last on 53:53 with only 23 seconds of the power play played, Bison bagged a goal. Set up by Connolly and Desperate Dan Davies, Dan Scott let fly with a wrist shot from the hash marks. The goaltender, who had up till now looked as impregnable as the Maginot Line, the Great Wall of China and Fatty Arbuckle all rolled into one, couldn’t stop this one. The net bulged, on came the goal light. Out came Referee Matthews’s flat pointy hand. Goal Bison and 3-1 Cats. The crowd leapt to their feet to register their approval of the goal with shouts of “Yahoo!”, ”Yippee!”, “Hurrah!”, “Woo-hoo!”, “At last” and other similar exclamations.

Alas for Bison it was to be their only moment of deep joy, but in the final minutes it was all Bison. Whilst still defending the 5 minute power play the Cats copped another penalty - Stephen Whitfield for slashing. They now had 2:42 to defend a 5 on 3. With 2 minutes left Skinns was dragged from his net (not literally thankfully) and a 6 on 3 ensued. The Cats even managed to defend this. Whitfield returned to make it 6 on 4 and then the 5 minute power play ended. Bison could find no way through. Game over. The Cats had played a clever tactical game.

Top Bananas were the Cats’ Marr (who else could it have been?) and Malinik for Bison.

Footnote : Legendary gunslinger Wild Bill Hickok (see below), not to be confused with Alfred Hitchcock, who is someone completely different, was shot and killed from behind by Jack McCall, a sore loser, while playing poker in Nuttall and Mann’s saloon in Deadwood on 2nd August 1876. The hand he held at the time was a pair of aces and a pair of 8s, known thereafter as the dead man’s hand.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Thunder Prove Chunderous Not Thunderous

Bison 7 Milton Keynes Thunder 2

For the umpteenth time Planet Ice welcomed a team from Milton Keynes. On this occasion, however, the team were not the Lightning, but instead the Thunder. Their travelling support hoped their team would prove thunderous, rather than chunderous, but the 7-2 scoreline and an outshooting by 38-17 will tell you that it was a lot of the latter and not much at all of the former.

P1 opened (it always does) and General Grant Rounding rang one off the pipes early on. On 7:30 Bison opened the scoring. Kurt “The Scissors” Reynolds passed out of defence to Desperate Dan Davies. He found Tomas Karpov all alone in front of goal. The Czech chap wasn’t toting a six shooter, but he was toting a hot hockey stick (equally as lethal) and he proved he was as deadly a shot as Billy the Kid. He went upstairs and I don’t mean to the bar. 1-0 Bison.

Bison could not make their dominance pay and, worse than that, let their lead slip 5 minutes later. And it was an old Lightning combination that was responsible for the undoing, namely Tom Carlon and Grant McPherson. The latter passed to the former from behind the goal line and the former fired past Dean Skinns from the slot, much to the delight of both the former and the latter and also the heretofore unacknowledged second assistant, Alex Whyte. 1-1

Bison moved up a gear to restore their lead and were granted a power play opportunity on 15:08 when Nidal Phillips sent Tomas Karpov sliding to the ice, the victim of a trip. Was it to be 10 years hard labour on Devil’s Island or in the Siberian salt mines for Phillips? No. Not even a stretch in the Scrubs. The very lenient sentence was 2 minutes in the penalty box. Only 45 seconds was served, however, as Bison capitalised on the 5 on 4 and bagged their second. Fed by Aaron “Billy” Connolly, Desperate Dan Davies fired in a shot from the slot. Tom Annetts saved it but the puck went as loose as a goose in front of the net. The Antonov twins lurked and one of them ruthlessly pounced on the puck with the determination of a rodent control operative chasing a rabid stoat to deliver a fatal blow. He forced the puck in and it was 2-1 Bison.

With only 15 seconds of P1 remaining Bison made it 3-1. Connolly shot, Rounding redirected, Annetts saved and Malinik stabbed the rebound in. Annetts, who had now given up 2 goals from rebounds, was proving a trifle rubberoid.

So ended a very satisfactory period for Bison with the score accurately reflecting the shot count of 13-5. Into P2 we went and we were to see more of the same. A shot count of 17-9 and a goal tally of 3-1. But I jump ahead, dear reader.

P2 was only 1:36 old when Alex Whyte, the heretofore mentioned second assistant to the equalising goal, shamefully hooked back Connolly when he was in on goal and shaping to shoot. Referee Brooks’s crossed arms went up. Was it a penalty shot or was he indicating that he had the X-factor? He may indeed have the latter, but on this occasion he was indicating a penalty shot. Billy picked up the puck centre ice and moved menacingly towards the Annetts minded goal. The Thunder netman may have been considering shooting out his stick like a frog with a long sticky tongue going for an unsuspecting passing fly in order to poke check the puck to safety. However, he didn’t. Connolly closed in and shaped to shoot on the forehand. But it was nothing more than a dastardly deception. Annetts slumped to the ice in butterfly as if he were a collapsing cob wall (see below) and, thus having shot his bolt, which he achieved without a crossbow, was astonished to see Billy drag the puck to his left and slot in off his backhand. 4-1 Bison.

The next goal was greeted with a Vesuvian eruption of approbation. On 22:01 Hallum Wilson forced a turnover and set forth towards the MK goal. It was like poetry in motion. His movement could be likened to a Shakespeare sonnet copied onto the finest writing paper with a Montblanc fountain pen. In contrast the movement of the Thunder D on this occasion was more akin to a shopping list scribbled on the back of an envelope with a leaky biro. Wilson sliced through the lot of them and then passed to Oscar Evans, a mere babe in arms at 16 years old. Oscar fired in low. It was his first goal for Bison. Such a barrage of noise erupted from the crowd that it wouldn’t surprise me if the emergency chemists in Basingstoke had a run on throat gargle later in the evening. And indeed such an eruption occurred not once but twice, namely when the goal was scored and then when the scorer was announced as Oscar Evans. ’eavens above he deserved an Oscar. 5-1 Bison.

The game was now swinging, not low sweet chariot, but away from the Thunder. However, they weathered the storm until 35:20 when they were struck by another lightning bolt to make it a very overcast evening for them. On this occasion it was General Grant Rounding raining on the Thunder parade. Roman Malinik, supplied by Dan Scott, picked Rounding out in the slot and he shot goalwards. We heard a thud. The pad of Annetts had saved the day. But no. The puck continued in a goal-linewards (Ok that’s not a real word) direction and over the line it trickled, indicating that the hapless goaltender was both rubberoid and full of holes. He couldn’t have been happy with that one. He may have said “Oh botheration” or perhaps something stronger, as he absorbed the meaning of the sudden explosion of delectation and jubilation amongst the Bison backers without actually seeing the puck over the goal line. Whatever he said or thought it mattered not a jot. 6-1 Bison. Strangely enough the principal assistant was announced as Malinique (yes you did Bavy), leaving us to wonder whether Bison has a French maid playing for them. Alas no.

2 minutes later it was Dean Skinns’s turn to have an Oooo Betty moment when a shot from an acute angle by Gareth O’Flaherty hit Deano’s pad and sneaked over the line. The assistants were declared as Ross Green and Tom Carlon. 6-2 Bison.

On no further occasion in the period were the goal judges called upon to illuminate their lights nor was Mr. Brooks’s hand required to become flat and pointy in a netwards direction.  So into P3 we moved at 6-2. The 3rd period was played at a less frantic pace than the other two and we were treated a solitary goal, but what a goal - a blitzkrieg of a move, which must have left the MK players shell shocked and wanting their Mummies. It happened on 50:47. But let us go back a little further in time. In 1508 Michelangelo began painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. The finished article is a composition which stretches over 500 square metres of ceiling and contains over 300 figures. At its centre are nine episodes from the Book of Genesis. It is a staggeringly beautiful work of art which took four years to complete. The 7th Bison goal was a comparable work of art, but there the similarity ends as it took only a few seconds to complete. It was sweeping move executed at lightning speed and with pinpoint accurate passing, as the Thunder D stood as stationary as Lot’s wife. Karpov skated across the face of the goal and passed back to Antonov in the slot. His pass found an unbothered Davies in front of the net. Desperate Dan snapped the puck home. Alas my humble narrative falls well short of conveying the quality of the score, but I can find no purple prose which would do it justice. Never mind. 7-2 Bison.

The game wound down and the final buzzer sounded with the clock showing 00:00. Top Bananas were elected, namely Carlon for Thunder and Malinik (or was it that French maid Malinique) for Bison.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Combustible Fire Incinerated by Karpov Inferno

Bison 5 Cardiff Fire 1

Let’s give huge credit to Cardiff Fire for stepping up into the new NIHL South Div 1 from the old ENL 2, whilst others, who shall remain nameless, fled in the opposite direction. The Fire have become the whipping boys of the league, losing 9 out of 9 before last night’s game, not to mention being on the end of a number of embarrassing double figure score flagellations. Although we didn’t see a veritable trousers down spanking in terms of the score, we were witness to the most one sided game of hockey you are likely to see this season – in terms of one-sidedness you could liken it to a 100 meter sprint between Usain Bolt and Long John Silver. By the end of the evening the shot count was s staggering 52-7 and, had it not been for a laudable performance form Jordan Lawday in the Fire net, things would have looked a lot worse for the visiting leek bearing men of Cymru.

Let’s us begin at the beginning. Or rather 2:23 after the beginning. That’s when Bison bagged their first score. Kurt “The Scissors” Reynolds fired a shot from the slot, which Lawday saved. Alas for the hapless netman the puck went straight to Tomas Karpov, who banged it in. Lawday must have thought “Oh Lordy”. 1-0 Bison.

2-0 arrived on 13:01 and it was a well worked goal fashioned and scored by Ryan Sutton and Pol/Paul/Pot/Potts/Petts* (delete as necessary if you think the goal assistant was either a) the genocidal leader of the Khmer Rouge, or b) operatic tenor from Bristol, or c) a Bison hockey player. OK I’ll tell you just in case you were having difficulty with the above multiple choice. It was, of course, Paul Petts. Sutton took the puck across the ice and found Petts on the boards. He skated forward as Sutton was taking up a new position in front of the crease. Petts’s perfectly placed pass pinged back to Sutton, who drove the said biscuit through the isosceles triangle that is Lawday’s 5-hole. Had the Fire goaltender possessed a stick 20 feet long or, better still, extending arms like Twizzle (see below) he could have executed a poke check to stab the puck away from Sutton as he shaped to shoot. However, he didn’t have extendable limbs (well who does?) or indeed an outsized stick and could do no such thing. 2-0 Bison.

Goal no. 3 arrived soon after – on 15:58 to be precise. I can’t tell you about the build up as I wasn’t looking at the time. What I can tell you is that Josh Smith and Tomas Karpov were involved and were each declared as confederates to the scorer. What I did see was Desperate Dan Davies in front of goal shaping to fire in a wrist shot. However, before I continue with my narrative of the goal I hope you will allow me a digression of soup├žon-esque proportions, dear reader. Is a keema nan airworthy? Yes it is. I have seen one fly through the air like a frisbee. It was thrown by a drunken diner in the Star of India restaurant in Romsey circa 1985. It flew out of the window and disappeared into the street below, hopefully not causing fatal injuries to a passer by. What relevance has this? Ok let’s go back to the goal. Davies flexed his wrists and the puck lifted from the ice and flew through the air displaying the aerodynamic qualities of a keema nan. The speed and placement of the shot were such that Lawday could not react and into the top corner went the biscuit. 3-0 Bison.

Soon after the buzzer to bring to a halt the Fire’s period of misery sounded. Outshot by 15-1, they trooped back to the locker room wondering how on earth they were even going to score a goal, let alone keep the score down to single figures. Back in 1993 we were told by D:Ream “Things can only get better”. And, would you believe, they did for the Fire in P2. Despite being hideously outshot by 14-4 Lawday laudably kept every on goal Bison attempt out and then, to cap it all, the Fire bagged a goal of their own as the period drew to a close. David Manning found David Christian, who snapped the puck past Dan “The Beast” Weller-Evans in the Bison net. It could have been an all David goal, but alas for those to whom things like that matter (probably no-one) the second assistant was announced as Tamas Elias, who is not a David. By the way don’t confuse him with Don Elias, which is someone/something completely different, namely a brand of Mexican tequila. An explosion of joy tore from the away block where the small number of loyal Welsh fans sat. Alas there were too few of them to deliver a stirring rendition of “Sospan Fach” and the famous line at the end of verse three, namely “A'r gath wedi sgrapo Joni bach”, remained unsung. (See footnote for translation). All that aside it was now 3-1 Bison and all to play for in P3 … or so it seemed at the time.

In actual fact, P3 turned out to be almost as one sided as the other two periods put together. The shot count was 24-2 in Bison’s favour, but once again Lawday proved laudable and allowed only 2 goals. The 1st and Bison’s 4th arrived on 42:49. Sutton to Davies, whose pass from behind the goal found Karpov in front of it without a D-man to distract him. He snapped the puck home past a hung out to dry Lawday. As the puck flew past him and into the net the goaltender looked as shocked as if he had seen Jacob Marley’s ghost complete with clanking chains. (Not a Dickens reader? You’ll have to Google “Marley’s ghost” then). 4-1 Bison.

Before the 1st half of the 3rd period was over it was 5-1. On 46:25 a grinding scrimmage on the boards ended in Bison’s favour and the pass out found Karpov away and unchallenged. The goaltender remained as motionless as a Norwegian Blue parrot nailed to his perch. (Those under 40 may have to Youtube the Monty Python “Dead Parrot” sketch) as Karpov whipped in a top shelfer to complete his hat-trick. The assistants were announced as Aaron “Billy” Connolly and Kurt “The Scissors” Reynolds. 5-1 Bison.

Captain Matthew Webb (that's him below) was the first man to swim the English Channel. The gallant Captain perished just a few years later in the Whirlpool Rapids of the Niagara Falls. Similarly Fire’s hopes of winning the game, if ever there were any, perished, not only rapidly, but also in a whirlpool of disappointment for their travelling fans as Bison’s 5th goal went in. Never mind. The game was played to a conclusion with no further scoring and the final buzzer brought an end to proceedings and a 5-1 win for Bison.

The Top Bananas were easy to guess – Lawday for the Fire and Karpov for Bison. Sadly a 5-1 defeat can be rightfully regarded as a good result for the Fire. Alas that is the nature of the men and boys league that Bison now play in. Well at least we still have hockey.

Footnote : A'r gath wedi sgrapo Joni bach = And the cat has scratched little Johnny.