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Southern Stampede coach Adam Blanchette is not deterred by the suspension of one of his players and has promised his side will continue to stand up for itself when it takes on the Dunedin Thunder in a double-header in Queenstown starting today.
The Stampede kicked off its season with two wins over the Botany Swarm in Auckland last weekend but the wins were marred by a one-game suspension for defenceman Hayden Argyle for fighting.
But Blanchette, originally from Connecticut in the United States, was unapologetic about the incident and has encouraged his players to dish back whatever is thrown at them.
"I'm North American, and I was kind of raised on that style of hockey. We say in our team that we don't start things, but we will finish them.
"If they [Botany] did something, I support Hayden 100% because I trust he knows what he's doing and that it was needed.
"We were pushed to the limit and everything kind of boiled over in the end. He stood up for the team and that's what's important.''
Blanchette felt Botany tried to "rope us into a lot of after-the-whistle stuff'' during the matches and his side had handled it well for the most part.
The Stampede sits at the top of the New Zealand Ice Hockey League standings after one round, along with the Canterbury Red Devils, which beat the Thunder in both matches of its double-header in Christchurch last weekend.
The West Auckland Admirals did not play in round one.
Last weekend's double-headers were the first of eight to be played by each team throughout the season, so it was still early days in the competition, Blanchette said.
"We wanted to come away with six points and that was what we came back with. But none of us are complacent.
"In that aspect, that's positive for us - that we got the wins but we do want to keep getting better.
"When you're at the top of the league and you're the team to beat, everybody brings something extra to their game, and we are the team to beat.''
The Thunder was a small, quick team which liked to shoot and that style of game would be harder to execute at the Queenstown Ice Arena than at the Dunedin Ice Stadium, Blanchette said.
"The Dunedin rink is a lot bigger than ours and it's tough for teams to come and play their own game on our rink.
"We have the smallest rink and we want them to have to play our game, not theirs.''
After considerable effort, the Thunder will welcome Estonian goalkeeper Villem Henrik-Koitmaa for this week's encounters.
Koitmaa arrived in Dunedin on Tuesday, more than two weeks late after he was denied entry into New Zealand from Singapore and an urgent work visa had to be obtained.