|Posted on July 29, 2016 at 6:40 AM|
In a wild game that saw plenty of special teams action and something of a war of attrition on both sides, the SKYCITY Stampede maintained their reputation as the team to beat winning 4-3 in regulation over the Botany Swarm in Queenstown Friday night.
Despite being outshot 41-23 by the visitors, the Stampede never trailed in the game, picking up the first goal midway through period one on a shot from captain Matt Schneider, in his first game back after missing several due to injury. The first period saw plenty of action for both sides, with the Swarm coming out with a strong forecheck, and killing off an early penalty. Some high quality chances for Swarm forwards were thwarted by a strong performance in net by Stampede's Adrian Volpe and by the shot-blocking and strong backcheck of the Stampede skaters.
Swarm goaltender Michael Hopkinson made some excellent saves to keep the difference to just one goal, including a sprawling save on NZIHL scoring leader Jade Portwood.
Both teams hit the post in the waning moments of the period, with the Swarm getting an especially close call from a wrister by Alex Polozov.
The Stampede took a couple of penalties in the final two minutes of the period, giving the Swarm a 50s 5-on-3 which the home side managed to kill off.
In comparison, the second period was a tumultuous one which saw plenty of fireworks and a significant portion of the game played by special teams.
The period started with the Swarm on the powerplay, which the Stampede were able to kill off despite some good chances for Botany. That early special teams action appeared to set the tone for the rest of the period, with only a few minutes of 5-on-5 action.
A collision with the Stampede's netminder Adrian Volpe as David Lindgren went hard to the net sparked off pushing and shoving between most of the skaters on the ice, and an abbreviated fight between Stampede's Jade Portwood and Swarm's Jamie Lawrence. Portwood and Lawrence were each sent to their respective dressing rooms with 5 and a game, while the rest of the skaters were assessed other penalties variously.
This continued for much of the next ten minutes, with players on both sides spending time cooling their heels in the penalty boxes.
Schneider scored his second to put the Stampede up 2-0 early on, picking up a rebound as the late man in after Hopkinson was drawn to one side on a rush and made the initial save.
The Swarm PKers were called on once again shortly afterward, and wound up successfully defending a 36s 5-on-3 along with penalties either side of that.
With just under four minutes remaining, David Lindgren put the Swarm on the board, finding the gap between Volpe's pads and the post and squeezing the puck in to bring the score to 2-1 after forty minutes.
The Stampede extended their lead to 3-1 very early in the third period as Braden Lee squeaked the puck past Hopkinson's pads right off a face-off.
Midway through the period, the Swarm got within one, as Alex Polozov redirected a shot from Saastamoinen at the blueline. The Swarm had several more high quality chances following that but Volpe was standing tall in net for the Stampede.
Swarm goalie Michael Hopkinson had some big saves in the third as well, especially on a chance by Callum Burns breaking in alone.
Proving that the fireworks were not contained to the middle frame, Max Marcharg knocked into Hopkinson on a rush to the net which also drew some more pushing and shoving between skaters, and as a result the Stampede were assessed a 5 minute major.
The excitement in a sold-out and very loud barn reached fever pitch partway through this penalty, as Matt Schneider was sprung on a short-handed break, and it took a desperation move from Jared Henderson to stop him. Schneider was given a penalty shot as a result of Henderson's trip, but Hopkinson was able to deflect it out of play with his blocker to keep the score at 3-2.
The Swarm were able to score later in the major to tie the game up at 3-3 off a shot from Sami Saastamoinen, meaning all three of their goals were scored on the man advantage.
This tie held for about 3 minutes before another minor for the Swarm saw them have to defend a final penalty kill, and Schneider picked up his hat-trick on a deflection in front of the net.
Despite some desperation attempts, the Swarm were not able to tie up the game a second time and the clock wound down with the score at 4-3.
This game was streamed, and the archived footage can be viewed at nzihl.tv.
Saturday's rematch will again take place at 7pm, and will be streamed.