Round 5 of the NZIHL season marked the halfway point and with all teams having now played 8 games, things are starting to take shape, although no one can be counted out mathematically just yet – a hot streak by one could change the fortunes of another.
Currently the West Auckland Admirals are in first place with 21 points, the Skycity Stampede are second with 15, Swarm drop to third with 10, while the Thunder and Red Devils are fourth and fifth place respectively with 9 and 5 points.
But how did we get there? Here’s a quick refresher!
After a bumpy start to the season, by their standards at least, the Skycity Stampede are looking like title contenders once again. Facing them over the weekend was the surprising Botany Swarm – they have been hot, now they’re running cold, and in this game, they scored first courtesy of Alex Polosov.
By the end of the first period the Stampede had bounced back to take a 2-1 lead with goals coming from Ryan Strayer and Braden Lee. Botany’s Jordan Challis quickly equalised as the next period of play began, but beyond that, the home team took charge, scoring four unanswered goals until Polosov struck again. Final score 6-3.
The West Auckland Admirals were riding a high coming into this game having just played at Spark Arena as part of the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic, where they took the win in front of an energetic crowd against the cross-town rival Swarm.
But with a new week comes a new challenge as the Canterbury Red Devils arrive in the supercity fresh of an extended bye, looking to prove themselves against the league-leading Admirals. The home side attacked the Red Devils net often but goaltender Jonas Barakauskas was proving to be up to the task as it looked like this content could be a close affair – the score 2-1 to West Auckland after two periods.
Red Devils star import Ross Venus continued to impress by adding two more goals to his season tally, including a short-handed marker in the third period to tie the game 2-2. But the Canterbury side seemingly collapsed after that with the Admirals going on to win 6-2. There’s always tomorrow.
Back in Queenstown, the Swarm were looking to avoid a fifth-straight loss while the Stampede were aiming to maintain a hold on second place in the standings – the previous win saw the Queenstown club jump ahead of Botany.
Again the Swarm scored first, this time from a ripper of a shot by James Lawrence before Stampede captain Matt Schneider tallied two quick goals for a 2-1 lead after the first.
Challis tied things up again in the second and it felt like the script was repeating itself a little bit, until Schneider had an opportunity to claim his hat-trick goal via penalty shot. While he didn’t convert, his side again piled on four unanswered goals to win 6-2 – Stampede import Colin McIntosh had an impressive night notching up 5 primary assists.
In the concluding game of round 5, the Red Devils started off strong with a 2-0 lead with goals coming from Dean Tonks and Venus. But ultimately they had no answer for the red-hot Admirals as a combination of Andy Hart, Ryan Ruddle, and Taylor Rooney ran wild to earn 11 points between them.
For the second consecutive game Canterbury import Vsevolod Tolstushko earned himself ten minutes in the box, only this time he was joined by fellow import Sergejs Piskunovs whom elected to smash his stick over the Admirals goal after a missed scoring chance. Perhaps the frustrations of the season are beginning to take their toll on the side?
Next round the Red Devils will host the Swarm, both looking to keep their season alive, while the Admirals host the rested Thunder.
Bring on five more weeks of (regular season) hockey!
Main photo: Kate Harrison
This article was republished with permission by Puck Yeah NZ.