Flight has faith Thunder can make NZIHL playoffs

Dunedin Thunder forward and Ice Black Jackson Flight pictured at the Dunedin Ice Stadium on...
Dunedin Thunder forward and Ice Black Jackson Flight pictured at the Dunedin Ice Stadium on Wednesday. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Jackson Flight hopes the Dunedin Thunder will soar this season.

The team hopes to be playing in September when the New Zealand Ice Hockey League title will be decided and Flight believes it is a realistic goal.

They finished last in 2023, so it would represent an impressive turnaround.

And if they are going to achieve their goal then they need players like Flight to have a strong campaign.

Last month he won a silver medal with the Ice Blacks at the IIHF division 2B tournament in Bulgaria.

He is still grumpy about the match against gold medallist Belgium. They lost that 6-0 and it cost them the title.

"Silver was a pretty big achievement for the team," he said.

"I can’t quite remember the last time the Ice Blacks got a medal, but I’d say it has been at least three or four years that we’ve even had a chance at medalling.

"But that was just a horrible game. Belgium ended up coming out on top.

"But in hindsight they were a lot better than us and moving up a division was probably not what New Zealand was ready for yet. It would have made next year’s competition pretty difficult."

The 21-year-old forward got his start on the ice as a 6-year-old. He hails from Queenstown and made his way through the ranks and into the Stampede squad eventually.

He even won a championship with the Queenstown-based side in 2019.

But he shifted to Dunedin in 2022 to study. Flight is a quantity surveyor and is just finishing off a few papers at the University of Otago to obtain a degree in the discipline.

He is doing four days a week at Cook Brothers Construction and does some property management work as well.

The young man has a lot on his plate when he is off the ice.

"But Friday, Saturday and Sunday is for hockey and study," he said.

The Thunder have been dealt a tough draw.

They travel to Auckland this weekend for back-to-back games against the Swarm, who made the final last year.

The following weekend they host the Stampede, who won said final. And then in their round three fixtures they will host the Swarm.

But Flight is upbeat about their prospects.

"I think we have a really strong team. We have a lot of good imports who are really contributing well to the team.

"It is a really tight knit group and everyone feels happy to come to training.

"We all have one goal of wanting to make it to the finals and I think that is achievable this year.

"Over the three years I’ve played for the Thunder, it has just got better and better and this year is definitely the closest we’ve come to having a crack at the finals."