Bison 4 Invicta Dynamos 0
In every league there are strong teams and not so strong teams. This is dictated by money – ask the Telford Tigers. In the NIHL we have such an imbalance by HEY! we have hockey, whereas a few weeks ago it looked as if we might have nothing at all following the folding of the EPL (thanks Wayne Scholes, Neil Morris and all the other people who contributed to taking a damned good product and driving it into the ground – sorry mustn’t get too serious here). Last night we witnessed Bison’s first competitive game in the new NIHL as we welcomed the Invicta Dynamos to the crumbling ruin which is the Basingstoke Arena.
“It's Raining Men! Hallelujah! - It's Raining Men!” So sang the Weather Girls. Remember those wonderful dietarily challenged ladies? It may have rained cats and dogs, rather than men, during the day, but anyone who expected it to rain goals last night were to be disappointed. Thanks to a 92.59 save percentage performance from Invicta netman Damien King, Bison ended up with a solid win but certainly not a cricket score.
The game opened and just before the 8th minute had reached its conclusion, General Grant Rounding took off on a mazy Karpov-esque dribble. Fleet of foot, keen of eye and sharp of brain he showed sleight of hand as he outsmarted the covering Mo’s D-man, Harrison Lillis, who could not dispossess him. Instead he tripped him, sending Rounding crashing to the ice like a sack of King Edwards, right in front of the Bison bench. A massive eruption of protest volcanoed from the bench. Shouts were shouted and Bison back up goaltender Dan “The Beast” Weller-Evans even threw his arms into the air in a flamboyant gesture of objection. They needn’t have worried whether or not there would be a call. In his famous song of 1965 Wilson Pickett told us he was “gonna wait till the midnight hour”. His namesake Referee Tim Pickett, on the other hand, had no intention of waiting that long to make his decision. The whistle blew immediately and up went his arm to call a tripping offence. “Hey dude. You can’t do that,” he may have said. Whether he did or didn’t must remain matter of speculation. However the end result was that Lillis went off to the slammer for 2 minutes of porridge and Bison were on the power play. 1:42 into the 5 on 4 Bison broke through. Skipper, Aaron “Billy” Connolly passed across the face of goal into the slot from a position on the right wing. Waiting there was Tomas “Grandmaster” Karpov. Connolly may have said “Oi Geezer! Slap your lumber on that, matey”, although I heard no such utterance. However, slap his lumber on that was exactly what Karpov did. The puck was propelled forward from the Czech chap’s stick with the same velocity as Grandad’s dentures ejected during a violent sneeze. We heard a clunk, on went the goal light, up went the arms. The puck had hammered in off the post. Whoever painted the goal frames during the summer must have winced. 1-0 Bison.
As the period wore on the Kentish icemen were becoming frustrated and violence of the most virulent variety erupted shortly after. Josh Condren (don’t misspell his name please) barrelled forward and attempted to get past Rabbit’s Foot Joe Baird. A physical but fair tussle with tangled limbs and sticks ensued, the end result being that Condren fell to the ice, his charge forward terminated. In steamed Adam Strawson, who proved he is no man of straw, with an illegal hit on Baird. Next Kurt “The Scissors” Reynolds confronted Lillis merely to deliver constructive comments on the last passage of play I am sure. Appropriate penalties were doled out and Bison ended up with a 5 on 4, but could not take advantage.
A minute after the power play had ended Bison got another as Mason Webster delivered a cross check on Dan Scott in the corner. The latter was not happy and made his views known to the former. It didn’t escalate otherwise we could have seen a scene similar to this …..
The Mos should have levelled it up just before the end of P1. They had a 2 on 1 breakaway with Moggy the piggy in the middle. Deans Skinns saved the first shot, but the rebound fell right into the path of Adam Rehak. He couldn’t miss the open goal from point blank range. Planting the puck in the net seemed easier than hitting an elephant at 5 paces. But actually it wasn’t because……….he missed. 1-0 it remained and 1-0 it was at the buzzer.
Into P2 and Bison dominance continued. The midway point of the period passed with Bison still leading, but only by that solitary goal despite peppering the Mo’s goal. Heroics by goaltender King were preventing an embarrassing avalanche of goals. He had kept out 21 of 22 shots in P1 and now a further 8. Could he keep out Bison’s 31st shot on his net? Well actually no. On 32:07. Antonov fed Karpov, who took the puck around the boards from behind the goal and passed to Stuart “The Cat” Mogg on the blueline. He sent in a speculative wrist shot towards the bottom corner. The shot was a sweet as a nut (strange expression that as nuts aren’t really sweet) and in it went off the post with a sonorous clunk. The goal frame painter must have winced once more. 2-0 Bison.
Just over 2 minutes later it was 3-0 and Bison’s efforts were at last bearing fruit......
On 34:48 Baird sent in a wrist shot from the blue line, much in the same manner than Moggy had. Would history repeat itself on this occasion? Not quite because one of the Antonov twins (Ivan or Vanya) thrust his stick into the path of the puck and tipped it past the hapless goaltender. In celebration of the goal the Bison backers immediately turned into a bunch of noisy, raving hooligans. If they had behaved this way in a shopping centre, they would have been arrested for public disorder offences and issued with ASBOs for sure. 3-0 Bison.
The clocked ticked down to the end of P2. Although it hadn’t quite been a jumping-Jehosophat-on-a-pogo-stick period for Bison, they now had a comfortable lead, which would have been of considerably larger had it not been for the goaltending heroics of Damien King. He certainly was having a zim-zam-zaramango game. However, he was to be undone once more in P3, as I shall relate, dear reader.
P3 opened and there was a flurry of penalties starting in the 43rd minute when Ryan Sutton was sent to the slammer for a slash. 15 seconds into the power play Connolly had his collar felt for cross checking. 5 on 3 to the Kentish icemen. They had to score. Well actually no they didn’t. The 5 on 4, which had become a 5 on 3, then became a 4 on 3 as Tom Ralph went down the steps for tripping. 10 seconds later it was 4 on 4 and then a 4 on 5 in Bison’s favour as Connolly’s incarceration terminated. Confused? I am. All we need to know is that Bison were now on the power play and made it count on 45:34 when an Antonov shot was saved and Connolly flicked the rebound over King’s shoulder. 4-0 Bison.
Could Invicta stage a comeback from this seemingly hopeless position? If they could it would make Lazarus sauntering out of his cave alive and in robust of health look a mere bagatelle. With only a dozen shots on goal so far, scoring 5 in the last 4 and a half minutes seemed unlikely. And so it proved. The final buzzer sounded and Bison had bagged the bounty in a game which lacked the cut and thrust and excitement of an old EPL game, but what the hell at least we have hockey to watch. Men of the match were goaltender King (who else could it have been?) and the Antonov twins, who once again had to share the Top Banana beers.