The SkyCity Stampede are your 2022 NZIHL Champions, proudly hoisting the Birgel Cup at last night’s second NZIHL grand final game in Auckland, New Zealand.
A nail biting end to the 2022 regular season saw the West Auckland Admirals clinch first place, automatically advancing to the grand finals, while the SkyCity Stampede battled it out in a semi-final series against the Canterbury Red Devils.
Playoffs hockey is never without controversy, and 2022 was no different, with SkyCity Stampede #4 Matt Schneider, returning to the team for the playoffs after taking the regular season off to spend time with his family and newborn child. While completely within the NZIHL rules, there was a passionate response from fans around the country who weren’t shy of sharing their opinion on Schneider’s timely return, as the 2004 NHL draftee has proven to be a powerhouse for the SkyCity Stampede, playing a critical role in their success to date.
Winning both semi-final games against their South Island counterparts, 2:1 and 6:1, the SkyCity Stampede secured their right to challenge the West Auckland Admirals for the 2022 Birgel Cup.
Game one of the 2022 Birgel Cup finals saw both teams put on a physical display, unwilling to leave anything to chance.
The visiting SkyCity Stampede opened the scoring up with two goals in the first period by #13 Mike McRae and #82 Adam Soffer. Desperately needing to counter the offensive, the hometown West Auckland Admirals added a goal to their name in the first minute of the second period, scored by #6 Frazer Ellis. The SkyCity Stampede responded quickly however, with a goal to #17 Harrison Macharg, bringing the score to 3:1 in favour of the visiting team. The West Auckland Admirals continued their valiant effort, tying things up 3:3 thanks to #24 Caleb Chamberlin and #27 Nick Henderson, and the score remained tied at the end of the 3rd.
With a winner required, 5 minutes of overtime was scheduled, however neither team was able to secure an overtime victory, so a shootout would see a winner decided for game one.
An incredible display by both team’s goaltenders saw them stop all of the first 5 rounds of shots, before SkyCity Stampede #8 Connor Harrison, also celebrating his 200th NZIHL game, scored the shootout winner for the SkyCity Stampede.
Game one final result, 4:3 (SO) to the SkyCity Stampede.
With fans lining up down the street to secure their seats for a potential championship deciding game 2, the intensity of game one was repeated and would again see overtime required to produce a result.
West Auckland Admirals #27 Nick Henderson scored the first goal of the game near the end of the 1st period, and the game remained 1:0 in favour of the hometown team until SkyCity Stampede #4 Matt Schneider equalised in the first minute of the 3rd period. Once again, that would be it for scoring in regulation time, with the game requiring overtime to decide a winner.
While adhering to the time restrictions of the ice rink, both teams and NZIHL management agreed to extend the overtime from 5 minutes (as in game one), to 10 minutes, to create the best possible chance of the game (and potentially the championship) being decided in on ice play, rather than a shootout.
10 minutes of overtime would not be required however as the SkyCity Stampede scored in the first 22 seconds of overtime, thanks to a faceoff win by #4 Matt Schneider, with a pass back to #3 Stefan Amston who took a shot from the blue-line, with Schneider repositioning to tip the puck into the back of the net to claim the team’s 7th, and record setting, NZIHL championship.
Game two final result 2:1 (OT) to the SkyCity Stampede.
The 2022 season produced the most intense and closest fought season in many years, with the grand final and semi-final hosts not being decided until the very last game of the regular season – notably without the usual roster boosts of “fly in, fly out” import players for all teams from around the world.
The NZIHL would like to thank all its fans from around New Zealand and the world who turned up in person and tuned in online to support their teams and the league – this season was the most well-attended in person yet, and the growth of the NZIHL is continuing on an impressive trajectory.
Planning is already underway for the 2023 NZIHL season, and more information will be released to the public in due course.
Grand finals points and goaltender summary – SkyCity Stampede:
#4 Matt Schneider – 3 points (2 goals, 1 assist)
#13 Mike McRae – 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists)
#17 Harrison Macharg – 1 point (1 goal)
#82 Adam Soffer – 1 point (1 goal)
#3 Stefan Amston – 1 point (1 goal)
#91 Colin McIntosh – 1 point (1 assist)
#39 Aston Brookes – Total shots faced: 70. Total goals allowed: 4. Save % 94.29
Grand finals points and goaltender summary – West Auckland Admirals:
#27 Nick Henderson – 2 points (2 goals)
#6 Frazer Ellis – 1 point (1 goal)
#24 Caleb Chamberlin – 1 point (1 goal)
#47 Justin Daigle – 1 point (1 assist)
#22 Jordan Challis – 1 point (1 assist)
#34 Csaba Kercso-Magos – Total shots faced: 48. Total goals allowed 5. Save % 89.58
Check out the highlights from the 2022 Birgel Cup on the NZIHL YouTube channel below:
Game 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCLypcp02J0
Game 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qj_F0TYQAe8
Featured image supplied by James Allan Photography.