For the first time this season, we got a serving of hockey on Friday, Saturday & Sunday, but once again, the score sheets were on fire with goals and penalty minutes all in abundance in Christchurch and Dunedin.
The unbeaten Botany Swarm flew into Dunedin for our first taste of Friday Night Puck for 2018 and it was arguably the game of the weekend.
Teams traded goals in the first before the Dunedin Thunder ended the first period leading by a single goal, making it the first time this season the Swarm would head into the intermission behind on the scoreboard.
Botany got it back in the second period however, scoring three before import Lucas Bombardier scored his fourth point of the night with an empty-netter and the Swarm would remain undefeated in 2018, at least for now.
In Christchurch, the Canterbury Red Devils were looking to build upon their encouraging effort from round 2 as they hosted the defending champion Skycity Stampede.
After a fairly even first period the Stampede led 1-0 despite being outshot 14-12 by the Red Devils. Things didn’t go so well in the second for the hosts with the Stampede having the run of play, putting three more goals in before things got really, really bad in the third…
The Stampede poured in five more tallies before Canterbury could answer back, followed swiftly by four more goals from the Southerners, the frustrations capped off with a fight between Vladislavs Balakuns & Thomas Carson-Pratt.
When the final whistle blew, the Stampede had scored 14 goals and things were ugly in the 03.
Meanwhile down State Highway 1 in Dunedin, one of the best NZIHL players in the history of the league Jordan Challis was suiting up for his 150th career game for the Swarm – a moment he would commemorate by getting on the score sheet.
But, the night would belong to a fellow Ice Black, with Paris Heyd having a five-point night, including another on the penalty kill, leading the Thunder to victory and ending the Swarm’s winning streak. Heyd finished the weekend with 10 goals and 19 points in just 6 games this season.
Back in Christchurch, the Red Devils woke up on a cold Sunday morning probably thinking, “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life, for me…and I’m feeling good.”
And indeed things started off well for the home team with Robert Banks scoring within the first three minutes of the game. It didn’t last long, however, with the Stampede quickly equalising and when the period ended with the visitors leading 5-2 it was looking like a case of Deja Vu for the home team and fans.
After trading goals in the second, the Stampede rammed home their weekend of dominance in the third scoring four more times and leaving town with two wins and doing some serious damage to Canterbury’s goal differential by scoring 24 goals to 5.
At the end of round 3 both Auckland teams currently sit a top of the standings which is perfect timing for their upcoming match-up this weekend, while the Southern teams are jammed up chasing the third spot for the all-important playoff decider for the second spot in the Birgel Cup Finals.
New Zealand Ice Hockey League
Main photo: Josh Fraser