Final fever breaks out


Good omens for Stampede in ice hockey’s big showdown

The Queenstown-stacked South­­­ern Stampede ice hockey team remain bullish about winning Sunday’s national league final – despite losing home-rink advantage.

Second-placed Stampede had to beat the table-topping Canterbury Red Devils in both round-robin games at the Queenstown Fun Centre last weekend to qualify for a home final.

But they lost 5-3 at the first hurdle last Friday, meaning a trip to Christchurch instead.

However, an action-packed 5-2 win the next night over the Red Devils was a morale booster for Sunday’s big repeat showdown, captain Simon Glass says.

“It definitely made us realise they’re beatable. We’re pretty confident but we’ve got to bring our A game.”

Manager Charlie Reid adds: “If you look at all the stats, there’s nothing between the teams.”

The rivals also split their first double-header in Christchurch earlier this season, but Reid notes in each case the home team lost first-up – “so we’re hoping that’s the case again”.

Reid points to his team’s greater experience as another advantage – Simon Wilson, Simon Glass, Brett Lee, Stacey Rout and Reid’s son Stephen have played for Southern Stampede since the league formed in 2005.

Another good omen is that while the Red Devils also made home finals the last two seasons, they lost to Auckland’s Botany Swarm on both occasions.

Stampede won the first two national titles – in 2005 and 2006 – before falling off the pace for a while.
But Reid insists they’ve found their way again.

“I think there’s commitment from the senior players that there hasn’t been in the last couple of years,” he says.
“They’ve stood up and taken on ownership roles.”