Ice man chases a new goal – becoming Kiwi

Hockey hunger: Matt Schneider debuts for the Ice Blacks against Australia's Michael McMahon at Queenstown Ice Arena Photo: Blair Pattinson

Queenstown ice hockey star Matt Schneider says his first taste of “intense” international hockey has given him the hunger for more.

Schneider, the captain of local team Stampede, was one of nine locals in the New Zealand Ice Blacks squad for a three-game showdown against the Aussies.

The Mighty Roos won the Winter Games NZ Trans-Tasman Challenge at Queenstown Ice Arena over the weekend.

It was 1-1 going into last Saturday’s decider, which the Roos won after a nail-biting shootout.

But disappointment was tempered by a 4-1 win in the first game, only the second Ice Blacks victory against Australia in 30 years.

Canadian Schneider got special dispensation to play in the friendlies. He has NZ residency but isn’t yet a citizen.

“The intensity and speed were at another level to the regular season,” he says.

“That’s the big thing I noticed. It was more on par with the final games of the nationals.”

Schneider, who managed three assists, says the team are atisfied with their perform-ances.

They won 4-1 and then lost 2-0. The decider was 3-3 but the Aussies won the shootout 2-0.

“You never like letting something like that slip away and we’re definitely disap-pointed we didn’t pull it off, but not hanging our heads in shame or anything.

“The games were so close and it could have gone either way.”

Schneider, who’s been a Queenstowner for five years, now hopes to get a Kiwi passport and get selected for the Ice Blacks before April’s world champs in Spain.

“I’ve put in the paperwork for citizenship. If it all goes through and I’m fortunate enough to make the team, I’d love to continue on.

“Step one is getting citizenship, step two is making the team.”

The Ice Blacks finished second in this year’s IIHF Division II – Group B World Championship, held in Auckland.

The Mighty Roos were second in the Group A champs, in Romania, the league above NZ’s.

Fellow Canadian and Stampede stalwart Bert Haines is captain of the Ice Blacks, after gaining NZ citizenship.

Together they’ve won three consecutive national titles with Queenstown’s SkyCity-spon-sored Stampede.