Queenstown’s premier ice hockey team’s bid to retain ice hockey’s Birgel Cup is underway.
Matt Schneider will return as SkyCity Stampede’s captain backed by deputies Callum Burns and Cameron Freer.
Coach Adam Blanchette also confirms he’s scouting prior to the New Zealand Ice Hockey league kicking off in late May.
Anyone who thinks they can make the cut is invited to try-outs on May 4.
He’s also securing a number of import positions.
The Queenstown club are missing two key players from last year’s line up who helped them secure the league for the second
year in a row.
Forward Jade Portwood – who played for two seasons, one as assistant captain – has returned to his native Canada as has goalie Adrian Volpe.
But Blanchette says the core of the team is intact.
“It is always tough to replace big imports like that but we will fill those holes and are lucky this year to have a few new local faces.”
If rumours from other teams are to be believed the league overall will be stronger and more challenging this year.
Blanchette is confident Schneider will lead an impressive team onto the ice.
“Matt earned his position last year and if it isn’t broken don’t fix it,” Blanchette says.
“From a coach’s side you try and pick a captain that exemplifies the type of team you want on and off the ice. Matt has always
been the perfect example of that.”
Stampede’s first home game is against Canterbury Red Devils
on May 26 at Queenstown Ice Arena.