The Queenstown-dominated Southern Stampede ice hockey team intend carrying their recent do-or-die spirit into the national league final.
The Stampede won six must-win games on the trot to reach this Saturday’s final against reigning champs Botany Swarm in Auckland.
“The guys knew our backs were against the wall and it’s been fantastic preparation having those six wins,” captain Simon Glass says.
The Stampede, after finishing with the wooden spoon last year, have been determined to reach the finals, he adds.
“Our biggest strength this year is we’ve got a really good team culture again. It’s a good mix of youth and experience.”
The Stampede lost both their round-robin home games against the Swarm but did beat them in the first leg of their Auckland double-header at the start of the season.
“They’re a good team, for sure, but it’s a one-game final and they’re definitely beatable,” Glass says.
In a quirky piece of scheduling, the final was put off till after the Ice Blacks played their Winter Games tri-series against China and Australia over the past week – they lost the final to Australia 4-1.
The Swarm had nine players in the Ice Blacks and the Stampede five, including new goalie Aston Brooks.
Ice Blacks coach Andreas Kaisser also takes the Swarm.
Glass says he and fellow Stampede players Brett Speirs, Bert Haines and Braden Lee play on the same line for the Ice Blacks.
“We were asking [Kaisser] for any pointers – we were certainly giving him a bit of a hard time but it’s all good.”
Glass says the national league has come on “a huge way” since its inception in 2005 – Stampede’s only title wins were that year and 2006.
“We’ve seen that in results with the Ice Blacks in the last few years. To get to this final, our team right now is possibly the best it’s ever been.”