It was derby weekend in both the North and South Islands and no one gave their regional brothers any help.
The Skycity Stampede headed East to the land of Speights and burning couches, looking to strengthen their hold on the first overall spot in the league…which they did, and more.
Along with heading home with the two wins, the Stampede reclaimed the Toa Kauhanga Riri Tio trophy off the Dunedin Thunder, whom had taken it off them back on June 16, and now Matt Schneider is sitting at the top of the NZIHL’s scoring race with 38 points. Teammate Mike McRae is second with 36, while Thunder captain Paris Heyd has 35.
For the Thunder it was a disappointing end to the regular season after such a close result in their final game – having equalised 4-4 in the closing minutes of the third period only to make McRae snatch a 5-4 victory for the Queenstowners. They now have to sit and watch the final weekend hoping they can make the playoffs. We will get to that in our round 10 preview article later this week…
Up in Auckland, the action headed along the North-Western Motorway, took the Great North Road off-ramp and out to Paradice Avondale for a possible season-defining series.
The West Auckland Admirals needed to win to keep pace with the Stampede in hope of getting the incredibly important home-ice advantage for the Birgel Cup finals, while the Botany Swarm have games in hand on the Thunder and need two wins in regulation to overtake them for third place.
The Westies did their Eastern brothers no favours taking out the first game 6-3, which featured a hat-trick by Ice Black Dale Harrop. That result was followed up by total domination in the second game on the back of Csaba Kercso-Magos’ 39-save shutout to sweep the season series 4-0 over their cross-town rivals.
The Swarm now host the Stampede in the final round with their own playoff hopes and possibly the Admirals home-ice hopes in their hands.
As we approach the final weekend of the regular season let’s get a refresh at how the teams currently sit in the standings:
All caught up? Okay, now sit back and watch the game recaps from round 9.
JULY 27: Skycity Stampede v Dunedin Thunder
JULY 28: Botany Swarm v West Auckland Admirals
JULY 28: Skycity Stampede v Dunedin Thunder
JULY 29: Botany Swarm v West Auckland Admirals
Main photo: Kate Harrison