It was another cracker of a game to close out the NZIHL 2012 regular season, with the West Auckland Admirals taking the eventual victory, 6-4 over the Botany Swarm.
KC Ball put the Swarm on the board first, going hard to the net and wrapping the puck just behind Fred McKay’s skates. The bodies crashing the crease to keep it out were a fraction too late, and while the net did come off, the puck was already over the line, giving the Swarm an early lead.
With the Admirals taking a penalty for too many men, Swarm captain Andrew Hay was able to pot a powerplay goal midway through the first to get the Swarm to 2-0.
Towards the end of the first period, Swarm defenceman Max Bettez was injured as a result of a boarding penalty and had to leave the game. He was at least able to skate off with some assistance. An ill-timed miscommunication from the Swarm on the ensuing powerplay gave the Admirals their first goal, with Zak Nothling coming out to challenge a short-handed breakaway, and the Admirals able to cash in as he collided with his defenceman and couldn’t scramble back in time.
The second period started promisingly for the Swarm, with Ian Wannamaker scoring on what appeared to be a behind-the-back shot that just squeaked through McKay’s pads to bring the Swarm back to a 2 goal lead.
It was not to last long, however, with Ed Commons able to take advantage of the Swarm’s difficulty in clearing their zone to score an unassisted goal. A couple of minutes later Ryan Blouin was able to score a PPG, shooting short-side and tying the score with just over five minutes remaining.
With just two and a half minutes left in the second frame, Admirals’ top scorer Dean Tonks was able to notch a PPG of his own, coming in as the late man and popping the puck up and over Nothling’s shoulder from the slot.
Four minutes into the third, Frazer Ellis scooped up a loose puck and fired it home as the Swarm again struggled to clear their zone. This was followed a minute later by a dramatic save from Nothling, freezing the puck right on the goal line and inciting a loud hue and cry from the Admirals’ bench and fans.
With just under five minutes remaining, Nothling was assessed an elbowing penalty, and with Scott Randell serving the minor for him, the Swarm were once again on the penalty kill. The unfamiliar special teams combinations dictated by the players available once again cost the Swarm, with the Admirals getting a clear shot just over Nothling’s glove and into the net to bring the score to 6-3.
That wasn’t the end of the scoring or the action, however, as Keegan Harnett scored one final goal for the Swarm on a 5-on-3 powerplay in the dying minutes, and Bradey Fox and Sam Boniface had an exchange of words and then fists – from Fox, at least – at centre ice with just over a minute remaining. After the officials had broken that up, the Swarm pulled their goalie for the extra attacker in the final 67 seconds, but some excellent defensive work around the crease from the Admirals kept the score frozen at 6-4 as the Admirals fans counted down the last ten seconds, and then erupted into cheers for the home side’s victory.