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Swarm, Stampede unbeaten to open NZIHL


Normal transmission has resumed to start the new New Zealand Ice Hockey League (NZIHL) season.


Last year's Birgel Cup finalists, the Botany Swarm and champion Southern Stampede, have both opened the 2024 season with four straight wins, including three in regulation and one in a shootout.


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The Swarm have opened with series sweeps over the Dunedin Thunder at home (6-1 and 6-4) and the Canterbury Red Devils in Christchurch (5-4 in a shootout and 3-2), holding the league lead over the Stampede on goal difference.


The three-time defending champion Stampede topped the West Auckland Admirals 4-3 in a shootout and 6-5 in the opening weekend at home, then beat the Thunder 6-4 and 5-2 in Dunedin last weekend.


Aleksander Polozov scored the game-winning goal at Christchurch's Alpine Ice Sports Centre on Saturday with the first attempt of the shootout. The next nine shots were either saved or missed, to extend the Swarm's unbeaten start.


Earlier, Ethan Esposito, Liam Dallimore and Joe Orr scored as the Red Devils led 3-1 after the first period. Markus MacDonald and Ryan MacDonald tied it up with goals in the second period but the Swarm needed Ivan Dalmatau's third-period goal to end the game to overtime.


On Sunday, Polozov, Ondrej Kozak and Kyle Jonsson scored goals, and Dalmatau had two assists for the Swarm, who again found themselves down a goal twice.



Captain Mitchell Frear, imports Nolan Ross and Jett McCullum and Colin McIntosh scored goals in the third period as the Stampede overcame a 4-1 deficit after the first to beat the Thunder on Friday night.


On Saturday at the Dunedin Ice Stadium, McIntosh recorded a four-point game (1G, 3A) and Ross scored two goals as the Stampede eased to a three-goal victory.


Stampede players dominate the scoring leaders after two weekends, with five of the top-seven in points. Ice Blacks forward McIntosh leads the league in assists (six) and points (eight), while Stampede teammates Ross and Lachlan Frear have the most goals, with four.


Next weekend, the Red Devils travel to Auckland to face the Admirals in two games on Saturday and Sunday, while the Stampede host the development Auckland Mako in non-NZIHL games in Queenstown.


Dylan Devlin Southern Stampede NZIHL
Dylan Devlin had two assists in two games against in former club, the Dunedin Thunder. PHOTO: NZIHL

NZIHL RESULTS


Botany Swarm 5 (Ivan Dalmatau, Jackson Fontaine, Markus MacDonald, Ryan MacDonald) Canterbury Red Devils 4 (Chris Hunt, Ethan Esposito, Joe Orr, Liam Dallimore). P1: 1-3, P2: 2-0, P3: 1-1, OT: 0-0


Botany Swarm 3 (Aleksander Polosov, Ondrej Kozak, Kyle Jonsson) Canterbury Red Devils 2 (Chris Hunt, Lachlan Hodge). P1: 0-1, P2: 2-1, P3: 1-0


Southern Stampede 6 (Jett McCullough 2, Nolan Ross, Mitchell Frear, Lachlan Frear, Colin McIntosh) Dunedin Thunder 4 (Ian Audas, Cole Beckstead, Sebastian Stephen, Bryce Allan). P1: 1-4, P2: 1-0, P3: 4-0


Southern Stampede 5 (Nolan Ross 2, Jett McCullough, Lachlan Frear, Colin McIntosh) Dunedin Thunder 2 (Ian Audas 2). P1: 1-0, P2: 1-0, P3: 3-2

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