[This post was written 2 days ago]
I had such good intentions this season to keep this blog updated, and as per usual those fell by the wayside with a million other things on my plate. Also, I feel a little bad potentially rolling back to NHL/International hockey with the last post on here being a single early season post that was mostly critical of my team, so let’s do at least a short catchup.
Personally, I had a pretty good time this season. While I’m disappointed neither Auckland team made the playoffs for the 5th year in a row (SIGH) there were still a lot of good moments. It probably helped that my team wasn’t having Historically Worst Ever Losses and that my NHL teams, while ultimately unsuccessful on ice, didn’t do anything horrifically upsetting.
I only managed to get to 10/18 Swarm games this year, which is probably the lowest since 2011 (oops), and it was my first year without a Queenstown trip, which felt decidedly odd. That Saturday game the Swarm won down there this year was phenomenal and I couldn’t have been prouder as I watched the livestream and yelled at the TV a lot. If I could do fire emoji on this computer I would be all SPECIAL TEAMS YEAAAH–that was a nice little run for them that weekend. Those two games in Queenstown were probably the two games I most enjoyed watching all year; the pace was so good, there was a ton of action, and the Swarm didn’t seem overmatched the way they might have done considering how dominant the Stampede were all year.
In terms of the things that I personally did this year I count up 16 match reports, a stint selling merch at Skate of Origin, and two regular season games called over livestream, which despite my nerves after not doing it at all last year I think went pretty well? It was fun to work with Chase, anyway, and I continue to appreciate everyone who says complimentary things after. 😀
Skate of Origin was probably the best one I’ve seen (and I worked out once I have been at all but 2 of them and watched one of those on livestream). It was so close, and an OT score of 2-1 is actually pretty reflective of how well both sides were playing defensively as well as getting chances on offense. I’m sure all the goalies were quite happy to see a sub-10 goals overall game for a change too. That said, it was incredibly exciting to watch because there were so many chances that didn’t quite go in, and the tension in the rink out at Avondale was palpable. Awesome that such a good game got such a supportive crowd, too. I am not sure if they sold out, but it must have been close.
Looking at the picture of the league overall, the Swarm dropped in the standings to fourth after a phenomenal last half of the season push from the Admirals, but wound up with more points than they had in last year’s shitshow where they’d somehow scraped into 3rd place anyway, so even with the drop in the standings I feel a bit better about how they performed overall.
Shout out to our imports to start—it was great to get them coming in and doing so much to help out, and I think most of the nonpartisan fans of the league would like to see them all back again.
David Lindgren especially put a lot on the line for them, with a nasty jaw/teeth injury after taking a slapshot to the face in that last weekend in Christchurch. (Check out his blog if you want the gory details; he was an absolute trooper about it all and finally got to get back on solid food just this week!)
Leaving aside the last two games in Christchurch which saw the Swarm lose several players to injury and play probably their poorest two games of the year by a long shot, the latter part of the Swarm’s season saw them put some good games together, and they had bursts where everything seemed to be working well. Passing especially got a lot more consistent towards the latter part of the season, and the powerplay was definitely up there on a level with the standard-setting Stampede.
There were a couple games–both the two in Auckland against the Devils and the second game against the Thunder–which saw the Swarm give up the lead in the last few minutes (or at least twice, in the literal last minute) which seemed to be a bit of a pattern for a few weeks in a row. That’s something I’ll hope to see improved next year; those last-few-minutes defensive lapses are understandable and yet I’m sure immensely frustrating for both the team/coaches as well as their fans.
I do also have to give props to the Swarm home crowd this year–they got behind the team in a way I haven’t seen as dramatically since 2011 or so, and were a lot louder, so that was awesome to see.
Honesty compels me to admit that after that after that intensely frustrating game that prompted me to post about staying out of the damn box, the Swarm did seem to get their act together discipline-wise in a big way. After the home games against the Admirals, we found out that they’d put signs in the penalty boxes, which made me laugh hysterically. The Admirals were very good sports about that too, by the way.
Speaking of the Admirals, as much as I never want to lose to them when it’s the Swarm playing, they did have a fantastic season and I was absolutely gutted for them the way that it ended. On a purely self-interested level, it would’ve been nice to get to a Final game this year, and in general I feel they really did deserve a better fate than missing the playoffs like that. Just brutal. That was such a tough game to watch because on the one hand I felt for the Thunder and their fans and didn’t want them to finish the season without a home win, but on the other it would’ve been superb if the Admirals could have pulled off the sweep to make the Final. Seeing it come down to the very last game of the regular season like that was really exciting, and I suspect fans of all five teams were on the edges of their seats to see how it would play out. It’ll be really interesting to see how the Admirals do next year–since Csaba Kercso-Magos came in as coach and they picked up Justin Daigle as a player (and now captain) they have been improving dramatically with each succeeding year. I think they’ll be a team to keep an eye on next year, for sure. I could definitely go for a repeat of 2010 next year, I’m just saying. 😀
I probably don’t need to say a whole lot about the Thunder; they lost some of their vets to the Devils and to the Stampede before the season started, which doesn’t exactly help; they had visa issues in getting their import goalie in town and then injuries to local players which all combined to make it a hell of an uphill battle for them. I was pleased they finally won one, but damn would I have preferred it to be against anyone else, bar the Swarm. Koitmaa absolutely stole both those games they won, too, he was outstanding when he was really on his game like that.
The Red Devils had an interesting year; they looked untouchable to start and got some really good contributions from both locals and imports, especially Puntereri and Long. They looked shakier in the latter half of the year, though, and I think the scores in the Final are about what we’d expect from that bit of freefall that they went through there.
I may be being a bit too much of a homer here, but I do maintain they were lucky to get away with all six points from the two games that they played up at Botany, because the Swarm seemed to be evenly matched, if not all over them in those two, and having the Devils take both at more or less the last minute was tough to watch. Obviously their last two wins of the season against the Swarm were ones that the Swarm weren’t even in, really, but that seemed a bit more like a hiccup (and the Swarm having a truly awful weekend) than necessarily a full return to form for them.
The Stampede were obviously dominant throughout the season, building off their execellent results from the year before. I can’t really add much that hasn’t already been said, but they were basically a well-oiled machine and well coached throughout; they’re setting the standard right now and all the other teams are having to race to keep up.
Next year should be very interesting—either there’s going to be a first-time Birgel Cup winner, or one of the three teams who have four previous wins is going to pick up a league-leading 5th title.
More importantly on the New Zealand side, the NZWIHL will be starting up its third season soon—get out there and help support our women’s teams; they’re making some awesome progress and deserve a bigger audience than they’ve been getting!
Also, the more help and ice time they get, the better the pool of talent we’re picking the Ice Fernz from will get, too.
Additionally, we’ve got the IIHF Worlds Div IIb Men’s tournament in Botany over April of 2016. As the tournament hosts, NZ will have the opportunity to ice the most competitive team they can–for obvious reasons, travel costs will be significantly lower than any time they’ve played the tournament in the years since 2006, when the last IIHF Senior Men’s tournament was held in NZ.
It’s going to be a huge chance for the Ice Blacks to go for the chance to be promoted into the next group, and they’re going to need all the support we can give them. (If you’re in the Auckland area or expect to be at that time, I highly recommend volunteering to help out at the tournament if you can. They can always do with more hands, and it’s a super rewarding experience and a tangible way to support ice hockey in New Zealand.)
On a personal note, as I’ve mentioned over on twitter, I’m currently travelling to Toronto with a couple of other Kiwi fans to take in the NHL’s World Cup of Hockey. We’re all pretty fucking stoked about this, and I’m really looking forward to it. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to blog about that a bit too, but for now I’m on a plane with no wifi and thus getting the opportunity to write a ridiculously long blog post to catch things up. 😀
Catch you on the flipside, guys.