BASINGSTOKE, UK – The Bison have given themselves a great chance of making the final of EPL Cup for the second time in their history, after they beat the visiting Guildford Flames 8-3 on Wednesday night.
The Flames, the cup holders for the past two seasons grasp of the trophy was well and truly loosened, as the Herd out scored them 6-1 in the final two periods.
The 18-year-old is no stranger to the Herd having played at the back end of last season for them.
Guildford also gave a debut to new import Slovak import Martin Opatovsky and they got off to a dream start as Dan Holland smashed in a shot off the crossbar after just 62 seconds.
The home side hit back on the powerplay from Joe Rand, but the visitors re-took the lead with their own special teams goal from Branislav Kvetan.
The Bison thanks to Ciaran Long levelled again and at the first buzzer it looked an even contest.
The home side extended their lead on a double powerplay, after Stuart Potts picked up a hooking minor and Jez Lundin 2+2+10 for butt ending on Wales.
Rand got the goal and then Doug Sheppard doubled the advantage as he fired over Mark Lee.
An expected rally from the Flames in the final session never happened as the Bison scored four unanswered goals.
Tomas Karpov grabbed the first two with the second one coming thanks to a deflection off Neil Liddiard.
At this point, Guildford called a time out , but this did not stop the goal rush as Long fired home at 51:16.
This saw Lee hooked and James Hadfield took over, but he was unable to stop Rand completing his first hat-trick of the season.
With 12.7 seconds left Opatovsky capped his debut with a goal, but with a five goal deficit the odds are stacked against the Flames.
“We have put ourselves in a good position, but we are still have three periods to play,” said Bison player/coach Sheppard.
The cup victory continued an impressive run of home form for the Herd, as four days earlier they beat the visiting Sheffield Steeldogs 6-5.
The Herd raced to a 4-0 first period lead as Karpov scored twice and there were singles for Long and Joe Greener.
The Steeldogs managed just two shots in the opening 20 minutes, but found their feet in the middle session as star import Lubomir Korhon and Ashley Calvert scored.
The impressive Andrew Hirst then reduced the lead to one goal, before Greener scored his second the night.
The sides then swapped goals on a two minutes of four-on-four hockey as firstly Rand scored and then Sheffield’s Edgar Bebris replied.
A powerplay strike from Korhon set up a tense finale with the Bison three times missing the empty net.
The following night in Peterborough, the Herd lost 5-2 as a brace from Marc Levers and single strikes from Luke Ferrara and Marcel Petran saw them lead 4-0.
Goals from Long and Greener got the Bison back in touch, before a late Petran powerplay strike sealed the Herd’s fate.
“We cannot afford to give-up five goals a game as if puts so much more pressure on our offence. We won against Sheffield, but it would have been easier if we had played a 60 minute game,” said Sheppard.
This weekend, the Bison face the Milton Keynes Lightning on home ice on Saturday, followed by a trip to Sheffield on Sunday night.
Then on Wednesday, Basingstoke travel to Guildford looking to complete their EPL Cup semi-final series with the Flames.
Contact the author Graham.Merry@Prohockeynews.com