|Posted on June 26, 2016 at 4:55 AM|
The Botany Swarm have lost Sunday's Toa Kauhanga Riri Tio match to the Canterbury Red Devils, in a rollercoaster of a game which saw multiple lead changes, and a literal last-minute goal for the visitors which won them the game, the points and the trophy.
The Swarm began the game with some strong offensive pressure, but a series of minor penalties for both sides meant that much of the first period was played by special teams, with multiple 4-on-4 shifts.
The Red Devils cashed in on the second 4-on-4 interval, with Chris Eaden sliding a deceptively fast puck from the left wing circles that squeaked under Swarm goaltender Michael Hopkinson's pads to put the Devils on the board.
The Swarm put some chances together after that, with Devils goaltender Michael Coleman gloving a great chance on a tip by Jared Henderson, but the Devils appeared to have the upper hand through the middle of the first.
That impression was reinforced as Ciaran Long picked up a pass from James Archer in the neutral zone to spring him one-on-one with Hopkinson. A couple of dekes from Long drew Hopkinson out of position and Long slid the puck in to give the Devils a two goal lead.
In a great response, the Swarm focused and redoubled their efforts along the boards and on the forecheck, and were soon rewarded with a bang-bang play that saw Jordan Challis tap the puck in off a backdoor passing play between David Lindgren and Sami Saastamoinen and bring the Swarm within one goal of the Devils' lead.
A huge shift with plenty of top notch chances followed for Ball, Henderson, Polozov, Lawrence and Hay, with the Swarm striking iron twice and unlucky not to tie it up as they kept the puck moving around the Devils zone for a solid 60+ seconds.
Early in the second period, Hopkinson made a huge save on the Devils' Puntureri to keep the score at 2-1. The Swarm got their forecheck cycling after that, and put a ton of pressure on the visitors, with a flurry of chances that kept Coleman busy in his crease.
Jared Henderson hit the post on a shot from the slot, but undaunted the Swarm continued to press. A delayed penalty saw the Swarm go 6-on-5 for a good thirty seconds.
A few shifts later, Olie Hay cut hard to the net and collided with the goaltender, luckily with no damage to either party. A minute or so later, Hay was able to convert as he and the rest of his line crashed the net and a rebound came to Hay at the side of the paint where he tapped it in to tie up the score at 2-2.
With 90s remaining in the period, Teemu Rantanen picked up the go-ahead goal on a delayed penalty, firing the puck off the inside of the post so fast that some discussion of officials was required before it was ruled a goal.
The Swarm kept the pressure up through the remainder of the period, with several more good chances, and the run of play firmly in their favour.
The third period was more of the same, with the Swarm pressing hard, and continuing to put shots on the Devils' net. The Devils tied the game early in the third, off a laser shot from Long that went bardown to bring the score to 3-3.
The tie held for well over three quarters of the period, and the Swarm battled hard but were unable to regain the lead, despite several solid scoring chances.
A must-win penalty kill late in the period was ably defended by the Swarm's PKers, with the game going back to 5-on-5 with just over 90s remaining.
A scramble in front of the Swarm net saw Hopkinson make several critical saves, but one puck took a bounce right to a Devil's stick and despite a diving attempt by Hopkinson it slid right over the line just before he could freeze it, giving the Devils the go-ahead goal from James Archer with just 60s remaining.
The Swarm won the face off immediately following the goal and pulled Hopkinson for the extra attacker, but were unable to press for a tying goal.
The Swarm will have a bye next weekend, and then play their third home series against the Thunder the weekend of July 4th and 5th.
Sunday's game was livestreamed, and the archived game is available to view on NZIHL.tv.