Ice Blacks kick off their first ever Queenstown international tournament tonight with nine local boys on the roster.
The New Zealand ice hockey team take on Australia’s Mighty Roos in the Trans-Tasman Challenge three-day series.
Captain Bert Haines, who plays for and formerly captained NZ Ice Hockey League team Stampede, says it’s the perfect end to the season after it clinched the league title last month.
His Ice Blacks team-mates arrived in the resort yesterday for a late training session at Queenstown Ice Arena.
The teams last met at the 2016 world champs in Mexico – when the Aussie side scored a resounding 6-2 victory.
Haines knows it’ll be tough.
“They have an incredibly talented team, a really gritty team, so they will be coming over full of confidence.
“When it comes to wins or losses for us – I think we can win games but I think we are going to have a really tight competition over these three games.
“I’d say this will be the top level that Queenstowners will be able to see. It should be a step up from Stampede [games].”
Other Queenstowners in the squad are Adam Soffer, Aston Brookes, Hayden Argyle, Mitchell Frear, Callum Burns, Braden Lee and Connor Harrison.
Stampede captain Matt Schneider also makes his Ice Blacks debut.
The Canadian, who has NZ residency but not citizenship, has been given a pass to play for the national squad by Kiwi and Aussie officials as the series doesn’t impact world rankings and is seen as exhibition games.
Catch the Winter Games Trans-Tasman Challenge tonight, tomorrow and Saturday. Queenstown Ice Arena, puck drop 7pm