A fresh, young Southern Stampede ice hockey team launch their 2010 season with two away games against Dunedin Thunder this Saturday and Sunday.
The pressure will be on the Queenstown-based Stampede after drawing 4-4 draw with the improving Thunder in a pre-season match-up.
Stampede left wing Dan Smith, 26 – a New Zealand rep for six years – says the Thunder, who have only been in the New Zealand Ice Hockey League for two years, will put up a tough battle.
It’ll be Smith’s first main game back on the rink after breaking his leg skiing last winter.
Smith thinks the national competition is heating up and with no new international imports in the Queenstown side this year, Stampede will have their season’s work cut out.
With a high number of older players close to bowing out, the Stampede are also gambling on youth with eight under-18 players.
However they’ll present a formidable front-line, with Smith teaming up with fellow Ice Blacks Brett Speirs and Braden Lee (pictured above).
The local lads were in contention for the comp’s top spot last year before losing to Canterbury’s Red Devils in the final.