Ice Blacks make history

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New Zealand Ice Blacks made history with their first-ever series win against rivals the Australian Mighty Roos at the Queenstown Ice Arena last week.

The Ice Blacks, bolstered by local SkyCity Stampede players, won the first two encounters of the three-match Winter Games NZ ice hockey series to secure victory over the Australian side, losing the final test and their hopes of a series sweep on Saturday night.

Ice Blacks assistant coach and Stampede coach Adam Blanchette says the series was “some of the best hockey” he’s seen since he started coaching the national team.

“It’s an awesome ex-perience to be part of the first series win.

“The first game was probably one of the best going.

“The local boys who are homegrown – we got to see them flourish.

“To see the team thrive and come together was the biggest highlight for me.”

In a tightly-contested first game of the Trans-Tasman Challenge, the men in black made it tough for the Roos to make a comeback in the final stages of the match and the 4-2 score held at the final buzzer.

The Ice Blacks triumphed with a 6-1 over the Roos in the second game of the series, setting the pace with an early goal from Stampede captain Matt Schneider.

The home team dominated play at the start of the final test in the series, with goals from Schneider and Ryan Strayer in the first 10 minutes.

After finding their feet, the Roos fought back to tie the game at 3-3 by the end of the second period.

Continuing their mom-entum in the third period, the visiting team scored another three goals before the final buzzer.

Despite a loss in the last game, Ice Blacks fans filled Queenstown Ice Arena with loud cheers as they celebrated the series win.

The Ice Blacks secured both their largest-ever margin of victory over Australia and the team’s first series win over their Aussie rivals.

Blanchette says: “It’s great seeing the local boys in it and a good reflection of what Queenstown has done for ice hockey over the last few years.”

joshua.walton@scene.co.nz