Southern Stampede are 2015 national champions.
The Queenstown-based ice hockey team dethroned Canterbury Red Devils in an epic encounter at the resort’s cold ice arena last night.
Stampede won the game 4-3 with two goals from Matt Schneider, one from Jade Portwood and the winner from Mike McRae.
A packed house witnessed enthralling end-to-end hockey before Stampede players jubilantly lifted the Birgel Cup.
The first period was a pitched battle with captain Bert Haines taking a huge hit and Schneider opening the scoring after 1min 46 seconds.
He doubled the lead in the second period as the game opened up and both teams had chances.
Import goal machine Jade Portwood made it 3-0 with an assist from Adam Blanchette on 31 minutes sending Stampede fans into rapture.
But Canterbury have not won the title for the last three years for no reason.
After looking shell-shocked they were given a new lease of life when committed Haines was sent to the bin for tripping.
Import Igor Cvetek scored on the power play on 32 minutes.
Cvetek then brought Canterbury within a goal of Stampede just three minutes later on 35mins.
Tension reigned for a minute before McRae was sent clear by Schneider to restore the two-goal advantage.
Defenceman Blanchette, who retired last year and took up a position of head coach before stepping down and back on to the ice to fill in for missing import Lucas Frey, was given a two-minute penalty for hooking with just 19 seconds of the second period remaining.
Blanchette was again penalised at 57 mins 33secs, this time for interference, and Canterbury pulled their keeper and went six on four as they looked to force two goals.
They got one – Chris Eaden scoring with 27 seconds left – but Stampede held on for the longest 27 seconds of the season.
Stampede had overturned a 1-0 deficit in the three-game series, losing last week in Christchurch after dominating the regular league season.
They won 4-3 at Queenstown Ice Arena on Friday night, with a goal from retiring stalwart Braden Lee.
There were special cheers for Lee as he skated around the ice with the cup.
The noisy supporters celebrated as every player took their turn, with popular captain Bert Haines – the only surviving squad member form Stampede’s last titles in 2005 and 2006 – given a heartfelt ovation.
Cult hero goalkeeper Aston Brookes also felt the love of the crowd after a performance of huge concentration, facing 26 shots.
Youngster Callum Burns harried Canterbury the entire game, while the Frear brothers, and the Macharg brothers also dominated.
Imports and long-time friends Portwood and Greg Collins skated the arena with one hand each on the cup each at the end, before the celebrations continued long into the night.
As well as those in the arena, thousands of people watched the online stream, including Stampede friends, family and fans around the world.
Read the full story in Thursday’s Mountain Scene.