Determined Southern Stampede player Bert Haines says Queenstown’s ice hockey team are ready to fight for a home final.
Stampede won both crucial games against West Auckland Admirals at the weekend – with Brett Speirs celebrating his 100th league cap with four goals and two assists.
The hard-fought wins mean Stampede now only have to win one of their last two games against table toppers Canterbury Red Devils this weekend to make the finals.
“It’ll be a hell of a weekend. We’re pretty excited to go up and battle with them on their rink.
“The culture in the team right now is unbelievable, everyone is amping and it’s fantastic,” Haines, the Ice Blacks captain, says.
Should Stampede win both games, the finals of the New Zealand Ice Hockey League will be held at Queenstown Ice Arena.
Canterbury have already secured a finals spot. For Dunedin Thunder to sneak a finals berth, they need Stampede to lose twice.
“Canterbury know Dunedin are a much more beatable team – we’re coming off six wins in a row, extremely hot, and I think they are going to be doing everything in their power to win and set themselves up for a better final,” Haines says.
Stampede came from behind on both nights to beat Admirals 6-3 and 5-3 in intense matches with Speirs again the star player.
The New Zealander became the first player to record 100 appearances in the league – with a streak of 94 league games.
The Stampede stalwart has been part of the fabric of the club since it was created. Speirs is Stampede’s all-time points leader with 87 goals and 149 points – calculated as the sum of goals and assists.
Speirs is the record goal scorer in one season with 19 and has twice been part of the team when it’s won the league in 2005 and 2006.
The forward has also been a member of the national Ice Blacks side since 2004.
Haines says: “Our weekend was really led by Brett Speirs with goals and assists in both games.
“They were really gritty battles with both teams needing to win to keep their seasons alive. It was a slugfest – up and down hockey with the teams competing hard, real physical games.
“We managed to fall behind and put ourselves in a bit of a hole but he got us out. He was capped a hundred times and had an eight point weekend, which is fantastic.
“He’s almost pushed us to the finals. We’ve put ourselves in a position where we decide our destiny. The boys believe in each other.”
Stampede play Canterbury Red Devils in Christchurch on Saturday and Sunday, with puck drop at 4.35pm.