THE Basingstoke Bison moved three points clear at the top of the English Premier League, after winning their top-of-the-table clash with visiting Manchester Phoenix on Saturday night.

The Herd welcomed back Canadian forward Joe Rand from injury, but Kurt Reynolds was still missing.

For the Phoenix, they were without starting goalie Stephen Fone due to a virus, so Paul Maudsley made his EPL debut.

The Bison dominated the opening 20 minutes, and it was no surprise when they took the lead at 4:03, as Andy Melachrino netted his own rebound.

However, the rookie Phoenix goalie stood up to the Herd offence and the closest they came to a second goal, was when Tomas Karpov hit the post.

The second session saw the visitors have the opening two chances, as Michal Psurny and Joe Graham tested Bison goalie Dean Skinns, but after this the home side took control.

The first powerplay of the period, saw the Herd double their lead as Aaron Connolly fired into the roof of the net.

The home side made it 3-0 on their next powerplay, as Rand marked his return with a goal, after Ciaran Long’s shot had hit the post which left the Canadian to poke the puck home.

Manchester at this point called a time-out, but the goals kept coming. A lovely cross from Joe Greener was hammered home at the back post by man-of-the-match Karpov.

The first Bison penalty of the game was against Michael Wales, but during his time in the box, the home side so nearly added a fifth goal. Rand broke away, but Maudsley produced the save of the night to deny him.

The final 20 minutes of the game was the most even of the contest, and the Phoenix got themselves back into the game, when former Bison forward Jaroslav Cesky scored from close range at 42:36.

This spurred the Phoenix on and they reduced the lead to two goals, when man-of-the-match Roman Kovar bundled the puck home with 11 minutes to play.

Soon after, Manchester were given their third powerplay of the night and somehow James Archer missed an open goal.

Then a full blooded shot from Kovar smashed off Skinns helmet and the goalie fell to the ice.

There were a few anxious minutes as the netminder received treatment, but despite being shaken he was able to continue.

The home side then made it 5-2, as lovely back heel from Long, sent Karpov clear and he drilled the puck past Maudsley.

Manchester kept looking for a third goal and Skinns produced a great double save to deny Ben Wood and then Cesky with the rebound.

With 2:12 left on the clock, the Bison had defenceman Carl Graham dismissed for high sticks, as he caught the falling Liam Chong in the face.

It was original called a match penalty, but was down graded to a game as Chong very sportingly returned to the ice in the final few seconds. If he had not, then Graham would have been suspended from tonight’s trip to Telford.

Despite having a powerplay for the final two minutes of the match, the Phoenix created just one chance which saw Archer’s shot saved by Skinns.