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A third-period blitz has lifted the Southern Stampede to back-to-back national league titles.
Ahead 2-1 over the Canterbury Red Devils after the second period of last night’s second finals game, the home side put five goals past hapless keeper Michael Coleman in the last 20 minutes.
The 7-1 win cemented the national title — the Stampede’s fourth — after last Saturday’s 6-2 win over the Devils in Christchurch.
As the players celebrated in one corner of the Queenstown Ice Arena, before a jubilant sea of yellow, beaming coach Adam Blanchette put the swarm of late goals down to fatiguing the opposition goalie.
"We kept 60 minutes of solid pressure. That’s what we tried to do all year.
"We stuck to it and luckily we got the result we wanted.
"We’ve got a few guys who know how to win. I think the biggest thing for us was to not change up our game plan, not to panic, and just stick to it."
It was a slow but physical start for the Stampede, which found itself 1-0 down in the first period after Devils forward Ciaran Long pounced on a mistake and drew Stampede keeper Adrian Volpe from his goal, before slotting it into the unprotected net.
About three minutes into the second period, with captain Matt Schneider off the ice for a penalty, American Mike McRae’s deft shot drew the home side level.
The game stopped after Red Devils forward James Archer copped a puck in the head and had to be helped from the ice, but then the Stampede piled on the pressure.
The Devils broke a minute before the break, when Kiwi Braden Lee slotted a deflection from a Schneider shot, making it 2-1.
In the third period, tense end-to-end hockey turned into relentless attack as the Stampede swarmed forward on the break.
It was the league’s top goal-scorer, Canadian Jade Portwood, who made it 3-1 — and then the Stampede turned on a master class.
Schneider, Portwood and McRae all netted before former captain Bert Haines scored the last.
"Porty’s always a big horse, Braden Lee really rose up for the occasion," Blanchette said.
"Volpe didn’t see many shots but when he did he made the big ones."
It was a deserved win for the Stampede, which finished the regular season with 12 wins from 16 games and a positive goal difference of 41.