The Queenstown-dominated Southern Stampede ice hockey team has stumbled at the last hurdle.
The team yesterday (Saturday) lost the grand final of the national league to defending champions Botany Swarm at their home rink at Auckland’s Paradice Arena.
The Stampede – who’d had to win their previous six games to reach the final – lost 5-3 after running out of steam in the third and final period.
Swarm’s Joshua Hay opened the scoring towards the end of the period but Stampede replied almost immediately.
Stampede’s Swedish import Adnan Mliovic, with an assist from Mitchell Frear, scored after Swarm’s Ice Black goaltender Zak Nothling was isolated.
The score remained locked at 1-all throughout an intensely-fought second period.
Stampede did particularly well to hold out the Swarm when two of their players were sinbinned at the same time.
Stampede made an encouraging start to the final period with captain Simon Glass netting early on.
However, the Swarm swept back with two back-to-back goals to suddenly lead 4-2 with eight minutes left.
Two minutes later, veteran Stampede player Brett Speirs brought the Stampede back into the game with a fine goal, from an assist by Canadian import Tommy Zizian.
Any hopes the Stampede could level the scores were dashed, however, with another Swarm goal two minutes from full-time.
The Swarm, who’ve now win four titles in the past five years, showed their class in the final period.
Stampede was having to rely more and more on its old hands, and in desperation even removed goaltender Aston Brookes – who’d played very well – from the ice.
The Swarm had nine players in the Ice Blacks two weeks ago, compared with Stampede’s five.
The Stampede last won the national title in 2006, when it beat Swarm in the final, just as it did the year before when the league was first formed.