10by10 starts this season’s NIHL1 preview with the of the overall highest placed EIHA team last season (i.e. 3rd in EPL): Basingstoke Bison. NM Dan Weller-Evans takes a look at the Bison squad and gives us his take on the upcoming season.
I think this season is going to be a really exciting one, not just for the Bison but for the league in general. Change is never an easy thing but now that the dust is starting to settle on the whole situation I think people are starting to get excited about the upcoming year. It will be nice to see some new teams as well as some teams most of us have played (for and against) and building new rivalries. Personally I have always believed that the NIHL offers good quality hockey and I can only see this improving this year. I think that the new league structure may take a year or two to settle down, but I think this could be a good thing for British hockey and it will be good to see more juniors be able to step into senior hockey, whether that’s training with their senior team or getting the chance to play games.
At the Bison our goal is obviously to be in contention for every trophy on offer. That was always our goal when we were in the EPL and it won’t be any different this year. I think Doug (Sheppard) has done a great job in keeping most of the players we have had over the last few years as well as bringing in some very good new players and some that have previously played for the team or have friends in the team to help the bedding in process. Most of us have been on the ice together a couple of times a week for a while now so we are all familiar with one another and we are really excited to get going now. We have a great mix of youth and experience and even guys on our team that are under 25 still have a lot of both NIHL and EPL experience. As I said before I think Doug has put together a team that will challenge for every trophy, We know that’s what he sets out to do every summer and its something the Bison have always done since he arrived back in Basingstoke 5 or so years ago. We have managed to keep the majority of our core players and I think that speaks volumes about the club and about Shep as a coach. It’s no secret that the facilities we have in Basingstoke aren’t the best, but players still want to either stay or play in Basingstoke year after year. We have always been a very tight group both on and off the ice and I think that’s a massive factor of the success the Bison have had over the last few seasons.
In goal we lost Tomas Hiadlovsky who will be a big loss but we have brought back Dean Skinns, a Basingstoke born goalie who has had massive success throughout his career and I know he will want to do the same again this year. He has won pretty much everything there is to win in the EPL and he will be a very important player for this year. As for myself I’m hoping to push all the way this year and try and earn as many games as possible, I want to help the team in any way, hopefully in lots of games, but if I’m on the bench then I will be supporting Dean and the boys in any way I can.
We managed to keep 4 of the 5 man D core we had last year. We lost Dec Balmer to the Elite League and we are excited to see how he gets on in Manchester. We have Joe Baird, one of our ‘A’s, a veteran in our team: a solid defenceman and someone who will always tell the boys exactly how it is in the room. Stuart Mogg is someone who has got better year after year since switching to defence, he made the EPL all star team in his first full season on D and I can’t see any reason why he wont improve again this year. We also have Kurt Reynolds, the team barber, back for his 10th straight year with the Bison (keep an eye out for his testimonial date). It’s no secret Kurt is always a standout player for the Bison, I remember watching Kurt in his first year when the Bison were in the Elite League as a 14 year old fan!
Onto the first member of the ‘Kent Massive’: Dan Scott. Scotty joined us mid way through last season and its like he’s been here for years. He has all the boys in stitches in the room and it’s hard to keep a straight face sitting next to him, but when its time to go he’s always ready and was solid for us in the second half of last season. Finally we have the only ‘new’ member of our D core, Elliott Dewey. Dewey is no stranger to the NIHL and came on leaps and bounds with Invicta. We are happy he’s come back to Basingstoke and he will be a very important player for us this year. He has played for the Bison before so knows what to expect.
We lost a few forwards over the summer, the 3 imports: Derek (Roehl), Joe (Rand) and Rene (Jarolin), Joe Miller and Ciaran Long who has joined Dec up in Manchester with the Storm.
Firstly let’s take a look at the new boys to the team… We have signed Josh Smith from Bracknell, someone who isn’t afraid to go into the gritty areas and can also score points. Ryan Sutton has come back after a year in Canada and he will be looking at putting points on the board. Onto the other 2 members of the ‘Kent Massive’: we have 3 time Olympian Ashley Jackson join us this year, we are very excited to have him on the team, someone who has played sport at the highest level possible as well as putting up serious points in the NIHL.
Returning for us is our leader and captain Aaron Connolly. A born leader, he is the heartbeat of our club and will always get the best out of the boys. He’s always lead from the front and there’s no doubt he will do that again this year. Tomas Karpov is also back this season, our other alternate captain and our top player and point scorer. I think being able to bring in Karps again this season says so much about our club, no doubt he will score points this year and will lead our offence.
Grant Rounding is someone who has had a big battle with injuries but again is someone who I think will put up points this year for us, potentially the fastest player I have ever played with. We played together on the Island in the NIHL as well as here in Basingstoke. He flies past players when he takes off! Another huge signing is Vanya Antanov, someone who I would think would always be in high demand and there is no doubt he is a special player. He had a great first year for us last year and he will be looking to build on that this year.
Danny Davies is someone who I think is the most under rated player on our team. He is solid on the puck, has great hands and can score goals. I think he will be a standout player for us this year. He never has a game off and chips in in every possible way. Another player of ours who’s contribution sometimes goes unnoticed is Dan Lackey, another forward who is almost impossible to knock off the puck along the boards and will do anything he is asked to do. I think he will put up more points this year than the last couple of seasons.
Finally Jaro Cesky is back with the Bison after a few years away. He is played In the NIHL for the last few seasons and he is an instant fit in the room. His numbers speak for themselves and I’m sure he will be another leader for us this year in terms of scoring points.
We also have two players on two way contracts with us, Hallam Wilson and Paul Petts. Hallam played in Oxford last year and had a successful year, I’ve known Hallam since he was about 5 years old so its great to get to play on the same team as him this year. Pettsy has also played in the NIHL with the Solent Devils and the Basingstoke Buffalo. He is another player that can do a bit of everything offensively and we are looking forward to seeing that this year.
Okay, ramble over! As I said before we are really excited for the new challenge. Hopefully we will see lots of you in Basingstoke for a few games this year!
Enjoy the season!
Basingstoke Bison start their season with a home/away double-header challenge series with Peterborough Phantoms on 2/3 September. Their competitive season starts the following weekend as they host Invicta Dynamos in the league on Saturday 9th, then travel to Telford for a cup game on Sunday 10th.
You’ll be able to find all the remaining articles in our 10by10 season previews (as they are released) together with all the previous seasons’ articles on the following link: http://482days.com/category/10by10/