BASINGSTOKE Bison title hopes suffered a major setback, as they suffered a 5-2 loss against the visiting Swindon Wildcats on Saturday night.
Henri Sandvik was the star-of-the-show for the visitors as he netted a hat-trick including the opening goal at 5:52.
Andy Melachrino came close to getting an equaliser after a great move involving Tomas Karpov and Michael Wales, while Doug Sheppard also tested Stevie Lyle.
The home side then had Matt Selby dismissed for a tame butt ending on Jonas Hoog after the Swedish forward had slashed the British defenceman.
The Bison killed off the five minute powerplay, which was helped when Swindon’s Ryan Watt was sin binned for two minutes, after he punched Miroslav Vantroba.
Swindon were lucky not to lose their own defenceman Alex Symonds, after he caught Karpov in the face which saw the Czech forward fall to the ice. Referee Stefan Hogarth decided this time there was no penalty to call.
A great save early ion the second period saw Dean Skinns deny Ollie Betteridge from close range.
The Herd level things at 25:08. thanks to Vantroba’s blue line rocket, but a powerplay strike from man-of-the-match Sandvik had Swindon ahead again three minutes later.
The Wildcats extended their lead after another missed penalty call as Karpov as he was upended on the Wildcats’ blue line and the visitors on a break-out scored from Floyd Taylor.
Another blue line strike from Vantroba got the Bison back on track and still in with a shout at the second buzzer.
After Swindon had some early chances in third period, the Herd enjoyed five minutes of good pressure and Lyle had to be at his best to keep them out.
The game then slipped away, as Swindon showed their clinical finishing again with two goals in the space of three minutes.
The first saw Sandvik denied twice by the pads of Skinns, before Jan Kostal was left with a simple tap.
Sandvik with an excellent shorthanded strike then completed the scoring.
Aaron Neill so nearly added a sixth goal, but his shot crashed off the crossbar during a late powerplay. The defeat saw the Herd knocked off top spot of the English Premier League, by the Manchester Phoenix, who left it late to beat the Guildford Flames 5-4.
The Phoenix play their game in hand on the Bison tonight, with a trip to Telford, while the Herd have a night off and start to focus on their EPL Cup final second-leg in Basingstoke against Milton Keynes Lightning on Wednesday evening (face-off 7.45pm).
The Bison hold a 4-1 advantage going in the game, after victory in Coventry last week.