I’m sick with apprehension
I’m crippled from exhaustion
And I dread the moment when you finally come to kill me
This will be a huge weekend for the four teams fighting for the three playoff spots in the NZIHL. For the first time in the league’s history, the post-season has been expanded from just the top two teams playing a best-of-3 series to now include a one-off playoff game between the second and third placed teams to decide the second finalist.
Previous seasons have seen a team start the season hot only to dip in performance towards the tail-end, yet still managing to qualify for the Birgel Cup Finals on the back of their good start. This has led to some one-sided affairs in the finals while a more consistently performing side sits in third, just a few points shy of making it through to the big dance.
The change has created added interest to the latter portions of this season with the race for spots still very much alive heading into round 9. It’s a genius move by the NZIHL and hopefully it will be a format that stays.
Swarm v Admirals @ Paradice Avondale
The final local derby of the season has some huge ramifications for both Auckland teams. Not only will the squads want to be beating each other for summer bragging rights, but the Botany Swarm need to win to keep their hopes of the final spot alive.
Sitting five points behind the Thunder, depending on what happens in Dunedin, this could make or break the Swarm’s season. For the West Auckland Admirals, their battle with the Skycity Stampede for first place and home-ice advantage could well go into the final weekend.
Expect to see superfans from both sides giving their all on the sidelines at Paradice Avondale this weekend, while their boys do the same on the ice.
Stampede v Thunder @ Dunedin Ice Stadium
The defending champs hit the road to finish their season and the first stop is Dunedin for the Thunder’s final games of the season.
At home in Queenstown, the Skycity Stampede have been a monster this season, minus the last-minute heroics of Shaun Brown and the Thunder back on June 16 that saw the Dunedin side take home the Toa Kauhanga Riri Tio challenge trophy for the first time, but the Stampede will now need to perform on the road to hold onto that very valuable home ice through to the finals series.
Colin McIntosh will return to the lineup after serving out his two-game suspension from the round 7 altercation with the Admirals.
For the Thunder, victories in their final games of the season could solidify their grip on the third and final playoff spot, not to mention retaining the TKRT trophy for the summer.
If you missed it, check out the Otago Daily Times’ excellent feature on this week’s matchup.
NZIHL Round 9 Game Schedule:
Skycity Stampede v Dunedin Thunder – Dunedin Ice Stadium
July 27th at 7:00pm & July 28th at 5:30pm
Botany Swarm v West Auckland Admirals – Paradice Avondale, Auckland
July 28th & 29th at 4:40pm
Main photo: Mike Froger