Southern Stampede back-to-back champs
The Southern Stampede have defended their Birgel Cup championship title, with ten players now in training for the Skate of Origin game.
Queenstown’s Stampede took out the New Zealand Ice Hockey League final series against the Canterbury Red Devils, winning the second game 7 - 1.
The team scored four goals within five minutes, making the 500-strong crowd cheer louder with each goal.
Stampede coordinator Ross Burns said the team did not underestimate their opponent, which previously won the title three years straight.
‘‘The score does not reflect how well they [Canterbury] played,’’ he said.
Queenstown players had high expectations for the game and put team effort into the win.
‘‘Our three solid lines wore them out.
‘‘There was talk in the changing rooms that this year we have a stronger team unit and everyone is contributing,’’ Burns said.
Canadian centre Jade Portwood and American forward Mike McRae both scored doubles in the Stampede’s triumph.
After losing game one in Christchurch 6-2, the Red Devils made a promising start to game two.
Englishman Ciaran Long put them 1-0 in front with a goal 15 minutes into the first period.
McRae scored the allimportant equaliser early into the second period and a goal from Braden Lee in the closing stages of the term gave the Stampede a critical 2-1 advantage.
They took control of the game midway through the final period, netting five goals within twenty minutes as the Red Devils began to sense the inevitable.
Portwood, the league’s leading goal-scorer, netted twice in the final period to take his haul for the season to 25 in 17 games.
Ten players and coach Adam Blanchette get a few days rest and are back to training for the Skate of Origin game, which sees a representative North Island team take on the South Island next weekend.
Stampede players were well represented in the South Island team, which lost last year.