With the NHL nearing the end of their regular season and now turning its attention towards the Stanley Cup Playoffs, that can mean only one thing – the NZIHL season is almost upon us!
Hockey fans in New Zealand are lucky considering that there’s no real off-season for them. There’s always great hockey to enjoy – whether it’s streaming games of your favourite NHL team, or going down to the rink to support your local national league team.
As the premier national men’s ice hockey league, 2018 will be the NZIHL’s fourteenth year of competition.
This season the Skycity Stampede will be looking to defend the Birgel Cup once again, while the West Auckland Admirals hope to go one step further by becoming champions for the first time in franchise history after being swept in last year’s Finals. While the Botany Swarm, Canterbury Red Devils, and Dunedin Thunder are all vying to improve upon a disappointing 2017.
The second seed of the Birgel Cup Finals will be decided differently this year.
Instead of the team with the regular season’s second best record going straight through to the championship series, they will now play a one-off semi-final against the third-placed team to decide who will face the minor premiership winners, whom maintain home ice advantage.
Thunder captain Paris Heyd is a fan of the new format and believes it will add an increased level of competition to the latter parts of the season. “With such a short season, teams can build up enough points in the first half and make the final even if they aren’t a top two team at the end. Having a semi-final should eliminate this to an extent. We have seen a couple of finals be pretty one-sided but the new format should ensure the two best teams are left and we see a competitive finals which is what everyone wants,” said Heyd.
Here is the complete schedule for the 2018 NZIHL season.
Red Devils v Swarm at Paradice Botany Downs, Auckland – May 26 & 27, 4:45pm.
Admirals v Thunder at Dunedin Ice Stadium – May 26, 5:30pm / May 27, 4:30pm.
Stampede v Admirals at Paradice Avondale, Auckland – June 2 & 3, 4:30pm.
Thunder v Red Devils at Alpine Ice, Christchurch – June 2 & 3, 4:30pm.
Swarm v Dunedin Thunder at Dunedin Ice Stadium – June 8, 6pm / June 9, 5:30pm.
Stampede v Red Devils at Alpine Ice, Christchurch – June 9 & 10, 4:30pm.
Thunder v Stampede at Queenstown Ice Arena – June 15 & 16, 6:50pm.
Admirals v Swarm at Paradice Botany Downs, Auckland – June 16, 4:45pm.
Admirals v Swarms at Spark Arena (2018 Ice Hockey Classic) – June 22, 4:30pm approx.
NZIHL All-Stars v Ice Blacks at Westpac Stadium (2018 Ice Hockey Classic) – June 23.
Swarm v Stampede at Queenstown Ice Arena – June 29 & 30, 6:50pm.
Red Devils v Admirals at Paradice Avondale, Auckland – June 30 & July 1, 4:30pm.
Swarm v Red Devils at Alpine Ice, Christchurch – July 7 & 8, 4:30pm.
Thunder v Admirals at Paradice Avondale, Auckland – July 7 & 8, 4:30pm.
Admirals v Stampede at Queenstown Ice Arena – July 13 & 14, 6:50pm.
Red Devils v Thunder at Dunedin Ice Stadium – July 13, 6pm / July 14, 5:30pm.
Red Devils v Stampede at Queenstown Ice Arena – July 20 & 21, 6:50pm.
Thunder v Swarm at Paradice Botany Downs, Auckland – July 21 & 22, 4:45pm
Stampede v Thunder at Dunedin Ice Stadium – July 27, 6pm / July 28, 5:30pm.
Swarm v Admirals at Paradice Avondale, Auckland – July 28 & 29, 4:30pm.
Stampede v Swarm at Paradice Botany Downs, Auckland – August 4 & 5, 4:45pm.
Admirals v Red Devils at Alpine Ice, Christchurch – August 4 & 5, 4:30pm.
Birgel Cup Finals:
Semi-final – 2nd v 3rd place at TBC (winner becomes 2nd seed of the finals)
Finals game 1 – 2nd v 1st seed at TBC
Finals game 2 – 1st v 2nd seed at TBC
Finals game 3 – 1st v 2nd seed at TBC (if required)
Main photo: Mike Froger.
This article was republished with permission from Puck Yeah NZ.