Stampede eye finals

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Queenstown-based ice hockey team Southern Stampede has another nail-biting season finale on the cards.
Stampede is one of four teams that could make the finals of the New Zealand Ice Hockey League.

Just three points separate the top four teams – with only four games remaining.

“Anything could happen,” Stampede captain Simon Glass says.

“Right now we’re three points behind Dunedin and Canterbury, which is just one win, and we play them both twice during the next four games.

“It’s going to be hugely exciting.”

Canterbury Red Devils, Dunedin Thunder and Botany Swarm are also in contention – with any able to force a home final by winning enough of their remaining games to top the table.

Last year, Queenstown secured the home final – finishing top of the league after winning the last eight games straight.

Stampede then lost in controversial fashion to Canterbury Red Devils, who scored a dubious final goal in the shoot-out to be crowned champions.

A year before, Stampede won six on the bounce to finish second before losing to Botany Swarm in the Auckland final.

Last Sunday, Stampede enjoyed their first shutout of the season – beating West Auckland Admirals 6-0 to avenge Saturday’s 6-2 loss.

“We were a bit flat on Saturday but turned it around Sunday and the shutout was good for our goalie Kane [Easterbrook],” Glass says.

“Hopefully we can build on that and keep it going for the next four games.”

Stampede face Dunedin Thunder twice this weekend in Queenstown, the final home games of the season, before travelling to Christchurch to take on Canterbury.

“Dunedin has a good team including a couple of guys who played for the Stampede last year who are contributing really well for them. They’ve got two of the best goalies in the league, a Canadian and Aston Brookes, which is pretty important.

“So we’ve just got to find a way to beat them,” Glass says.

“Hopefully we can get a good couple of wins out of them.”

Stampede leading goal scorer Matt Schneider and Braden Lee will both miss the games due to other commitments.

“Schneids flies back to Canada for a wedding. He’s our top scorer and got a couple at the weekend so it’s a big shame to see him go. He’ll be back for the final two though.

“Braden Lee’s away as well. So we’re missing a few of our top players but it just means the rest of us have to step it up.”