Queenstown’s Southern Stampede set up home NZIHL final

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Comeback kings Southern Stampede won both weekend ice hockey games to set up a Queenstown grand final.

The Queenstown team beat rivals Canterbury Red Devils 6-5 and 6-2 in the away double header.

The wins mean they finished top of the New Zealand Ice Hockey League and will now host the Red Devils in the 2012 final.

It will be the first time the final has been held in Queenstown. The single match, at the Queenstown Ice Arena, is scheduled for Saturday, September 8.

Captain Simon Glass says: “We’re pretty rapt.

“After a slow start, it has been a heck of a second half of the season.

“We were pretty determined to have a home final this season. It was one step at a time but we’ve made it.

“There’s one more game tough game of hockey now.”

The weekend wins mark a remarkable season for Stampede. After a terrible start by the mid-way point of the league they looked dead and buried.

But they have now won eight consecutive games to haul themselves up the table and into the final – a run sure to be recognised as the greatest comeback in the league’s history.

Glass says: “This team has a very impressive culture – everyone gets on extremely well and gets on together. The boys had a long bus journey back to Queenstown last night and will have sunk a few beers on the way.”

By finishing top of the league, Stampede also bring the Toa Kauhanga Riri Trio trophy to Queenstown. Introduced this year, it is ice hockey’s equivalent of rugby’s Ranfurly Shield.

“It’s certainly nice to reward the fans with a home final. After playing in all the other rinks throughout the season, our fans are certainly the best home crowd.”

Last year, Stampede won six games on the bounce to make the final, which they lost to Auckland’s Botany Swarm. They will hope to go one better this year.