2019 is on its way to New Zealand, so it’s time to look back on our most memorable moments of the year.
Obviously this is subjective so don’t @ me if you disagree with any of the choices here.
Spark Arena Showdown
Starting in no particular order with the NZIHL hitting the big time in June.
The West Auckland Admirals and Botany Swarm were the curtain raiser for the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic ahead of USA v Canada. As the number one and two teams in the league respectively at that time, the rivals kept things close.
But it was the Admirals that came away with the 4-2 victory. Having hockey at Spark Arena was an awe-inspiring sight, so how about we make this a regular thing somehow?
Ice Blacks Down Straya
The New Zealand season ended on a high for our guys, with the Ice Blacks taking a historic series win over the Australian Mighty Roos.
Winning game 1 4-2, they weren’t wasting any time the following night, piling on the goals in the series decider.
The boys did us proud and you could tell post-game that the victory meant everything to them.
Queenstown Brawl Out
By round 7 of the NZIHL, the Skycity Stampede were making a run for it in the standings in search of a fourpeat. While the top-of-the-table Admirals came into Queenstown looking to spoil that party, all to no avail.
The next game, and tempers boiled over at the end of the second period with multiple players from both sides getting involved.
That incident saw four players per team suspended, but an appeal from the Admirals saw two of their suspensions lifted.
The Crowd Goes Wild
Ok let’s lighten the mood a little here… in 2018 we encouraged other NZ sports media to cover the NZIHL and they responded.
None better than this story by The Crowd Goes Wild where we found out how well the new coach and imports were adjusting to captain Andy Hay.
Irish-Canadian forward Declan Weir described the captain as ‘a great communicator’ while American goalie Colin Langham called him a ‘teddy bear.’ Hopefully Andy forgave him for that one, thanks CGW!
A special mention must go to Nigel Yalden and RadioSport for their regularly weekend coverage – during the NZIHL season Yalden interviewed all five captains live on-air. Puck Yeah sincerely appreciates the dedication that he and his producer Mark Kelly have shown towards promoting the sport.
Toa Kohaunga Riri Tio
Now while the Dunedin Thunder came agonizingly close to making the Finals for the first time since 2014, one of their biggest moments of the season came in round 4 against the Stampede.
With the game tied late and overtime looming, the Thunder shocked the defenders of the Toa Kohaunga Riri Tio challenge trophy – Brandon Egli scoring the game-winning goal with five seconds remaining on the clock.
While their tenure would be short-lived, hopefully that win is a sign of greater things to come for Dunedin.
Stampede reclaimed the TKRT in round 9 and there it remains in Queenstown until next season.
Birgel Cup Goes North
After 14 long years it finally happened, the Admirals won the Birgel Cup to become NZIHL champions.
It wasn’t easy however with game 1 going to overtime with a 4-4 deadlock. After long battle in the corners between the Stampede’s Kory Helowka and the Admirals’ Andy Hart, the puck eventually found its way to the back of the net via Kevin Phillips.
West Auckland needed a comeback hero again for game 2 – with Hart delivering the title-winning goal. It’s no wonder he was awarded the Finals MVP honours as well.
Main photo: James Allan