By Tom Pink
It’s another miracle on ice.
Another treacherous game that Haringey just about manage to navigate. Another game where they’re made to suffer for large parts.
“I don’t want another one like Invicta” was the shout from the travelling Haringey fans next to me. Neither did I! But I’m not sure we wanted what came next either.
Basingstoke are very good, and much improved from last year. The quality they’ve added is on show for all to see. You don’t go six games unbeaten and have the league’s leading point scorer without having something about you.
There’s not a lot to be happy about at Basingstoke, but this Buffalo side are a shining light in that darkness. I love what they’re trying to achieve, love the story, and I’d love to see them succeed, but I want Haringey to do just slightly better.
This was a slugfest though. Taking bits out of each other. You have a go, now we’ll have a go.
War was right. Battle lines were drawn. Demarcation. For long parts the Buffalo are camped in the offensive zone, constantly trying to pull the Huskies out of shape, constantly looking to exploit space at the back post.
The very capable John Beldecos moved up to the first line alongside Jaden Boolkah to start things off. What a success story he’s been this season.
For the first ten minutes, Basingstoke contain Haringey. They have the better of it, their passing is better, they’re on to every mistake and mis-hit pass from Haringey.
There’s a big chance after a few minutes, and the Buffalo should score but it’s an air shot at the back door. Huge let off for the Huskies.
Stuart Appleby sets the tone. He embodies the standards that are expected in this side. It’s a brilliant captain’s performance.
Haringey’s first goal is against the run of play. The puck’s turned over in front of the crease and Joe Willingham jams away and sticks it beyond Dan Weller-Evans in the Buffalo net.
It’s then turned over by Basingstoke and Oliver Hemmings Maher rips a wrister near side top corner, only to see Luke Clark’s outstretched glove snatch it away. If we were in the States, the shout from the commentary team would be “Larceny!” It was boldfaced daylight robbery of the highest order.
Number 11 Hallam Wilson is alarmingly good at hockey. He sends a backhander millimetres wide from the slot.
Luke makes a string of saves to keep Haringey’s lead intact. Stu and Stephen Woodford make a rare foray into the offensive zone but can’t work a shot.
With 22 seconds left on a penalty, it’s a shot from the high slot that deflects, bobbles, bounces, and goes through Luke Clark. 1-1 after 20 minutes.
The Huskies start the second with more purpose.
Marton Szasz has a sighter from the slot into the goalie’s chest. The puck breaks free in the slot and Marton has time and space but can’t find a way past the netminder.
More chances for Basingstoke, but somehow Haringey scrape the door shut.
Marton has another go from the point, with Joe Tearall following up the pad save. Tom Avery and Sam Roberts try the same thing, but Sam can’t reach the rebound.
Basingstoke break the other way and force a blocker save from Clarky. Bryn Griffiths controls in the o-zone and sends a wrister from the point wide.
Back and forth, back and forth.
The pass from Cameron Buckle across both lines is brilliant, and Luke gets a leg to first attempt from Xander Robinson but can’t stop the second and after 10 minutes Basingstoke are good for their lead.
But it’s a ding-dong of a finish to the second. Stu and Sam carry the puck across centre ice and Sam puts it on a plate for Joe Tearall to slam home at the back post for 2-2.
A minute later and Basingstoke have their lead back; a shot from the right D going beyond Luke Clark. Soon after, Wilson sends a powerful one-timer goalwards but Luke holds on.
With one minute remaining, Conner Smith hands it off to Sam on the left who goes far side with a beautifully placed wrist shot to restore parity. A really well worked goal.
It felt odd being level after 40 minutes considering the chances and dominance that Basingstoke had, but Haringey were just ruthless when they got the opportunity.
Conner dangles through at the start of the third but runs into traffic. There’s a scramble in front of the Basingstoke net but it ultimately comes to nothing.
Leo de Souza carries it all the way and his shot when it comes is held. Tom Avery tries from the right but sends it over the bar.
Conner and Joe link up again, Sam has a look from the right. It’s a promising start to the period for the Huskies.
And it’s the Huskies who strike back first. Tom Avery plays in Marton with a gorgeous pass, Marton collects it behind net and rips one from the right, far side for 4-3.
Less than a minute later Hallam Wilson and Paul Petts combine for 4-4. Petts feeds Wilson who goes around the net and scores beyond the outstretched leg of Luke Clark.
Just when I think we were out, they pull us back in.
Basingstoke finish strong and finish well. There’s a five-minute penalty for Haringey and John for boarding. It’s a very, very long five minutes I can tell you and more than once I’m certain we’re going to concede. There’s so much space at the back post if Basingstoke can work the puck quickly enough.
But it’s a monstrous penalty kill from those in black and white and more evidence that I need to stop worrying and trust those on the ice more.
In fact it’s Haringey that score next. Stu puts it across the slot for Conner to score back post. Wow. Just wow.
28 seconds later and we’re all square again though, 5-5 ripped from the slot by Wilson. Hopes of a regulation win ripped from our grasp.
I had to leave with five minutes of regulation still to play. The British rail network waits for no man. But it goes to overtime and Jaden Boolkah wins it for Haringey. A big relief.
Until relatively recently, anything beyond regulation would have spelled doom for the Huskies. But this year they’re three from three and picking up those extra points could make a big difference come March.
Luke Clark once again collects the player of the match award for Haringey. He could have had it for that save in the first period alone.
The Buffalo will fancy their chances at the Palace in January, and rightly so.
But that’s it for 2023. It’s been a breathless first half of the season, which has seen some iconic games and performances from the Huskies. The tenacity we’ve shown in holding our nerve and never giving up or giving in has been incredible.
Bring on 2024.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Hold your loved ones close.
Let’s Go Huskies.