Dunedin Thunder back on the ice and raring to go

Refreshed and ready to go.

The Dunedin Thunder returns to the ice tonight, following two weekends off in the national ice hockey league.

The Thunder hosts the West Auckland Admirals at the Dunedin Ice Stadium tonight, with a second game tomorrow.

The double-header has the potential to be pivotal in what is shaping as a tight league — aside from the clear favourite Stampede.

The Admirals are second on the table, just two points ahead of the third-placed Thunder, which has two games in hand.

Thunder coach Jeff Avery acknowledged that closeness and said every game was key in the playoff race.

His side was confident it could win both games of this double-header.

He was also quick to play down any talk of rust affecting the team after its two-week break from games.

"That [rust] can happen, but it’s all about being mentally prepared, right?" Avery said.

"After two weeks off, you should be champing at the bit.

"I’m not going to buy that as an excuse at all.

"The rust can be gone in warm-up. Two minutes before the game it’s like, ‘let’s go’.

"If I have to motivate these guys, there’s a problem.

"They’re all self-motivated, which is great. It makes my job easy — play the way we practise."

The Thunder has picked up Felipe Aguirre-Landshoeft, who has returned following an extended break due to concussion concerns last year.

That return is timely, as Dylan Devlin went on holiday to Australia during the break in games and has become stuck due to the recent Covid-19 breakout.

While he was a loss, Avery said the team would keep going.

It was using its depth this year and had been playing four lines.

That meant the Thunder was often dominating the third period of games, as its players were less tired than the opponents.

It also meant it could cover for injuries and absences more easily.

The Admirals would present an element of unknown for the Thunder, too.

It has been two years since the teams met, as the Auckland sides did not travel south in last year’s Covid-19 adapted league.

"We’re keen to play them again.

"We don’t know much about them from the standpoint that we haven’t seen them for a year now.

"We know some of the players, but it’s almost like the opponent is irrelevant."

Tonight’s game begins at 6.45pm, while tomorrow’s starts at 5.45pm.


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