Early in September the Australian National Ice Hockey team will travel to Queenstown to play our Ice Blacks in a 3 game series dubbed the 2017 Audi Quattro Winter Games Trans-Tasman Challenge.
The New Zealand Ice Blacks are coming off a strong campaign earlier this year in which they finished 2nd to a strong Chinese team, only registering one loss to the eventual champions. The result came as a bit of a disappointment to the team as mentioned earlier in our Centre Ice Newsletter by Nick Henderson who thought they could have won the competition and gained promotion to Div 2A. The same division that Australia was promoted to, back in 2016.
The Ice Blacks team named to face Australia has kept the majority of the players from the tournament earlier this year, aside from the notable exclusion of Jake Ratcliffe who will be back in the USA at the time of the tournament. Ratcliffe was the team’s top point scorer earlier in the year and losing a player with an average 2 points per game is a huge blow to New Zealand. The team has a few new faces however including the new kiwi resident, Matthew Schneider. Schneider has been a key player in the Southern Stampede’s success over the last few years and will no doubt help build this Ice Blacks teams case for a victorious series.
The Australian national ice hockey team are back in Division 2A after being in the competition for the past 4 years and briefly dropping down to 2B in 2016. They finished their competition in 2017 in 2nd place missing out promotion to Div 1B by only 1 win.
Bert Haines gives you more info below!
Having been so close to gaining promotion 2 years in a row will give the Australians a lot of confidence coming to Queenstown this September. Looking back on the history of New Zealand V Australia, their confidence might be justified.
In Southern Hemisphere ice hockey history, Australia have beaten New Zealand 14 out of 15 times with a +152 goal differential. Most notably, in 1987 Australia won 58-0 against the Kiwis. Granted, 1987 was a long time ago, however in their last meeting in 2016, again, the Aussies came out with a 6-2 win. In all of this disadvantage to New Zealand, there’s one thing that could level the playing field… Queenstown Ice Arena.
Ask any NZIHL player and they can tell you that Queenstown is the best and the worst location to play in. The stadium is louder than anywhere else, the stands are always full and unless you are wearing the gold jersey of the Southern Stampede (or come September, the black jersey) it’s a tough thing to ignore.
A 3 game series between the 2 countries with the biggest rivalry in sports is exactly what ice hockey in this part of the world needs. The Australians might come over here thinking they can take a few easy wins and have a nice holiday in Queenstown, however a strong Ice Blacks squad with a crowd of noisy southerners screaming at them might have something to say about that.
To buy tickets to see the Ice Blacks take on Australia, check out the Queenstown Ice Hockey Club http://www.queenstownicehockey.co.nz/transtasman.php
The Ice Blacks team to play Australia is:
Goalies: Rick Parry, Daniel Lee, Aston Brookes
Defence: Gareth McLeish, Nick Craig, Blake Jackson, Remy Sandoy, Jamie Lawrence, Stefan Helmersson, Mitchell Frear, Hayden Argyle, Bert Haines, Mason Kennedy, Dylan Devlin
Forwards: Nick Henderson, Dale Harrop, Frazer Ellis, Ryan Ruddle, Alexandr Polozov, Oliver Hay, Jordan Challis, Michael Attwell, Robin Vortanov, Chris Eaden, Callum Burns, Braden Lee, Adam Soffer, Kevin Jagau, Tristan Darling, Gino Paris Heyd, Andrew Cox , Taylor Rooney, Matthew Schneider