While many Kiwis celebrated the long weekend by getting away with family and friends to relax and unwind, the Red Devils, Thunder, Stampede, and Admirals got together to battle, grind and fight for points in round 2 of the NZIHL season.
It wasn’t a great start to the 2018 season for the Red Devils getting blown out in both games of the opening round by the Swarm. The return home started off well jumping out to a 5-1 lead going into the 3rd period before the Thunder came rumbling (excuse the pun) back to lead 6-5. Returning Canterbury stalwart Brett Speirs was able to tie things up late to send the game to overtime, making it the second straight OT game for the Thunder, but this time they weren’t able to come out on the victorious side with Vladislavs Balakuns getting the winner.
The Avondale Gardens was the site of the first rematch of 2018 between the 2017 Finalists with the Westies looking for revenge over their Queenstown counterparts. However, the SkycityStampede struck first silencing the West Auckland faithful. Admirals import Craig Peacock tied the game midway through the 1st before Ice Black Frazer Ellis scored to give the Admirals the lead going into the sheds. Teams traded goals in the 2nd before Ryan Ruddle and Ellis scored in the 3rd to help the Admirals pull away and take first blood for the weekend.
Could game 2 of the weekend in Christchurch match the high scoring and excitement of the day before? After four goals were scored in the space of 4 minutes in the 1st period it was fair to say it would. Paris Heyd scored his 8th goal of the season before setting up another to tie the game at 3 before Brett Speirs scored his 2nd of the weekend to give the Red Devils the lead after two. After Brandon Egli scored to tie the game at 4 the Devils took over to score 4 straight including import Ross Venus’ 5th of the year to sweep the weekend series against the Thunder.
And yes, it does still count as a sweep when one game goes to overtime, a win is a win.
Part 2 of the marquee series of the weekend was once again a feisty and tension filled tilt.
The Admirals jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead with goals from Ruddle and Daigle before the Stampede clawed one back with a goal by Stephen Johnston. Stampede import Kory Helowka tied the game early in the 2nd before the teams traded goals to head the 3rd period knotted at 3 – Helowka featured heavily on the score sheet in the 3rd but not in a positive way receiving 34 PIMS for abusing an official.
The Admirals jumped out to the lead for good on goals by Mike Verschuren and a powerplay goal by Nick Henderson. Dylan Dickson finished off a successful weekend for the Admirals with an empty net goal for a 6-3 victory.
As water from the Zamboni had frozen by Queen’s Birthday Monday, this is how the standings shaped after two rounds.
New Zealand Ice Hockey League
Main photo: Josh Fraser.