They’re top of the table and home finals playoffs are in the bag but nothing changes for Queenstown’s Stampede ice hockey team.
Coach Adam Blanchette says there’s still pressure to perform when they face off against West Auckland Admirals in the big smoke this weekend - their last games of the regular season.
“We are going in for two wins,” Blanchette says.
“They are pretty important games for us. We want to have a bit of momentum going into the finals and want to be playing our best hockey, trying to solidify our games.
“We have locked in the final but will be playing with intensity.”
Who they will face in the finals will be decided over the next two weekends.
This weekend’s games between the Canterbury Red Devils and Auckland’s Botany Swarm will be crucial.
Swarm proved their competitiveness at Queenstown Ice Arena last weekend.
Both games proved rowdy, with local hardman Jade Portwood sent to the changing rooms both nights after brawls on the ice.
The SkyCity-sponsored Queenstowners won 4-3 last Friday but suffered a 3-2 defeat on Saturday.
Blanchette reckons the games were overshadowed by referee decisions.
“The whistles kept coming and neither team could get a flow going.
“As they did frustration built and things got a bit out of control.
“At the end of the day it is the refs’ job to keep the game under control.”
While he wasn’t happy with how “things went down” he says it’s nice to see the team sticking together on the ice.
Captain Matt Schneider was back after a three-week injury break.
He didn’t disappoint, scoring a hat-trick on Friday.
Blanchette says the Canadian import has a big impact on their game.
“He is a big heart and soul guy. It is great we can win without guys like that, but having him back puts our confidence over the top, especially going into the finals.”
Stampede play West Auckland Admirals, tomorrowand Sunday. Puck drop 4.40pm.