After a Sunday defeat against Bracknell, the Wildcats were back in midweek action with a trip to Basingstoke where they faced the Bison in the final pre-season game before the start of the season at the weekend. Swindon were boosted with the return from international duty of Tomasz Malasinski but were missing British duo Floyd Taylor and Aaron Nell.
The opening ten minutes of the game proved to be quite end to end. Basingstoke forced Lyle into a good save down low early on through Alan Lack before Jonas Höög sped down the other end of the ice and was denied by Dan Weller-Evans in the Bison net. Tomas Karpov had another great chance for Basingstoke but once again Stevie Lyle was on hand to turn the puck away.
As the period was drawing to a close the Wildcats opened the scoring. Some slick puck movement enabled Jonas Höög to feed a pass across the slot and the returning hero Tomasz Malasinski was able to convert the puck into the net for his first of the season, the goal coming at 19:57.
Early on in the middle stanza the Bison were able to get a foot back in the game, with Sam Bullas in the penalty box, Ciaran Long fired a shot which Lyle saved but the puck fell to the stick of Petr Polodna who fired low and tie the game up at one. The 'Cats were back on the offence when Kyle Smith's powerful shot was well stopped by Weller-Evans.
At 27:39 the visitors were ahead again. The duo of Höög and Malasinski linked up again, this time the Polish international pounced on a loose rebound and fired home from a very tight angle. With five minutes left in the period, coach Nell decided it was time for Michael Crisp to get more game action, replacing Stevie Lyle between the Swindon pipes. Swindon killed off a late Mark Smith penalty to ensure they went into the second break with a single goal lead.
The third period began with Swindon the brighter side with chances falling to both Sam Bullas and Ben Nethersell. Michael Crisp then had a big moment with a spectacular glove save to deny Petr Polodna at the other end of the ice. The Bison were pressing and found their equaliser at 46:45. Ivan Antonov had been impressing all night long and got his first of the night when he followed up a shot from Aaron Connolly which Crisp didn't quite get enough of to bring the game tied at two.
At 51:02 the Bison found themselves in the lead for the first time, thanks to a powerplay goal. Another loose rebound was picked up first by a Bison forward, this time Shaun Thompson on hand to convert past Crisp with the assist going to Aaron Connolly again. Shortly after a slight delay in proceedings occurred when an off the puck incident saw Rene Jarolin leave the game with blood coming from his face and leading the Zamboni back onto the ice to clear up.
The break worked in favour of Basingstoke, and particularly Ivan Antonov. The young British forward picked the puck up in the neutral zone, skated past the D men and slid the puck between the legs of Crisp for a very well earned second goal. The 'Cats pressured with the clock ticking down and they did manage to score one final time. Stevie Whitfield found a lovely pass to Lee Richardson at the back door.
The Wildcats stalwart waited and picked his spot right under the crossbar, threaded the eye of the needle and reduced the deficit to one goal. Unfortunately the time was running out for Swindon and despite one final chance for Jonas Höög, the Bison held on for the 4-3 victory.
With pre-season over the attention now switches to Saturday evening and the first game of the league season against Guildford.
Man Of The Match:
Basingstoke Bison - Ivan Antonov
Swindon Wildcats - Tomasz Malasinski