Southern Stampede booked their place in the final last weekend and are now gunning for home advantage.
The Queenstown-based ice hockey team comprehensively outplayed Auckland’s Botany Swarm at the resort’s ice arena - winning 9-3 and 7-3.
The victories mean Stampede can’t be caught by third placed Dunedin Thunder.
They top the New Zealand Ice Hockey League with 32 points from 12 games – winning all but one this season.
Captain Bert Haines says the team’s “ecstatic”.
“It’s a big weight off their shoulders to know we’ve managed to get there.
“Step one of our goal process has been achieved; getting into the final.
“Next up will be trying to get that home final advantage, then obviously trying to win it.”
Stampede will likely face the old enemy in the final – champions Canterbury Red Devils.
They’re eight points behind Stampede and 12 ahead of the Thunder, who have two games in hand.
Whichever team finishes top will travel away in the first game of the finals, then play at home in the second.
They’ll also then play at home in the decider, if it’s necessary.
Stampede need four points to ensure home advantage.
“We’d like to do it this weekend – our last home game before the finals, reward the fans,” Haines says.
“Everyone had Saturday night to enjoy that we’re on our way to the final but now that focus we’ve had all season will come straight back.”
Haines says the squad’s enjoying their hockey this year, especially when they build a good lead.
“It just makes you a lot looser as well, changes the way you apply your game. There’s nothing better than enjoying
what you’re doing - smiles for miles.”
Stampede face the West Auckland Admirals at the ice arena tomorrow and Saturday night.
“I’ve always had a lot of respect for West Auckland – they always have fight.
“They’ve struggled in the middle and bottom of the table over the last few years but certainly don’t compose
themselves like that.
“They fight all the way through a game, so I’d expect two really good games of hockey and hard-fought battles.”
Puck drop is 7pm both nights.