Opening derby eagerly awaited

Southern Stampede captain Mitchell Frear in action last season. PHOTO: JAMES ALLAN PHOTOGRAPHY
Southern Stampede captain Mitchell Frear in action last season. PHOTO: JAMES ALLAN PHOTOGRAPHY
The New Zealand Ice Hockey League begins a new season tonight with the always entertaining southern derby in Queenstown. Jeff Cheshire looks at how the Dunedin Thunder and Southern Stampede are shaping up ahead of the puck dropping.

Dunedin Thunder

First season in league: 2008.

Championships: None.

Last year: Won 4, lost 10.

Coach: Felipe Aguirre.

Tristan Darling
Tristan Darling
Key players: Regan Wilson, Ben Harford, Tristan Darling.

The oil: Suffered a huge loss in longtime star Paris Heyd, as well as Joe Orr. Injured player Felipe Aguirre steps in for his rookie season as coach. Still retains a handy core and has some youth coming through.

Home games: v Red Devils (July 15-16), v Admirals (July 29-30), v Swarm (August 12-13), v Stampede (September 2-3).

Away games: v Stampede (June 25-26), v Red Devils (August 6-7), v Admirals (August 27-28), v Swarm (September 10-11).

Southern Stampede

First season in league: 2005.

Championships: 2005, 2006, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019.

Last year: Won 15, lost 0.

Coach: Cam Frear.

Key players: Stefan Amston, Mitchell Frear, Connor Harrison.

The oil: The Stampede was robbed blind of a championship a year ago, going unbeaten through virtually the entire season before Covid-19 ended the league. Has lost last season’s leading scorer, Matthew Schneider, but retains class throughout the squad. Enters as league favourite yet again.

Home games: v Thunder (June 24-25), v Swarm (July 22-23), v Red Devils (August 19-20), v Admirals (September 9-10).

Away games: v Red Devils (July 2-3), v Swarm (August 6-7), v Admirals (August 13-14), v Thunder (September 2-3).

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