Business time for Stampede


IT still rankles. Spin-o-rama.

That controversial move by Valery Konev in the 2012 NZIHL league final shootout won Canterbury Red Devils the title at the expense of Queenstown’s Southern Stampede.

The goal – which saw Konev stop and spin on the spot before placing the puck past the keeper – was initially ruled out by the nearest referee but officials reversed his decision as Canterbury celebrated.

Since then, spin-o-rama has been banned by both the NZIHL and North America’s NHL.

Since then, Canterbury Red Devils have won the NZIHL every year, facing off against Dunedin Thunder in the finals, while Stampede have drifted into the relative wilderness.

But this season, Stampede are back with a vengeance.

They’ve dominated the regular season, amassing a lead of 13 points over second-placed Canterbury by winning every game but one.

Captain Bert Haines says no one is letting it go to their heads ahead of Saturday’s first final game against the old enemy.

“The regular season means absolutely nothing now,” he says. “We had a bye last weekend, so you kind of step out of it.

“If anything, that solidifies the fact that it all comes down to a three-game series now. We’ve kept a high level of competitiveness in training.”

Now in his 11th season, Haines is the only player remaining in the squad from Stampede’s two title victories in 2005 and 2006.

“I’m over the moon to make the finals. This is why we play, why we sign up and do all the hard work back in March and April and through the season.”

Haines says the squad’s all fit but they’ve lost their import defence linchpin Lucas Frey, who’s bee recalled by his pro team back in Sweden.

“At the end of the day, they pay for the guy to eat. We asked but they flexed a little muscle and called Lucas back.”

That means coach Adam Blanchette has stepped down to the position of assistant coach and returned to the playing roster after retiring last year.

“Adam’s an incredible defenceman, he was our top defenceman before deciding to retire. And he’s one of those guys that even with only a couple of weeks on the ice, he’ll dial in real quick so he’ll be ready to go this weekend.”

Haines says the focus Stampede has shown over the regular season will be crucial for this Saturday’s first game in Christchurch.

The teams then meet in Queenstown next Friday, with a possible decider next Saturday at the resort’s ice

“We’re hungrier than ever and that influences our commitment level to play the way we’ve been playing and continue to play that way.”

And the spin-o-rama?

“Disgusting,” he says. “I’ll always remember that one.

“The idea this time is to go in, win period by period and put this team away.”

Puck drop on Saturday is 4.30pm and will be streamed online.