BASINGSTOKE Bison kept alive their English Premier League title hopes, as they closed the gap on the leaders Manchester Phoenix to two points with three games to play.
This was a bumper crowd saw the Herd produce a great comeback and win 4-3 over the visiting Sheffield Steeldogs after being 3-2 down.
It was always going to be tough game for the home side, when it soon became apparent that referees Stefan Hogarth and Tim Pickett, were going to allow Sheffield penalty king Andre Payette to do what he liked.
In his first shift, the Canadian checked two Bison players off the play and this set the tone for the rest of the evening.
The feisty affair continued as Craig Elliott jumped Joe Baird from behind to fight him, after he took an exception to a retaliation slash from the Bison defenceman on one of his team mates.
Sheffield took the lead at 7:23, as Tom Squires put away a pass from Tom Carlon at the back post.
The Bison levelled the game two minutes later on the powerplay, as Joe Greener tipped a Miroslav Vantroba blue line shot.
The Herd took the lead, thanks to a crisp strike from Greener which pinged off the pipework as it went in.
The second session started, with Payette skating off down the rink with Michael Wales’ stick which earned him a two minute holding the stick penalty.
He returned to the ice to latch onto a Greg Wood pass and levelled the game at 22:40.
The Herd then ran into penalty, as Sheffield were given a string of powerplays, and they scored on the fourth one from man-of-the-match Steve Duncombe’s blue line blast.
The Bison opened the final session the better and with Sheffield under pressure Payette went down as if shot, but when no penalty was forthcoming he get back to his feet and skated off to the bench.
The home side equalised as man-of-the-match Joe Rand forced his way to the net and scored.
The Bison were then given a late powerplay, when Herd old boy Greg Chambers departed for punching Wales in the face.
They made the most of the extra man, as Rand scored his second of the night from close range at 54:08.
The visitors came looking for an equaliser and after a goal mouth scramble Duncombe with the net at his mercy blazed his shot over.
With 77 seconds left, the Steeldogs pull their goalie and then 20 seconds later the home fans once again showed their displeasure at the referrers as Bison’s Kurt Reynolds was given a penalty.
However, the Bison defence stood tall and the Herd claimed the important victory and with leaders Manchester losing in Swindon.
Tonight’s trip to Manchester for the Herd, will go a long way in deciding the outcome of the EPL title.