Ice men ride pressure

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Skycity Stampede coach Adam Blanchette wants to see fans “rally and get behind the boys” as the team fight to become New Zealand ice hockey league champions for the fourth season in a row.

The side plays West Auckland Admirals again this weekend at Queenstown Ice Arena after a 5-4 loss against the team in the first game of the best-of-three finals series in Auckland on Saturday.

Blanchette says there’s “a lot of extra pressure” on the team following the loss, with expectations at an all-time high.

“It was a bit disappointing. They just kept coming.

“Our eyes are still on the same goal.

“We want to learn from it.”

Stampede took an early lead in the first game, with captain Matt Schneider netting a goal in the first half of the first period.

A goal from Max Macharg, another from Schneider and a penalty goal from Stephen Johnston gave the side a 4-2 lead at the end of the second period.

After a third goal from Admirals in the last 20 minutes, they scored an equaliser three minutes before the end, forcing it into overtime.

Admirals took the win after an extra-time golden goal.

If Stampede win both home games this weekend, they will lift the Birgel Cup for the fourth year in a row, setting a new league record.

The side has won the title five times.

“We know the formula we have – it has worked all year,” Blanchette says.

“We get just as excited as fans and it’s nice to bring that extra energy.

“We want to get the win for the fans.”

Stampede suffered early losses against the Auckland side this season, before securing two home wins when they met again in July.

Before last weekend’s loss, Stampede was on a 10-game winning streak.

The only other team in the league to have won the Birgel Cup three times is Canterbury Red Devils.

Admirals have never won the tournament.

Tomorrow’s and Saturday’s games start at 7pm.

joshua.walton@scene.co.nz