By PHILIP CHANDLER
They were like feral beasts.
Queenstown’s SkyCity Stampede ice hockey side roared out of the gate last weekend as if they’d been animals kept too long in a cage.
They started their delayed, truncated South Island-only season with 9-3 and 14-0 wins over the hapless Canterbury Red Devils, even though they didn’t have their usual boisterous big home crowd to cheer them on.
The second win included a six-goal blitz from Ryan Strayer.
Stampede captain Matt Schneider says he was ‘‘so happy to see how the boys came out’’.
‘‘They were hungry, they’d been waiting for some time to play real hockey, so it was good to see everyone’s intensity, the details we’d been working on in training.’’
He says he noticed the Devils fall off a bit in the second game and even in the second half of the first game.
To be fair, he points out they had a youthful side — ‘‘there wasn’t really a lot of guys on that squad I recognised’’.
Stampede, meantime, kept most of their imports.
‘‘Other teams weren’t able to get any imports in, because of the situation, so we’re going to be strong, regardless, this year.’’
But Schneider says Stampede also have ‘‘a really strong Kiwi contingent’’, including many
nearing their mid-20s who are now ‘‘reaching their prime’’.
He was also really pleased to see four or five young players get more minutes than they’d had before, including Noah Gregory and Jack Robbie, who scored their first goals in the national league.
‘‘They all looked good, too, so the future of Queenstown ice hockey looks great right now.’’
Schneider says restricted crowd numbers were initially ‘‘a bit weird’’.
‘‘I really noticed it just when we first came out for warmup.’’
However, once players got into the game it was less noticeable.
‘‘Especially that Saturday night, there was a little bit of noise so it didn’t feel too weird.’’
Stampede has a bye this weekend, before hitting the road and travelling to Dunedin to take on the Thunder there, next Friday and Saturday.