THE Basingstoke Bison opened the defence of their league crown in the best possible fashion beating the visiting Raiders from Romford 5-2.

It was a great way for the Basingstoke Bison fans to celebrate, as their league and play-off winning banners were hoisted to the roof before the game started.

The Bison certainly dominated the opening 20 minutes and if it was not for Michael Gray the match would have been over by the first buzzer, as the Raiders were out shot 19-6.

The visiting goalie was soon called into action to save from Ashley Tait with the Bison shorthanded, while former Herdman Dan Scott then tested Alex Mettam on the same powerplay.

An excellent back handed shot from Bison’s Richard Bordowksi was saved by Gray.

The impressive Sam Smith then fired in from the blue line, which the visiting cage man caught, while Michal Klejna fed Tait in the slot, but once again he was denied.

The Herd finally took their deserved lead at 14:35. Tait found Russ Cowley as he skated out of the sin bin and he rifled the puck past a static Gray.

The home side then doubled their lead, as Liam Morris was allowed space to fire home.

Soon after, both Tait and Bordowski were denied by great saves in quick succession and then right at the death of period Tait found Smith at the far post.

However, Gray was equal to it and the Raiders headed to the dressing room trailing by two, when it could have been a lot more.

The second session saw the Raiders have the puck in the net, but it had already come off its mooring.

Then at 24:57 George Norcliffe was dismissed, after he caught Dan Scott in the face completely accidentally.

However, as he drew blood, referee Blaine Evans had no option but to give him a match penalty, which was then downgraded to a 5+game once Scott returned to the ice 47 seconds later.

Despite the Raiders having a man advantage, the Bison went close from Tom Ralph and Bordowski.

However, the Raiders then struck twice in the space of 18 seconds.

The first goal was a combination of three ex-Bison players as man of the match Aaron Connolly scored assisted by Liam Chong and Scott.

Connolly then turned provider for Jake Sylvester to level things in the 29th minute of the contest.

This certainly gave the visitors a spring in their step and suddenly it was game on.

However, the Herd hit back on their very next powerplay and took the lead again, thanks to a great back hand finish from man of the match Alex Sampford.

Soon after, visiting defenceman Scott was in the wars again, as he blocked Ralph’s full blooded shot with his leg.

As the period came to a close Mettam produced a great close range save from Blahoslav Novak.

Then just before the buzzer Chong carved his way through the home defence, but Mettam denied him and fell on the rebound, before Connolly could convert.

With just a one goal lead, there was everything to play for in the final session.

The first powerplay saw the Bison have the puck in the net, but it was disallowed.

This was after Jay King’s shot looped up off the goalie and Bordowski tipped it home, but it was adjudged to have been a high stick.

Soon after, a blue line shot saw Mettam sit on the puck to stop Chong getting to the rebound.

Tempers then flared after Bison’s Adam Jones and the Raiders’ Callum Wells tangled in the corner. The pair squared off in front of the player’s bench and both received four minutes for fighting.

Soon after, the teams were reduced to four on four and the home side made the most of it scoring twice in 34 seconds.

The first came as Cowley fed Tait and he netted with a low shot.

The second was a lovely passing move started by Jay King via Klejna and was finished off by Sampford.

At this point the Raiders called a time out, this stopped them conceding goals, but they were unable to add to their tally.

The closest they came was when Filip Sedivy was released, but with only Mettam to beat, he blazed high and wide of the target.

After the game Bison player/coach Tait said: “I was very pleased to start the league campaign with a win - especially with the banners being raised this evening.”

Tonight, the Herd have their first away league game at Invicta.