Stampede look for hometown lift

Powerful force: Matt Schneider, left

Queenstown’s top ice hockey team expect a home-turf bounce as they shrug off their first league loss of the season.

SkyCity Stampede take on Auckland’s Botany Swarm this weekend in what promises to be two hard-nosed games.

Coach Adam Blanchette says they’re confident despite a 4-0 defeat and 6-2 win against Dunedin Thunder last weekend.

Swarm are being pitched as tough competition but Blanchette expects a gutsy performance from his lads.

“The stress will be on our guys showing up and getting the job done from start to finish.

“We always play pretty well in our home rink – we always like to come in with a bit of confidence.

“One loss isn’t going to deter that and we are keeping things moving and staying positive.”

He says the weekend games, part of the Queenstown WinterFest lineup, will be impressive.

Stampede’s focus will be disciplined, in-your-face hock-ey and goals for the home side.

Blanchette admits last Saturday’s game wasn’t their best performance but stresses it isn’t giving them jitters about retaining the Birgel Cup for the third consecutive year.

“Give credit where it is due – their goalie did great and they were very opportunistic when they had a chance to score.

“We ran into a hot goalie and a solid game by Dunedin.”

Captain Matt Schneider took a tumble during Sunday’s game and was sent over the barrier.

The result was just a few scrapes – Blanchette reckons it looked worse than it was.

Stalwart Mike McRae, from the United States, got his first run of the season, giving the Stampede’s offence a boost.

Kiwi Braden Lee scored twice on Sunday while new Canadian imports Jeremy Akeson and Colin McIntosh scooped two goals each.

Blanchette: “If last weekend proves anything it is that any team can win and any team can lose.”

Stampede play Botany Swarm, tomorrow, puck drop 8pm, and Saturday, 7pm, at Queenstown Ice Arena. Tickets, adults from $25, kids from $20