Watch out national ice hockey league, the Stampede are back.
Queenstown’s ice hockey team, who face Canterbury Red Devils this weekend, had a roaring start to the season with seamless wins over the Dunedin Thunder, including a debut weekend brace from Liam Stewart.
Stewart, son of rock legend Rod Stewart and Kiwi supermodel Rachel Hunter, also chipped in with three assists as Stampede won 6-0 last Friday and 6-2 last Saturday.
Industrial Fitness owner Braden Lee bagged four goals, including a hat-trick last Friday, while Connor Harrison smashed home three.
Captain Matt Schneider praised all three and says the team couldn’t ask for a better start to the season, following their disappointing loss to West Auckland Admirals in last year’s final for the Birgel Cup.
“Coming in this season, you’re a little bit unsure of where you’re going to stand, especially with the turnover of some players and a new coach,” Schneider says.
“But it’s been a great start of the year, and we have proved we are still a good team.”
Interim coach Cam Frear, who has replaced former head coach Adam Blanchette, also dug deep to prove his place.
“I was really impressed with how he controlled the game and kept things calm on the bench – I couldn’t ask for a better debut for him,” Schneider says.
While the victories have been a big confidence boost, the focus has now turned to this weekend’s clashes against the Canterbury Red Devils.
Schneider says his side will have to tighten its defensive zone coverage if they want to claim victory in the games on Saturday and Sunday after-noons in Christchurch.
“They can punish us if we come in with a relaxed attitude.
“They’ve got some players who are highly skilled and can score goals if you let them play how they want to.”
The Red Devils, however, will be looking to improve their game following their 7-2 and 7-0 losses to the Auckland Admirals at the weekend.
Schneider’s confident his side can come out on top.
“It’s been a great start to the season, and we’ve got a really solid group of guys.”