Basingstoke Bison 5, Coventry Blaze 2

THE BASINGSTOKE Bison kept their season on fire as they beat visiting league leaders Coventry Blaze on Saturday.

The gap between the sides at the top of the table is now just one point with the Bison due to travel to Coventry next Sunday for the last game between the sides this season.

The game on Saturday was a hard-hitting, intense affair from the start with neither side wanting to give any quarter.

The Blaze went close to opening the scoring at 4:13 as a Mike Shewan shot dropped into the goal crease but Neil Liddiard was on hand to clear the puck away.

At 5:13 the first penalty of the game saw a crunching check from Michael Tasker on Gary Clark earn him a 12-minute rest in the sin bin for cross checking from behind.

With referee Dave Cloutman only calling what he needed to and keeping the game flowing the next penalty call came at 10:34 as Claude Dumas and Richard Little tangled to leave the match four-on-four.

It was the Wella-backed side that drew first blood in this situation as Dru Burgess found Albie O'Connell and he hit the top corner with his shot as he fell to the ice.

The lead lasted just 49 seconds as some good work by Tom Watkins behind the Bison net set up Blaze man-of-the-match Mike Shewan to score from the right-wing blue line.

Soon after, Stephen Foster came up with a great save to deny Kurt Irvine but after that it was the home side that really dominated for the rest of the period.

After Little had gone close a couple of times, it was Bison man-of-the-match Mike Ellis who directed an O'Connell cross into the top of the net with just 61 seconds left in the period.

After the break the Blaze drew level again as a three-man break down the ice saw Watkins feed Shewan to net his second of the contest.

At 28:18 the final powerplay of the night arrived as Marc Twaite was penalised for holding after he tried to climb on the back of Mike Ellis.

The one-man advantage saw Matt Cote and Liddiard denied by saves from Henrik Sjodin in the Blaze net.

However, a goal arrived at 32:29 as James Manson's blue line shot took a deflection off Michael Knights and left Sjodin no chance in the visitors' net.

Three minutes later it was 4-2 as Jeff Daniels found Joe Baird on the right wing. His shot came off the pads of Sjodin and Daniels was on hand to lift the puck over the 'keeper.

Two minutes into the final period Jimmy Andersson sent a great pass down centre ice to Little but he was unable to get his shot away and Sjodin made the save.

In the middle part of the period the Blaze had two great chances with Hilton Ruggles finding Claude Dumas at the back post but Foster made a great kick save.

The game as a contest was ended at 57:10 as Sjodin came too far out of his net and between him and teammate Shaun Johnson, they lost out to Burgess who slotted the puck into the empty net from the corner.

That was not the last action of the match as a minute later the ill-feeling between Liddiard and Ruggles which had been simmering over several games saw the Bison man exact revenge as he used the Canadian forward as a punch bag on the ice.

The outcome saw Liddiard dismissed, as was Kurt Irvine for jumping off the Blaze bench to try and pick another fight with Liddiard.

Scoring, Bison: Burgess, Manson, Burgess 1+1, Daniels, Ellis 1+0, Cote 0+1. Blaze: Shewan 2+0, Watkins 0+2, Johnson, Twaite 0+1. Shots on Goal: Foster 48, Sjodin 31. Penalties, Bison: 26min. Blaze: 40.