Report by Travis Crickard, Botany Swarm Assistant Coach
After a bye week and 12 days since their last game, the Swarm packed their bags and headed south to Dunedin for a pair of games. With the Swarm coming off two high-scoring wins against the Red Devils in Botany, and the Thunder finding success against the West Auckland Admirals and Canterbury Red Devils, it was bound to be a solid weekend of ice hockey.
Game 1 – Friday 8 June
The Swarm started slow in the first period of Friday’s game. Perhaps the travel to Dunedin played a factor, because after the first period it was 2-1 Thunder, with goals by the Swarm’s Jordan Challis and the Thunder’s Brandon Egli and Charles Plaisir.
The Swarm rebounded in the second to tie the game on the back of Maxim Kaluzhny’s Power Play marker. Tristan Darling gave the Thunder the lead again at 3-2 but from there it was all Swarm. Finding their mojo, Harry Ferguson (1) and Lucas Bombardier (2) potted the Swarm’s remaining three goals near the end of the second and third periods. The final score for the Swarm was 5-3, which marked their third consecutive victory, and the first time in franchise history to start the season 3-0.
Michael Hopkinson started his first game of the NZIHL season and was victorious with 35 saves on 38 shots. Colin Langham was solid in relief and finished with three saves. Kane Easterbrook replied with 38 saves on 42 shots for the Thunder.
Game 2 – Saturday 9 June
With the Swarm starting the season 3-0, Saturday’s game was important for both clubs. A win for the Swarm would put them atop the NZIHL table. A win for the Thunder would keep them within striking distance of both the Swarm and Admirals in the standings.
Unfortunately for the Swarm the Thunder gave them more than they could handle. With back to back failed attempts on the Swarm Power Play, the Thunder jumped into the driver’s seat with a goal by Brandon Egli. Josh Hay replied for the Swarm with Matt Enright and Lucas Bombardier trading goals for the opponents to make it 2-2 after one period.
The Swarm fell behind in the second period by 5-2, with goals by Enright, Joe Orr, and Paris Heyd. Fortunately, the Swarm showed strong character and battled back to finish the period 5-4, courtesy of goals by Stephen Mawson and Jordan Challis.
The Swarm did not leave the penalty trouble of the first two periods behind them. The third period saw them surrender five penalties and three Thunder goals from Paris Heyd, Joe Orr, and Charles Plaisir.
Swarm goaltenders Colin Langham finished with 10 saves on 15 shots, and Michael Hopkinson in relief finished with 26 saves on 29 shots. Toby Schuck found the winner’s column for the Thunder with 29 stops on 33 saves.
Swarm’s Three Stars for Round 2 are: 1) Lucas Bombardier, 2) Maxim Kaluzhny, 3) Michael Hopkinson
A special congratulations to Swarm Assistant Captain Jordan Challis, as he played his 150th career NZIHL game on Saturday in Dunedin. Jordan has become the third member of the Swarm to play in at least 150 games, joining Captain Andrew Hay and Assistant Captain KC Ball.
Coming Up …
While Head Coach Ian Wannamaker believes there is still work to do in developing the Swarm’s play and team culture, a split on the road is always a step in the right direction. The Swarm will now return to Botany for a two-game home stand against the West Auckland Admirals.
Game 1 will be Paradice Botany on Saturday 16 June at 4:45pm.
Kicking off a great day of ice hockey, Game 2 will be the highly anticipated Spark Arena Matinee game on Friday 22 June at 3:30pm, prior to Canada taking on the USA in the first of three New Zealand Ice Hockey Classic games. If you have haven’t purchased your tickets already, check the Swarm’s website or social media outlets for more information.