482 Days went to their first NIHL2 game this season in what we expected to be a close fought game against two sides chasing a playoff spot in the Western half of NIHL2 this season.
Unfortunately the game was a bit of a blow out with Basingstoke Buffalo taking an incredibly convincing win 6-0 against their hosts. To be honest, while Buffalo had had some good results this season so far, I thought this would be Bristol’s game beforehand as the fire-power available in the Bristol team should have netted them some solid goals.
Actually, I came away incredibly impressed with the professional way that Basingstoke conducted themselves and the way they played real team hockey. There were a few stand outs in the team: Ryan Sutton up front looks very good and there is great chemistry between himself and Paul Petts to make for some great attacking play; in defence David Collins really caught my eye – he was calm and possessed when he got the puck and also made some great shot blocks and poke checks to stop Bristol’s attacks from getting to net. Jordan Lawday in nets also had a good game, although I did think Bristol made him look good on a couple of occasions – any time you get a 33-shot shut out, you’ve clearly come up big!
But despite the stand outs, the biggest thing about Basingstoke was the way they played together as a team. The passing wasn’t as sharp as I am used to seeing in NIHL1 or the movement up the ice as fluid, but even so, Buffalo definitely had a ‘one unit’ feel to their play that caused Bristol issues all night. They attacked as 5 and defended as 5 and that was the biggest difference between the two teams in my eyes. All three of their lines were balanced and the team came across as a solid and cohesive unit.
For Bristol, discipline (or lack thereof) was their greatest downfall. While there were maybe 2 calls from the ref that I would describe as ‘a bit harsh’, I thought the rest were pretty much spot on and actually thought the ref had a pretty good game. In total, Bristol gave up 12 minors to Basingstoke’s 2 and as a result spent a lot of time on PK in return for just 10 seconds of PP in the dying moments of the game. If their aim was to physically intimidate their opponents, they didn’t – they just left themselves short time after time and it cost them (3 powerplay goals and less opportunities to score themselves).
When they actually knuckled down and tried to play hockey, it was a much better performance. The two Dolphin brothers (Josh and Zach) both skate really well and have great hands and a solid work ethic. Logan Prince also looked very good and was another who worked hard to create chances. Despite shipping 6 goals, I thought there defence was actually overall better than their offence. Yousif Abu Saada is very good player at this level and is calm and collected and just looks solid, Dan Pettitt is also a very good young defenceman and both he and Abu Saada were also integrating well into the attacks. The biggest surprise for me was Chris Moore. In all honesty, he is not a player I have ever rated before, and I saw quite a lot of him in Stars’ NIHL2 years. Last night though he absolutely worked his ass off and while he is not the most skilful player, he won a lot of the 50/50 pucks he was going for simply because he gave everything to the fight for them. He well deserved his MOTM award and his work ethic last night is something some of the other Bristol senior players perhaps should be taking a look at as there was way to much coasting going on from a lot of them. The final shout goes to John Dibble in the net. Yes he let in 6, but actually he made some excellent saves and was hung out to dry by his team way too often. I actually thought that he had a pretty good game last night and at least he worked from start to finish which is more than can be said for some in that team.
So overall, I would have to say that Basingstoke absolutely deserved the win and while the scoreline was perhaps a little flattering, it wasn’t by much. This was a big game for both teams as with Cardiff Fire looking so dominant, it’s likely that the rest will be fighting for the second place playoff spot at the end of the season. Basingstoke just took a huge step forward in securing that tonight.