Rampaging Stampede keep finals focus


Stampede coach Adam Blanchette says the squad is “happy but hungry” on the back of a runaway start to the season.

The Queenstown ice hockey team obliterated rivals West Auckland Admirals 7-0 and 6-1 over the weekend at the resort’s ice arena.

It means Stampede have won all six games they’ve played, with only Canterbury Red Devils to face before the season’s halfway point.

Blanchette says: “We’re happy but trying not to get satisfied.

“We’ve a bigger goal in mind and there’s more than half the season to go, so we keep our eyes focused on getting back into the finals.”

Defending champions Stampede remain the only unbeaten team in the league. Already, it would take a catastrophic downturn in form to miss out on a finals berth.

The SkyCity-sponsored side are sitting top, three points ahead of Canterbury and 10 points ahead of Botany Swarm, who’ve played two more games. They will, however, be on the road for most of the second half of the season.

Stampede would’ve expected a tough test against Admirals but outclassed the North Island team.

“We stepped it up a notch,” Blanchette says.

“It’s the first time since I’ve been in Queenstown I can remember we’ve only had one goal against us at the weekend.”

Jade Portwood netted a hat-trick in Sunday’s game but the talk in the stands was about the hard-fought nature of both games, with numerous clashes, penalties, broken bones and blood on the ice.

“They were pretty physical games.

“We’ve got a big team and like to play physically and Queenstown’s a small ice arena so there’s not too much room to run around and escape hits.”

Canterbury is up next in Queenstown tomorrow and Saturday.

“We’ve got a good little rivalry over the years so it’s always competitive no matter where the teams are in the rankings.”

Puck-drop is 6.50pm.