With four games left in the regular season, the West Auckland Admirals have locked up a place in the NZIHL Finals series after a very eventful season to date which has included a seven game undefeated run, blowing out cross-town rivals Botany Swarm, serious injuries to key players including the Captain, and finally a wake-up call double header loss away to the Queenstown Stampede.
As the season started, the Admirals looked very strong on paper, boasting a trio of new import players who came with big potential along with added depth in quality New Zealand players. And so it has proven, with big wins in the early part of the season, culminating in securing their first Finals berth since 2010 where they will meet the two time defending champion Queenstown Stampede in a home and away series. But the season has not been without its challenges, primarily the loss to serious injury of Admirals captain Justin Daigle in a freak play during the team’s first loss of the season on Sunday 2nd July against the Stampede. Daigle took a stick to the face, injuring his right eye in the process, and ending his season. In the next round, two wins away in Christchurch against the Red Devils, Taylor Rooney also suffered a season ending injury, and Admirals stalwart Andy Hart was also laid low, although he’ll likely be back for the later rounds and Finals.
As the team regroups for the push to the Finals, they have just come off two losses (6-4 and 5-3) in their last round, both to their Finals opponent, Stampede. With the injury toll mounting, and a regular season 1-3 record versus the southern team, the Admirals know they will have their work cut out for them in the first Finals to be held in Auckland for six years, and the first ever at Paradice in Avondale.
No one can question the form of the Admirals imports however, as they have stunned the League with an elite skill level and scoring ability rarely seen in the NZIHL. Adrian Toth (Hungary), Henric Andersen (Sweden) and T.J. Battani (U.S.A.) fill three of the top four places on the NZIHL scoring table. Toth leads the League with 43 points, and is threatening the League all time regular season record of 57 points, set by Chris Eaden from Canterbury in 2009. Can he make it, with four games to play?
Next month we will report on the Admirals 29-30 July home game against Dunedin Thunder and the regular season close out across town versus Botany Swarm on 5-6 August. Game 1 of the Finals Series will be at Paradice Avondale on Saturday 19 August.
Kerrie and John went along to the game against the Dunedin Thunder. Unfortunately it did not go as well for the local boys as hoped but it was a fast paced and exciting game. There is something pretty primal about Ice Hockey!