|Posted on July 16, 2013 at 7:40 AM|
The Botany Swarm won their final regular season match-up against the Dunedin Thunder in fine fashion, putting 8 goals on the board to the Thunder’s single one. After losing the previous three games against the Dunedin side in extra time, the Swarm were keen to take one back from the current league leaders, and did so emphatically.
The Thunder had some sustained time in the Swarm’s zone to start, applying pressure on the forecheck and picking up several excellent scoring chances, but goalie Zak Nothling stood tall and weathered the initial storm.
The Swarm were the first on the board, as Mickey Rhodes picked up a greasy goal in close, not giving up on a loose puck and jamming it five-hole past Thunder import goalie Matt Canaday. The Swarm and their fans had a bit of a scare shortly afterwards as Nothling was caught out of his crease, briefly giving the Thunder a wide open net to shoot on, but commitment to backchecking and good team defense managed to keep both the puck and the Thunder clear just long enough.
Rhodes scored again later in the first period, going hard to the front of the net on the powerplay and managing to push the puck just around Canaday's pads to give the Swarm a 2-0 lead going into the first intermission.
The second period found the Thunder getting in even more penalty trouble, which the Swarm were able to take advantage of, converting on another two powerplays. KC Ball picked up PPG on a pinpoint shot from the far circles, for his first of four points on the night. Two penalties four seconds apart for the Thunder gave the Swarm almost two minutes of 5-on-3, and while Canaday made several top-notch saves, eventually Evan Mackintosh cashed in on a shot from the far circle through traffic. The Thunder appeared to have a chance to get back into it, with Martin Pokorny sprung on a breakaway in alone on Nothling, but he was able to make an absolutely stellar last-second stop to keep the score blank.
The third period saw the Swarm continue to apply pressure on offense, not giving the Thunder a chance find their feet or start any kind of comeback. Ball picked up his second goal of the night a couple minutes into the third, and was followed about five minutes later by Michael Attwell with a greasy goal in close as the Swarm again went hard to the net. Josh Hay scored his 100th NZIHL point with a secondary assist on Attwell's goal, putting him just a touch under a point per game average over his 101 games played thus far.
The Thunder were able to rob Nothling of the shutout a couple of seconds later as defenseman Guillaume Leclancher fired a shot in high over Nothling’s stick to give the Thunder their first goal of the evening after over 50 minutes of play.
The Swarm picked up another goal a few minutes later, as Aaron Henderson pinched in to pick up a rebound after Canaday had made the initial stop. The Swarm’s eighth and final goal of the evening was scored by Brandon Contratto, at which point the Thunder changed goalies, putting Aston Brookes in for the final seven minutes.
Brookes was able to keep the Swarm from adding further to their total, robbing them on a couple chances, and allowing the Thunder to save some of Canaday's minutes for later in the season. The Swarm had 53 shots on net on the night, while Nothling faced 26 shots from the Thunder.
This result, plus the point for the overtime loss on Saturday means the Swarm currently sit two points out of the NZIHL lead, with 21 points to the 23 that the Red Devils and Thunder have earned. This will make the games against the Red Devils up in Auckland in a fortnight all the more critical, as the fight for the playoffs goes down to the wire.