New look for Stampede

Rivals of Queenstown's Southern Stampede ice hockey team be warned: this year ''a fresh approach'' will be taken.

Last year, the Stampede finished fourth in the five-team New Zealand Ice Hockey League, having achieved a home final in 2012 which it lost in a shoot-out to the Red Devils.

The Stampede's team co-ordinator, Ross Burns, said there were ''a lot of new faces'' this year.

Team trials have been held for the past few weeks and last week Burns said the final team should be confirmed in the next fortnight.

Already the team boasts returning imports Matt Schneider (Canada), Mike McRae (US) and Adam Blanchette (US), as well as new imports Ryan Strayer and Brian Dunford, both from the United States.

Of the new imports, Burns said: ''We have only had them on ice for a short time but I think they are going to be a good fit for our hockey.''

In terms of local players, he said players such as son Callum Burns and Lachlan Frear were some of the ''young guns'' who would form an important part of this year's team.

Goalie Aston Brookes has returned from the Dunedin Thunder after studying in Dunedin.

Adding to the mix is a visiting Finnish coach who is providing assistance to the team and so far, his ''fresh'' style is being enjoyed.

Following stalwart captain Simon Glass' exit from hockey at the conclusion of the last season, Bert Haines will be leading the team into the 2014 season.

Haines has recently returned from captaining the New Zealand Ice Blacks at the World Championships in Spain, where the team won bronze in its division.

Burns said ultimately this season the Stampede's aim was to ''have a big step up from the 2013 performance''.

''Last year didn't pan out as we had hoped and the team has taken on a fresh approach to the 2014 season.''

The Stampede played two pre-season games in Dunedin against the Thunder over the past weekend and is looking forward to its first official league game on June 7 in Christchurch against ''one of our archrivals'', the Red Devils.

''We welcome the challenge,'' Burns said.

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