The Botany Swarm are a team that pride themselves on success. In years past, they have had plenty of reasons for optimism, including four championships. However, there hasn’t been much to cheer for in recent times. Their last title was back in 2011, and since then the team has dwindled in the standings.
2018 is set to be a fresh start with Shawn Cormier now at the helm as the new General Manager, while former Swarm stalwart Ian Wannamaker will run the bench as the new Head Coach.
Over the summer while playing in a fun, yet fiercely competitive softball tournament with Wannamaker, we talked about the changes going on with the team and the mindset he hopes to establish. It’s safe to say that the new coach is done with seeing his beloved Swarm fall short and will make the hard decisions on roster spots if he has to. In his own words, “performance plays.”
With that in mind, the Swarm imports for the 2018 NZIHL season are as follows.
The 5-foot-9 goalie out of Cummin, Georgia has spent the past four years with Elon University playing in the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s second division.
His freshman year numbers don’t exactly impress, but as he’s progressed through Elon’s hockey programme, his performances improved greatly – mostly notably in his senior year – Langham played 11 games while holding a .920 save percentage and 2.63 goals against average.
During my research on Elon University’s hockey team, I found this video where several players wore a mic during training, including Langham, whose language in net is a little colourful…
I look forward to hearing his playful chirping rinkside at Paradice Botany this season.
Langham will have to become a key component for the Swarm’s backend as they hope to improve upon their 5.87 GAA from last year.
Also in goal for Botany, New Zealander Michael Hopkinson will return for his eight season with the team, with the potential of Joel Rindelaub joining as another import. Due to the NZIHL’s four import rule, if either Rindelaub or Langham dress for a game, the other will be scratched.
If you couldn’t tell, I love writing about goalies, but there are three other exciting imports coming to the Swarm this year, including Lucas Bombardier. The left winger currently plays for the SPHL’s Knoxville Bears – tallying 2 goals and 6 assists in 18 games this season.
Hailing from Pittsford, Vermont, Bombardier also played 12 games in the NCAA for American International College where he played with Andrew DeBrincat, older brother to the Chicago Blackhawks’ Alex DeBrincat.
After taking a year off from the game in 2016-17, he returned to NCAA hockey with the third division Trine University – scoring 14 points in 25 games.
Prior to college, Bombardier competed in the US Premier Hockey League for the New Jersey Hitman and Islanders HC. During those 34 career USPHL games, the 5-foot-9 forward scored 10 points, including two post-season assists.
On April 6th this year he was featured on HockeyFights.com – judging by the way he stands up for himself against Mark Esshaki, perhaps he won’t be afraid to do the same playing for Botany. A good mix of physicality and skill can go a long way to providing impact on the ice for any NZIHL lineup.
A 5-foot-10 winger hailing from Ireland, Weir was actually born in Scarborough, Ontario – the hometown of a few NHL stars including Wayne Simmonds and Devante Smith-Pelly.
During his high school years he studied at and played for All Saints Catholic Secondary School in Whitby, Ontario. But in recent years he has represented his national team at the 2017 Development Cup.
Established by the IIHF so that countries whom do not participate in the World Championship programme can still compete and develop their skills. With 2017 being the inaugural year of the competition, Ireland finished second behind Morocco with Weir scoring 6 goals and 3 assists during the three-game tournament.
He has more recently played for EA Schongau in Germany where the 24-year-old put up great numbers. In 14 games for the Mammuts U23 side he scored at a two points per game pace, tailing 11 goals and 17 assists, before joining EA Schongau II.
The Swarm consider Weir to be a solid two-way forward that will help the team at both ends of the ice.
The youngest of the imports at only 19, Harry Ferguson is a talented centre that could provide a strong positive impact to the Swarm’s offensive production this season.
Playing 49 games for the Edinburgh Capitals in the EIHL this year, along with 10 games for the Capitals in the Scottish National League, Ferguson has enjoyed a great season prior to coming to New Zealand – in those ten SNL games he notched up 9 goals and 14 assists.
Overall he’s played 40 games to date during his young career in the Scottish league, scoring at a 1.28 points-per-game pace.
The Elgin Heigh native’s path to the EIHL began by impressing the Capitals with his performances in the SNL for the Moray Typhoons in 2016 – there he scored 16 points in 18 games. From there he was signed up to the Edinburgh Capitals Academy to help further his development.
This won’t be the first time skilful players from the Capitals have come to the NZIHL. In 2015, Jade Portwood and Greg Collins set the league on fire, but sadly he club is currently facing uncertainty over their future after losing a bid for ice time at Murrayfield Ice Rink to an unnamed rival.
This week Ferguson announced his move to Botany on Twitter:
And I’d also love to thank all the caps fans that showed up every week to support us. However I’m now excited to announce I’ll be going over to New Zealand to play for @BotanySwarm in Auckland, I can’t wait to get started and back on the ice 🏒 2/2
— Harry Ferguson (@harryferguson4) April 22, 2018
Considering the talent coming from the EIHL this season, perhaps Ferguson’s experience in that league can translate to NZIHL success as the Botany Swarm will need to be competitive against their cross-town rivals, the West Auckland Admirals, and their impressive imports.
Previously in Puck Yeah’s ‘Import Report’ series, we looked at how the Admirals import stable is shaping up, you can catch up here.