Report by Travis Crickard, Botany Swarm Assistant Coach
After the road trip to Dunedin, the Botany Swarm were back home for a pair of game against the West Auckland Admirals. A typical NZIHL round would see opponents play each in back to back games, however, with Spark Arena playing host to Game 2 of the series, the Swarm and Admirals would have to wait a week between matches.
Game 1 – Saturday 16 June
The Swarm got off to a hot start with a pair of goals from imports Harry Ferguson and Lucas Bombardier. Down 0-2 over ten minutes into the contest, it was the Admirals who stormed back to tie it at two with goals from Frazer Ellis and Shaun Harrison. The second period saw the Swarm and Admirals trade goals by Alex Polosov and Kevin Phillips to make it 3-3. The highlight of the second period and perhaps NZIHL save of the year came from Colin Langham in the dying seconds before the end of period buzzer. During 4 on 4 play it was the Admirals who found a hole in the Swarm’s defense and broke in on a 2 on 1. Facing a yawning cage and the likelihood of a sure goal for the Admirals, Colin Langham stretched across with a huge glove save to preserve a 3-3 tie.
In the third period, it was the Admirals who jumped out to 4-3 lead with a goal from Mike Verschuren. Pressing hard late in the game, the Swarm were stymied on many chances to capitalise, but it was Jamie Lawrence who found the back of the net in the dying minutes to send the game to overtime. With both teams securing at least one competition point in the NZIHL standings, it was the Admirals Mike Vershcuren who caught the Swarm tired after a long shift and lifted the Admirals to 5-4 victory. Colin Langham was named hardest worker of the match by his teammates, finishing with 35 saves on 40 shots. Csaba Kercso-Magas replied with 39 stops on 43 shots for the Admirals.
Game 2 – Friday 22 June
With a week to reflect, the Swarm got back to work and trained hard for the much anticipated rematch against the Admirals at Spark Arena. Playing the curtain raiser to the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic: Canada -vs- USA, the Admirals and Swarm reversed first period starts from a week prior. The Admirals jumped out to an early 2-0 lead with goals from Henderson and Frazer Ellis. Sensing his troops needed to regroup, Coach Wannamaker called time out to remind the Swarm that there was a lot of time left in the match. Soon after this, the Swarm answered with two goals of their own from Remy Sandoy and Lucas Bombardier to tie the game at two all. The last minute of the period saw the Admirals recapturing the lead to make it 3-2 on an Andrew Spiller marker and never gave it away after that. Mike Verschuren provided the lone Admirals tally in the second to go up 4-2 and despite the Swarm’s best effort in the third, they could not get it past Admirals goaltender, Rick Parry. Parry would go onto finish the game with 25 saves on 27 shots while Joel Rindelaub who made his first start since round 1 against Canterbury, faced 38 shots and stopped 34. Alex Polozov was selected by his teammates as the hardest working player of the match. A well deserved choice.
While the Swarm finished with a regulation and overtime loss against the Admirals in this round, there is much to be celebrated. The 2018 Ice Hockey Classic will continue with a second game in Wellington on Saturday 23 June with the New Zealand Ice Blacks playing the NZIHL All Stars – a team comprised of current and former NZIHL players. Earlier this week, it was announced that Swarm players Andrew Hay, Oliver Hay, Alex Polozov, and Jordan Challis would represent the Ice Blacks with Andrew Hay assuming the captaincy of the team. Joel Rindelaub was chosen as goalkeeper for the NZIHL All Stars team. Congratulations men. We know you will represent the Swarm and your country with pride.
Update on 2018 Ice Hockey Classic in Wellington: The New Zealand Ice Blacks -vs- NZIHL All Stars game was cancelled as a result of complications after a pipe containing the agent used to freeze the ice rink burst at a critical time. A disappointing outcome for our Botany Swarm representatives.
Swarm’s Three Stars for Round 4 are: 1) Lucas Bombardier, 2) Jamie Lawrence, 3) Declan Weir
The Swarm will now hit the road for a four game road trip with two games in Queenstown against the SKYCITY Stampede and two games in Canterbury against the Canterbury Red Devils. Check out details on the Botany Swarm Facebook page.