Southern Stampede v Dunedin Thunder at Queenstown Ice Arena


Southern Stampede ice hockey goalie Aston Brookes knows all about the intimidating roar of his home crowd.

The talented 21-year-old was on the receiving end of it last season.

Brookes played for Queenstown-based Southern Stampede right through the youth system.

But in 2013 he turned out for the Dunedin Thunder while living away from home studying to be an arborist.

“I copped a fair earful, that’s for sure,” Brookes says of last year’s Queenstown fixtures between the teams.

“The Queenstown rink is pretty notorious for the crowd – it’s a tight wee rink and they’re right up in the action – and they certainly let me hear it as well.

“But fair enough, and it works both ways.”

Stampede face Dunedin Thunder twice this weekend at Queenstown Ice Arena after losing twice to defending champions Canterbury Red Devils on opening weekend in two controversial games.

Thunder come into the games undefeated after back-to-back victories against Botany Swarm in Auckland.

And while Brookes has returned to the yellow jersey, his best mates Mitchell Frear, Luke Pickering and Connor Harrison remain with Thunder while they continue their studies.

“They’ll be the ones I watch out for the most because if they score I’ll hear about it,” Brookes says.

“This will be the first time I’ve played against them in a proper game.

“It’s a Winter Festival game so the crowd will be chocka. We get great support and great help from our sponsors too.”

Brookes, who’s represented New Zealand with the Ice Blacks, says Stampede are quietly confident about the games and the season.

“It wasn’t ideal to lose two games straight off the bat,” he says.

“But Canterbury are a good team, the two-time defending champions, and we certainly weren’t getting thrown around out there. It was close and we can play better, we can improve on that.”

Brookes says he was gently grilled about Stampede by established Dunedin coach Janos Kaszala.

“But I told him I’d not too much to say. He’s been round long enough to know the score.

“I still talk to him, he’s a good coach. I’ll find out this weekend if he’s got any secrets about my game.”

Stampede and Thunder shared the honours last year in their four fixtures home and away, each winning one game of the double-headers.

Stampede play Dunedin Thunder at Queenstown Ice Area, Queenstown Gardens, this Saturday and Sunday. Puck drop 7pm.