By GUY WILLIAMS
Back on the ice after a three-year absence, SkyCity Stampede veteran defenceman Bert Haines is skating around like a spring lamb and loving every minute of it.
The former Ice Black and Stampede captain, 40, who returned to competitive ice hockey this season after taking time off to start a family, says it’s been an ‘‘awesome experience’’.
As well as re-immersing himself in the team’s culture and seeing the development of its younger players, he’s getting a buzz out of reconnecting with the resort’s hockey community, especially when talking to and encouraging the latest crop of kids getting into the sport.
‘‘That’s really fulfilling as an athlete and as a member of the community.’’
As for the rough-and-tumble of playing high-level hockey, ‘‘there’s absolutely nothing better’’, he reckons.
‘‘It’s filled a little void that was created when I stepped away.’’
Although his ‘‘own worst critic’’ when assessing his own performance, he’s happy with how he’s slotted back into the line-up.
The team showed all its class last weekend by comfortably beating southern rival, Dunedin’s Phoenix Thunder, in two games in the resort last Friday and Saturday.
It dished out a 7-1 thrashing in Friday’s first game, and held Thunder scoreless on Saturday with a 6-0 win.
A big second period was key for Stampede on Friday after Liam Stewart gave it an early 1-0 lead.
They piled in four goals after the first break with captain Matt Schneider scoring twice and Colin McIntosh and Jack Robbie adding one each to completely take the game away from Thunder.
Stewart made it 6-0 early in the third period, and while Paris Heyd pulled one back, Stefan Amston restored the six-goal margin.
The next day, Stampede scored two goals in each period to rack up another six-goal win, with goal tender Joel Hasselman putting in an outstanding shift to get another shut-out under his belt.
Robbie scored twice to take his weekend total to three, while Schneider added one to make it three for the weekend as well.
Adam Soffer, Mike McRae and Maxwell Macharg all got on the score sheet to complete the
The wins extend the Stampede’s unbeaten season to 12 games.
They’re now on a three-week break before travelling to Dunedin for return games against Thunder on July 30-31.