Holding heads high


Coach Adam Blanchette says his ice hockey team will be “more hungry” for victory next season after missing out on their fourth Birgel Cup title in a row in last week’s final.

The Queenstown team’s hopes of taking home the trophy were crushed as they lost their second game of a best-of-three finals series against West Auckland Admirals last Friday night.

The Admirals travelled to Queenstown Ice Arena for the second leg of the finals, winning the game 2-1, after beating Stampede 5-4 in the first leg in Auckland the previous weekend.

“The boys played their hearts out but we just didn’t get the result we wanted,” Blanchette says.

“We are all a bit upset about the outcome.

“I think we can be proud of our accomplishments this year.”

He says the team faced “a lot of adversity along the way” and now they need to take a step back and reflect to prepare for next season, where no major team changes are in the pipeline.

The second-leg match started off slowly, with no goals in the first period.

Stampede’s Adam Soffer scored the first goal of the match half-way through the second period, before the Admirals responded with an equaliser just before the end of the period.

The visitors netted their winning goal at the start of the third and the Stampede couldn’t equalise.

Blanchette, meanwhile, will also be on hand as assistant coach for the New Zealand Ice Blacks when they play the Australian Mighty Roos in a three-game series next week as part of this year’s Winter Games.

Seven Stampede players have been picked to join the Ice Blacks squad for the ‘Trans-Tasman Challenge’, including captain Matt Schneider and Ryan Strayer.

Blanchette says the level of competitiveness in the series “will be right up there with the finals of the league”.

The series runs from next Thursday to Saturday at the Queenstown Ice Arena.