Bracing for big city backlash

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Stampede are pushing the reset button ahead of the New Zealand Ice Hockey League finals.

The Queenstowners take on West Auckland Admirals away this Saturday in the first of three possible games.

Despite a 3-1 season win-loss advantage over their big smoke opponents, coach Adam Blanchette says the nature of finals means there are no guarantees.

Stampede were the first to scupper Admirals’ home winning streak early in the season.

A Stampede high stick also resulted in an eye injury for captain Justin Daigle.

Blanchette reckons they might be peeved.

“They can use it as an excuse or as fuel.

“We are going to assume they are a bit upset and have a chip on their shoulder. It gives them even more of a reason to want to win.”

He reckons it will be a mental challenge and the SkyCity-sponsored team need to control emotions.

“It is going to be the team that wants it more – they have a hell of a team over there.”

If Stampede can’t clinch the first game he admits they’ll be on the back foot going into game two, and three if needed, in Queenstown the following week.

But despite nerves the boys are confident they can again retain the Birgel Cup.

“We have proven if we play our game we can beat them. It is really important in playoffs you play your own game.

“We finished on a strong note and I think that is one of the most important things you can do to give you that momentum going into the finals.”

Blanchette says the team needed a couple of games to hit its stride in the 2017 season.

It wasn’t helped with a changing roster due to family engagements, work commitments or the odd injury.

Blanchette says that goes with having a more mature team.

Goal-scoring wasn’t up to form – but it’s something they’ve been working on.

“The team is rolling, they have momentum and are finding the back of the net. It is something they have struggled with a bit this year.

“It is a great position to be in coming into finals – it is important you end the season well.”

Blanchette makes it clear it’s a team effort on the ice.

Captain Matt Schneider agrees.

He says the team are ready for the upcoming three-game series.

“It is a coin flip. You can’t look ahead of that first game because if we do, and we end up losing game one, then we are in quite a hole.

“It can set the tone for the rest of the series. If we win we go home with a lot less pressure. If we lose then they have no pressure coming into Queenstown.”

He points to this year’s home record – Stampede haven’t lost a single game at Queenstown Ice Arena.

Stampede play West Auckland Admirals, Paradice Ice arena in Avondale, Auckland, this Saturday, puck drop 7pm

louises@scene.co.nz