By LUCY WORMALD
Queenstown’s under-18 Junior Stampede is shaping up to be a cradle of talent.
At the New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation’s national U18 tournament in Dunedin earlier in the month, the team skated off with four wins against Dunedin and Canterbury, and two losses against Auckland.
Coach Sam Hutchins says that’s agreat achievement for ‘‘a very young team’’ comprising 14 boys and three girls.
‘‘We beat Dunedin Thunder twice, which was very unexpected, and we held a really good game against Auckland the first time … the first two periods were pretty even, and then they blew us away in the third.
‘‘For such a young team, four wins from six games is pretty incredible,’’ he says.
He attributes the junior side’s success to a fierce sense of team spirit — ‘‘they all fought for each other’’ — and two years of building on good
Several of the juniors have also been training, and getting game time, in the national league with the senior Stampede and Wakatipu Wild teams, which Hutchins says provides great development opportunities.
‘‘That’s setting them up to be a really good team next year, because most of those [players] will be still around — we only have a few ageing out, so we keep most of the players.’’
This month, four Junior Stampede players — Jesse Hutchins, Joel Patterson, Ollie Ruski-Jones and Will Speakman, will also jet off to British Columbia, Canada to attend the West Coast Prep Hockey Camp where ‘‘they’ll live and breath hockey for two weeks’’.
The team’s assistant captain, Caitlin Hollyer, is also globe-trotting for hockey — she’s in transit to Harry Rosenholtz College in Sweden for a five-day training camp after being talent-spotted at the 2020 International Ice Hockey Federation’s U18 women’s tournament in Mexico City.
‘‘For such a small town it’s pretty incredible that we produce such good players that go on to play some really good level hockey.’’