PUCK YEAH 53: Ice Fernz head coach Rachel Park

The international ice hockey window is hitting its busy period with four New Zealand national teams in play over the next month.

One such team is the New Zealand Ice Fernz, who are currently in the finals days of their brief training camp at the Sports Zentrum in St. Pölten, Austria.

Under the guidance of new head coach Rachel Park, the national women’s team are looking to push themselves to the next level of international competition when they take part in the 2019 IIHF Division 2-B Women’s World Championship in Brasov, Romania from April 1st.

The Ontario native joins the podcast this week to talk about her new role, the current state of the team and the women’s game in general, plus we discuss some of the adjustments she’s made to strengthen the squad within her first few months at the helm.

Puck Yeah Podcast is available to stream on iTunes, Spotify and SoundCloud with new episodes released every Wednesday.

190325 IceFernz on ice

Main Photo: Elvar Freyr

Puck Yeah’s Top 10 Goals of 2018

2018 has been a fun year with a lot going on in the New Zealand hockey world. Next week we will look at some of the best moments that stick in our memory, but first let’s take a look at some of the best goals!

Obviously this is subjective so don’t @ me if you disagree with any of the choices here.

10: Taylor Rooney & Andy Hart (Admirals) v Botany Swarm
Andy Hart had a great season, capped off by helping the West Auckland Admirals win their first Birgel Cup in the team’s history.

As they swept the defending champion Skycity Stampede (5-4 & 2-1) in a closely contested series, Hart scored the title-winning goal in the third period of game two – ending the historic night with a new trophy plus ‘Finals MVP’ to his name.

9: Jordan Challis & Lucas Bombardier (Swarm) v West Auckland Admirals
The 2018 Ice Hockey Classic was circled on the calendar of many hockey fans around the country with the Admiral and the Botany Swarm playing the curtain-raiser ahead of the big USA v Canada matchup.

Normally the site of Breakers basketball, Spark Arena looked like it was destined to have a hockey rink inside, as if it were Auckland’s answer to the Staples Center.

We can only dream at this stage, but the Swarm and Admirals put on an entertaining display for the large crowd on-hand to witness the occasion. While it wasn’t the only highlight-reel goal of the night, this combination of Challis and Bombardier sticks out for their use of short, sharp passes to get past West Auckland’s goalie Rick Parry.

8: Matt Schneider (Ice Blacks) v DPR Korea
The New Zealand Ice Blacks fell just short of the prize at the IIHF World Championship, losing their final game to hosts Spain. But earlier in the tournament the Kiwis were dominate, winning 5-2 over Israel, 7-1 against Luxembourg and 5-1 versus rivals Mexico.

But the Ice Blacks biggest scoreline of the tournament came against DPR Korea. The North Koreans will be hoping they don’t see the 6-foot-7 Matt Schneider again anytime soon – the Stampede captain scored 3 goals and 2 assists as part of a 12-4 whitewash, with Frazer Ellis also tallying a hat-trick.

7: Callum Burns (Stampede) v Dunedin Thunder
While Callum is tasked with defending the Stampede blue line, he’s not afraid to show off his burst of speed to create scoring chances up the ice. Burns finished the season with 2 goals and 10 assists, his breakaway goal against the Thunder in round 9 was a memorable highlight from the 22-year-old.

6: Benjamin Gavoille (Thunder) v Botany Swarm
Gavoille recently debuted for New Zealand during September’s three-game test series against Australia as part of the 2018 Winter Games. Originally from Chamonix, France, the forward was also named into the Ice Blacks wider training squad ahead of their 2019 campaign.

During the sixth round of the NZIHL season, Gavoille and Paris Heyd combined for a spectacular goal to give Dunedin a 3-2 lead over the Swarm, eventually winning 8-2. But it was Benjamin’s impressive strength in front of Botany’s net that stunned the home crowd, wowed the Thunder bench, and earned him the number six slot in Puck Yeah’s Goals of the Year countdown.

5: Jamieson Jones (Ice Fernz) v Spain
The Ice Fernz were well and truly tested at the 2018 IIHF Women’s World Championship, finishing fourth. With 11-4 and 6-3 wins over Turkey and Romania respectively, New Zealand’s top ladies showed they meant business.

And while they came agonizing close with a 4-3 shootout lose to Iceland, I will remember the 2018 Fernz for their determined effort against gold-medal winners, and hosts, Spain.

Up 5-1, it looked like the Spaniards had fallen asleep on the penalty kill. Initially Jamieson Jones was unable to keep the puck in the zone, meaning the rest of the side had to skate back on-side but once they had, Jones deked her way down the left side, completely uncontested and free to rifle the puck past the goalie for a thrilling powerplay goal.

4: Patrick McLean & Matt Schneider (Stampede) v Canterbury Red Devils
With 22 goals in a short season, do you really think Schneider would only feature once? But all credit has to go to Patrick McLean (Volpe) for his near-perfect stretch pass from our of the Stampede zone towards a streaking Schneider as he stalked Canterbury’s blue line.

Red Devils netminder Finley Forbes did his best to attempt a desperate poke check, but before he knew it the puck was behind him and the Queenstown faithful was going nuts for the captain.

3: Paris Heyd (Thunder) v Canterbury Red Devils
‘Captain Fantastic’ is what Dunedin’s play-by-play announcer Matt Wiffen dubs Paris Heyd during his spectacular call of the Thunder captain’s individual effort against Canterbury during round six.

While it wasn’t on the breakaway, Heyd may as well have been with the amount of room afforded to him by the Red Devils defence. Following on from the feed by Tristan Darling, the captain found himself with only one defender in his way while three black sweaters trail on the backcheck. With a quick cut towards the goal, the puck was through the five-hole and the 2018 MVP had one more tally to his name.

Heyd finished the 2018 season with 36 points in 17 games – that’s 15 goals and 21 assists.

2: Tara Tissink (Inline Ferns) v Canada
I tossed around the idea of this being the number one goal of 2018 because I love it so much.

The Inline Ferns were faced with a 1-0 defeat to Canada as part of the Inline World Champs in Asiago, Italy. But with 27.5 seconds remaining, captain Tara Tissink gained possession of the puck and went around the Canadian defence to secure a 1-1 draw.

The icing on the cake? Well, that would be the taunting celly in front of Canada’s bench.

As I wrote earlier this year, this team opened my eyes to how exciting inline hockey can be. I look forward to seeing what they can produce in 2019 with so much young talent looking to push through the ranks.

1: Ross Venus (Red Devils) v Skycity Stampede
While Tara’s goal is great, this Ross Venus wraparound goal is an all-star effort worthy of being number one. The way the British import cuts through the Stampede is a joy to watch. Come back next year, Ross!

‘The Frosty Spot’ trailer released

Long gone are the days of the Kilbirnie rink, but ice hockey is making a strong comeback in New Zealand’s capital thanks to the dedication of a few.

This is their story, this is The Frosty Spot. Available from June 16 on YouTube.

Andrew Cox on RadioSport’s All Sports Breakfast

Earlier today, Andrew Cox surpassed Brett Speirs as the New Zealand Ice Blacks all-time leading scorer with a three-point performance against North Korea at the IIHF Division 2B World Championship in Mexico City.

New Zealand suffered another slow start, allowing their opposition to score three quick goals in the first period. It’s an issue that Cox identifies as something that needs to be rectified going into their final game of the tournament tomorrow.

The Ice Blacks’ high-powered offence managed to click as the game went on, erasing the previous deficit, before going on to win 8-5. Following the game, Andrew Cox called into RadioSport’s All Sports Breakfast with Nigel Yalden for the post-game reaction.

Listen to the full interview with RadioSport above.

Main photo: Mike Froger

Schneider, Cox spark comeback victory over North Korea

The New Zealand Ice Blacks overcame an early three-goal deficit to beat North Korea 8-5 in the penultimate round of games at the IIHF Division 2B World Championship in Mexico City.

Opting to rest number one goalie Rick Parry ahead of their game against Iceland, Ice Blacks head coach Anatoly Khorozov elected to give Vince Mitalas his first career IIHF start in net.

The decision initially appeared to backfire. Within the first seven minutes of the game, North Korea had slotted three shots past Mitalas, including a shorthanded goal, to give the New Zealand side an early scare with their opponents’ speed catching them by surprise.

But if there’s one thing the Ice Blacks don’t have trouble doing, it’s scoring goals, and the Queenstown combination of Matt Schneider and Ryan Strayer looked to erase New Zealand’s earlier mistakes by teaming up for a pair of goals later in the first period.

New Zealand continued to look threatening on the man-advantage with both goals coming on the powerplay after North Korea’s Ryu was penalised for hooking, followed by a two-minute bench penalty for having too many men on the ice.

Ahead by one goal heading into first intermission, North Korea opted to swap goalies with Kwang Su Jo coming in to replace starting netminder Il Pak.

New Zealand started the second period on the powerplay and it only took 31 seconds for Schneider to convert and tie the game, claiming his second goal of the night, assisted by Strayer and captain Nick Craig.

Following a string of penalties, the Ice Blacks found themselves on the backfoot again. While they managed to kill off the first two, Kwang Ho Kim breached their defences on the third opportunity to reclaim a one goal lead for North Korea.

Nick Henderson set up Benjamin Gavoille with a well-placed stretch pass to allow the Ice Blacks winger to best Kwang Su Jo in a one-on-one battle and lock the teams up 4-a-piece after two periods of play.

Facing a total of 36 shots on net, Mitalas allowed one more before the tides started to turn in New Zealand’s favour for the remainder of the game.

North Korea struggled to handle New Zealand’s combination of skill and physical play as the game worn on. By applying relentless forecheck pressure on the North Koreans, the Ice Blacks were able to take advantage of their opponent’s mistakes deep in their own end.

Four unanswered goals by Alex Polozov, Andrew Cox, Stefan Amston and Chris Eaden secured the 8-5 victory.

Schneider was awarded team MVP for his five-point effort, scoring two powerplay goals and three assists. While with a goal and two assists, Andrew Cox surpassed Brett Speirs’ previous record of 49 points to become the Ice Blacks leading all-time scorer with 51.

Mitalas also claims his first win for New Zealand, a significant achievement for the 40-year-old netminder from London, ON who was called into the side as an emergency backup and has filled that role admirably in support of Parry.

New Zealand’s final game of the tournament will be against Iceland, Sunday 9:30am (NZ time). Depending on the result in the preceding Israel v Georgia game, the Ice Blacks could be playing for either a gold or silver medal. If the Georgians are able to continue their current hot streak after beating Iceland 6-3 today, then gold (and IIHF promotion) is potentially up for grabs.

Scoring Summary

New Zealand: 8
Matt Schneider (Strayer & Polozov), Ryan Strayer (Schneider & Cox), Matt Schneider (Strayer & Craig), Benjamin Gavoille (Henderson & Challis), Alex Polozov (Cox & Schneider), Andrew Cox (Henderson & Schneider), Stefan Amston (Gavoille & Strayer), Chris Eaden (Heyd & Mawson).

North Korea: 5
IH Kang (KC Kim), CR Hong (SG Ri), HJ Kim (CM Ri & KH Kim), KH Kim (HJ Kim)

Main photo: Mike Froger

Ice Blacks powerplay stays hot against Georgia

In response to a disappointing 5-3 loss to Israel, the New Zealand Ice Blacks have bounced back in day three action of the IIHF Division 2B World Championship in Mexico City, beating newcomers Georgia 6-2.

The Georgians surprised the Ice Blacks early on by opening the scoring thirty-seconds into the contest. For the next ten minutes the New Zealand side were battling to gain any meaningful possession, frustrated by the neutral zone trap set by their opponents.

The breakthrough came halfway through the first period when captain Nick Craig led by example to send the puck past Georgia starting goalie Andrey Ilyenko for the game-tying goal. French-Kiwi Benjamin Gavoille gave New Zealand their first lead of the game 93 seconds later.

Alex Polosov was whistled for slashing by the referees while battling for the puck in the corners, putting Georgia on the powerplay for the first time in the game. Artem Kurbatov wasted no time in converting the opportunity to tie the game 2-2 heading into first intermission.

From that point on, momentum slowly swung in New Zealand’s favour. With the referees looking to penalise both sides for any lazy stick infractions, the Ice Blacks’ potent powerplay found their chance to grab hold of the lead.

Chris Eaden scored his first of the game on the man-advantage, assisted by Jordan Challis after Georgia’s Mikhail Shalunov was sent to the penalty box for slashing. Martin Lee followed suit five minutes later, with Challis picking up another assist along with Craig.

Heading into the third period, the shaky start was well behind by the Ice Blacks now as they looked to finish off strong.

Back on the powerplay six minutes in with Georgia’s Kharizov called for tripping, Paris Heyd continued New Zealand’s impressive run of form on the special teams by scoring the third powerplay goal of the game, putting the game well out of reach for their opponents.

Eaden scored his second with 7:25 remaining in the game to seal the 6-2 victory and keep their chances of higher medal honours looking healthy with two more games to play. The win also marks Auckland-based defenceman Andrew Hay’s 70th IIHF appearance for the Ice Blacks.

NZ goalie Rick Parry was strong in net for the remainder of the game after allowing two in the first period, making 32 saves off 34 shots on goal. Team MVP went to captain Nick Craig for his efforts however, with a goal and an assist.

The Ice Blacks have a rest day off tomorrow before they take on North Korea this Saturday at 6am (NZ time).

Main photo: Mike Froger

Ice Blacks suffer tough loss to Israel

In day two action from the IIHF Division 2B World Championship in Mexico City, the New Zealand Ice Blacks have hit a bump on the road to gold after losing 5-3 to Israel in what was a closely fought battle throughout.

Israel controlled the flow of the game early on and showed that perhaps their 6-3 win over Iceland yesterday wasn’t an upset as initially thought. Evgeni Kozhevnikov opened the scoring eight minutes into the game to put New Zealand behind 1-0.

Following on from that goal, the Ice Blacks struggled to get through the neutral zone to mount their own attacks with several icing penalties called against them, hemming the New Zealand side in their own zone.

Six minutes later New Zealand forward Frazer Ellis drew an interference penalty against Israel’s Itay Ben Tov, with a second infraction by Israel moments later giving the Ice Blacks a two-man advantage for 21 seconds.

While time expired on the first penalty, the NZ attack enjoyed sustained pressure and kept the momentum of their powerplay going from yesterday’s game – Matt Schneider using his quick wrist shot to beat Israel’s starting goalie Nir Tichon.

With the score 1-1 after the first period, this could have been anyone’s game. New Zealand head coach Anatoly Khorozov and former NHL centre come Israel head coach Bobby Holik were locked into their own battle to see who could take the advantage.

The powerplay chances continued to come New Zealand’s way but were unable to convert despite enjoying a wealth of possession. Against the run of play Israel scored the go-ahead goal with eleven minutes remaining in the second period.

The Israelis doubled their lead late in the second, Evgeni Kozhevnikov scoring his second of the night by beating Ice Blacks goalie Rick Parry on an unassisted breakaway.

Eager to ignite a third period comeback for New Zealand, Paris Heyd closed the gap down to one after cutting through the offensive zone to send the puck over the shoulder of goalie Tichon.

The momentum gained from that play was quickly quashed however when Ellis was penalised for a late hit, a new rule put in place by the IIHF as of this season. Kozhevnikov scored his hat-trick goal on the ensuing powerplay.

The back and forward continued midway through the final period. Stefan Amston’s recent run of form saw the Queenstown-based defender bag his second goal in consecutive games, sending home his own rebound to claw the Ice Blacks back within one.

It was all to no avail however, with Parry pulled from New Zealand’s crease to provide an extra attacker, Israel scored an empty-net goal to seal the deal and bury the Ice Blacks’ hopes of going five-for-five in 2019.

Such is the harsh reality of these short five-game tournaments, New Zealand will now need to win their remaining three game in regulation and hope other results go in their favour to keep their aspirations for gold alive.

The Ice Blacks have a day off tomorrow to recover from back-to-back games before facing their next opponent, Georgia, on Thursday (NZ time). Puck drop is scheduled for 6am.

Ice Blacks assert dominance with convincing win over Mexico

The New Zealand Ice Blacks began their campaign at the IIHF Division 2B World Championship in convincing fashion with a 7-2 win over hosts Mexico tonight, making it New Zealand’s first win against their rivals on Mexican ice.

55 seconds into the game Mexico’s Santiago Sierra was called for slashing, starting the first of seven stick infractions they would be called for.

And while the Ice Blacks were unsuccessful on their first powerplay, shortly after time expired on Sierra’s penalty, the high-powered line of Chris Eaden, Martin Lee and Paris Heyd connected to open the scoring, with Eaden grabbing the tally.

The Mexicans answered back shortly after to tie the game 1-1 before ill discipline got the better of them, with back-to-back penalties for hooking and tripping. New Zealand scored their first of five powerplay goals on the night halfway through the first period, Ryan Strayer celebrating his recent NZ citizenship status with his first IIHF goal.

Tensions began to rise between the two nations as the first period wound with Mexico’s Gomez and Perez called for cross-checking and high sticking respectively, while New Zealand’s Heyd was penalised for charging in retaliation as the Mexicans look to take their frustrations out on the Ice Blacks.

Jordan Challis and Andrew Cox scored 33 seconds apart to end their first period with New Zealand leading 4-1.

The scoreline not coming without casualties however, defenceman Callum Burns was stretchered off the ice after taking an unfortunate fall into the boards. Also in the first, Strayer coped a stray stick to draw a bloody nose, but no penalty.

Mexico looked to right their ship by scoring within the first minute of the following period of play, however from there on out, New Zealand were clinical in their execution of the powerplay. The Ice Blacks scored three more on the man-advantage during the second, including a breakaway goal by Stefan Amston that could be worthy of a few highlight reels.

Also amongst the powerplay markers, Cox scored his second of the game while towering centre Matt Schneider notched up his first of the tournament. With three assists on the night, Estonian-born forward Alex Polozov was a quiet contributor for the Ice Blacks.

Mexico’s starting goalie de la Garma was replaced by de la Vega after allowing seven goals through forty minutes.

While the final score would be decided after two periods, the two sides exchanged penalties in the third, but the Ice Blacks remained resilient to hold onto their sizeable lead with starting goalie Rick Parry standing tall when required and their penalty kill denying any scoring opportunities for their opposition.

“It was pretty scrappy, we weren’t really expecting that, but we didn’t sink down to their level which is really good. We kept our heads (held) high, played our game and came away with the win, so it was a fantastic way to start the tournament,” said Ice Blacks captain Nick Craig.

In today’s other games, Israel upset Iceland 6-3, while DPR Korea put on a dominant display to beat division newcomers Georgia 9-4.

The Ice Blacks next opponent will be a strong-looking Israel team coached by former NHL defenceman Bobby Holik, with puck drop scheduled for 9:30am tomorrow (NZ time).

Main photo: Mike Froger

The former NHL netminder working with the Ice Blacks

Unless you are a hardcore New York Rangers fan, then the name Terry Kleisinger may not ring a bell. But the Regina native played four games for the Blue Shirts in the 1985-86 NHL season after four years of NCAA with the University of Wisconsin.

Whether you play one, four, or a thousand-plus games in The Show, it’s considered a great achievement for any hockey player’s career, and Terry’s NHL story is noteworthy to say the least.

Fresh off their worst season in franchise history with 44 losses and 345 goals allowed in the 84-85 campaign, newly appointed Rangers head coach Ted Sator made sweeping changes two days prior to the new season – starting goalie Glen Hanlon was sent to the minors, replaced by a young John Vanbiesbrouck, with Kleisinger serving as backup.

Kleisinger signed his NHL contracts just days after being involved in one of the largest team brawls in the league’s history. During a pre-season game against the Philadelphia Flyers, a full-scale fight broke out that took half an hour to resolve and resulted in 506 penalty minutes and 22 players ejected, Kleisinger included.

As you’ll see in the video below, the Rangers netminder skates the length of the ice to engage with Flyers goalie Bob Froese.

These days he lives in Vail, Colorado working as a goalie coach for the junior Huskies team. While the Ice Blacks were in town for two weeks with their training camp, the local Vail Yeti hockey club connected Kleisinger with the New Zealand national team to help prepare their goaltenders, Rick Parry and Vince Mitalas, for the IIHF Worlds.

Mitalas is a name Kiwi hockey fans will be more familiar with having won three titles in New Zealand’s national league. The 6-foot-2 goalie last played for the Canterbury Red Devils during the 2013 NZIHL season, but now resides in London, Ontario.

Originally named as a non-traveling reserve for the 2019 Ice Blacks squad, Mitalas received the emergency call up when Csaba Kercso-Magos became unavailable.

With the opportunity to represent New Zealand again, Mitalas sprung into action, enlisting the help of two goalie coaches (including Perry Wilson) prior to meeting up with the Ice Blacks in Vail.


A Red Devils blast from the past.

Rick Parry on the other hand is coming off a NZIHL championship-winning season with the West Auckland Admirals where he split starts with Kercso-Magos.

Based on first impressions, their temporary coach was impressed with both Kiwi goalies as he began to look for ways to improve their game within a short space of time.

“They’re very good, it’s just a matter of getting used to the altitude. It’s tough here and first of all, the first few days you got to get them used to it so they’re not just sucking wind,” said Kleisinger.

With the first few trainings behind them, the rapport with Kleisinger grew, particularly for Parry whom also aspires to be a goalie coach with his recently launched Rick Parry Goalie Academy.

The coach highlighted Parry’s puck sense and ability to move side to side as his strengths, and while Mitalas has been away from competitive hockey for an extended period, Kleisinger believes that coming into the training camp with a great attitude and being mentally prepared will serve the 40-year-old goalie well.

Both Parry and Mitalas are also singing Terry’s praises after spending ten days together, breaking down their current techniques and refining what they’re doing so they can become more efficient in their movements.

“It’s been awesome. So many times with New Zealand camps the goalies just don’t have a trained set of eyes to see what we’re doing. We go so many weeks and months without a goalie coach that habits creep in and Terry’s able to jump on them pretty quickly and set us back in the right direction.

He doesn’t make any wholesale changes because he just doesn’t have the time – just tweak for the World Championship and refine things, he’s been fabulous for that,” said Mitalas.


Parry keeping an eye on the Aussies. Photo: Jay French

While Parry feels like he has come away with a wealth of knowledge from his time with Kleisinger, something that could become beneficial not only to himself, but to youth goalies around New Zealand that enrol into future RPGA camps.

One such lesson has been a set of warmup drills that Parry mentions can be used in any practice situation, along with ways to tackle certain in-game situations that can be challenging for a goalie – those big moments when they’re called upon to either steal or save the game for their team.

“One in particular has been the cross-ice one-time situation like a 2-on-1. Instead of pushing out to a player, you push back to the post which buys you a bit more time. Just little things like that, that you kind of know but need somebody to pick up on and then tell you so you can refine it,” Parry explained.

Having come through the second week of training camp with an improved effort on the backend for all concerned, reducing the amount of goals allowed from 14 in week one to 7, it appears the time spent with Kleisinger has been invaluable.

But the true test lies within New Zealand’s opening games of the 2019 IIHF Division 2B World Championship, starting with hosts/rivals Mexico tomorrow, followed by a potentially lethal Israel team the next day.

While Parry will see the majority, if not all, of the starts this week, Mitalas is more than prepared to fulfill his important role as backup goalie.

“I’ll have a great seat on the bench watching Rick do his thing, and then again if I’m needed I’ll be ready.”

Ice Blacks Game Times

NZ v Mexico – April 22, 1:15pm
NZ v Israel – April 23, 9:30am
NZ v Georgia – April 25, 6am
NZ v North Korea – April 27, 6am
NZ v Iceland – April 28, 9:30am

Game times are listed in NZ time.

Nick Craig on RadioSport: “Iceland will be our toughest opponent”

Earlier today New Zealand Ice Blacks captain Nick Craig joined RadioSport’s ‘Power Hour’ with Matt Buck from Mexico City to chat about the IIHF Division 2B World Championship that gets underway tomorrow.

After an intense ten-day training camp, the Ice Blacks were excited to be amongst their opponents and check out what will be the team’s base for the next week.

The team had their first skate on the ice here in Mexico City this morning, in what is a very unique setup – the tournament is being played within a large-scale shopping mall with the food court residing next door. It’s something that not many within the NZ squad are used to, or have even seen before, but they appear to be taking it all in their stride.

And while Craig is expecting that the tournament will be tightly contested between the six competing nations, the NZ skipper is predicting that Iceland will be their biggest challenge as the team that has returned from the tier above.

Listen to the full interview with RadioSport above.

Main photo: Mike Froger

Ice Blacks look to improve defence after high-scoring games against Vail Yeti

The New Zealand Ice Blacks ten-day training camp in Vail, Colorado is coming to an end with their last full day of practices behind them. All that remains is two warmup games, one on the road against the Aspen Leafs today, followed by the third and final matchup with the Vail Yeti on Thursday (local time).

Last weekend’s games against the local Yeti side has left the Ice Blacks with plenty to think about heading into the IIHF World Championship starting on April 22 (NZ time) in Mexico.

Game one on Friday was a closely contested affair, with the Ice Blacks winning 6-5 in the dying seconds courtesy of Paris Heyd. While in game two, the New Zealand side allowed the physical Yeti side to get the better of them in the third period to run away with a 9-7 victory.

Goal scoring is not an issue for the Ice Blacks. Several forwards featured prominently on the score sheet, including Jordan Challis, Paris Heyd, the returning Martin Lee, and the rookie Benjamin Gavoille.

As head coach Anatoly Khorozov pointed out to the team following the loss, scoring six or seven goals a game will win you many hockey games – which is true, and this team probably could score its way out of trouble if they had to.

However, New Zealand did allow 15 goals in two games, so tightening up on the defensive end has been the focus for the second week of training camp.

“We definitely need to work on our forecheck more aggressively because we did allow them more space and time, our forwards didn’t do a good job of putting pressure on the puck carrier. Also our defence lost a bit of gap control in the neutral zone, so that’s what we’ve been working on over the past couple of days and it’s getting better now,” said Khorozov.

The coaching combination of Khorozov and Andreas Kaisser has been putting the team through their paces, with some days featuring on-ice sessions in both the morning and late afternoon as they look to perfect their playing systems. And while they haven’t been afraid to say if they weren’t satisfied with the team’s performance during a session, ultimately the head coach is pleased with the way the Ice Blacks have responded to the challenge.

“I talk to them after each practice and ask ‘How are you feeling? How’s the legs? How’s the breathing?’ Everybody I talked to said it’s much easier and much better now (compared to day one), so that’s the main thing. In terms of playing our systems, practice was much better Tuesday than it was Monday,” stated Khorozov.


One of my biggest takeaways I have found from observing the Ice Blacks during their training camp is how strong their team culture appears to be.

While they make sure to eat lunch and dinner together as a group, they also hold each other accountable with a ‘fine’ system in place – any lapses in conduct or etiquette can potentially result in paying a dollar, doubling for repeat infractions. There is the option to dispute, if the offender feels wrongly accused, but for the most part hey take it as an opportunity to learn and happily pays the fine.

That emphasis on having a positive team environment is something veteran defenceman Andy Hay is proud to be a part of.

“You’ve got a wide range of guys from different backgrounds, different ages, different experiences, all coming together and having a laugh (while) working hard for each other and the team. I think the culture is one of our strongest assets for sure,” said Hay.

Hay is looking to hit the 70 cap mark this year, having played 67 IIHF games for New Zealand. With two rookie defencemen (Jaxson Lane and Stephen Mawson) joining the squad this year, the most-capped Ice Black of all-time is happy to pass on any piece of advice to help the newcomers.

“Keep it simple – don’t try to overcomplicate things, don’t be afraid to ask questions and just play how you play, that’s what got you to this level. You don’t need to do anything different or special, just stick to your guns. But the most important thing is to have fun – we’re here to win, we’re here to have fun and winning’s fun,” said Hay.

Vail has been an ideal setup for the team. With the Dobson Ice Arena just a stone’s throw away from their hotel, and healthy meals provided at the rink, it’s allowed the team to focus on the task at hand – New Zealand are serious about winning the gold medal this year.

Undertaking such a lengthy training camp, and ultimately being away from their families and their lives back home for three weeks, showcases each player’s determination.

“Its been bit of a bugbear for the last few years that we haven’t quite managed to string five wins in a row together. That’s the real challenge – playing consistently night after night, backing it up, having a day off and doing it all again.

I think we’ve got the right mix of youth and experience this year and talent to fight and provide some consistent performances during the week, which will hopefully give us a chance to play for the gold medal in the final game against Iceland,” Hay explained.

Into his second season as Ice Blacks captain, Nick Craig echoes Hay’s sentiments.

“I can’t even describe how much we want that gold, there’s no other option really. Everyone wants it, everyone’s training really hard to become a cohesive unit and I think we’re looking really good, so here come the Ice Blacks for 2019,” Craig exclaimed.

While the Ice Blacks have shown an ability to achieve at a higher level in recent times, claiming a test series win over Australia at the 2018 Winter Games, they continue to chase their Trans-Tasman neighbours.

Buoyed by the Mighty Roos’ bronze medal placing at the IIHF’s Division 2A tournament this past week, narrowly missing out on promotion to the first division, the Kiwis will use that as further motivation for their own progression.

The Ice Blacks have finished second in back-to-back tournaments and the overall consensus amongst the group suggests that enough is enough. They have been competing in Division 2B for seven years now and as the team has developed their skills, their playing style and their professionalism as a unit further, the frustration is starting to show.

“It’s time to take that step and New Zealand hockey needs to go there as well. We’re trying to develop a strong hockey culture in NZ and develop these teams, and we need to lead the charge as the Ice Blacks,” stated Craig.

Or as Hay eloquently puts it, “We’ve been bridesmaid for the past couple of years, it would be nice to be the bride and get a ticket up to (division) 2A.”

Main Photo: Mike Froger

In camp with the Ice Blacks: The First Days

Traveling with the New Zealand Ice Blacks will be a completely new experience for yours truly.

Most of the coverage that Puck Yeah produces is done from being at rinks around the country, or via our online sources. So, being on the road for three weeks with the national men’s team will hopefully open both my eyes, and yours, to just how much preparation goes into a IIHF campaign.

Departing Sydney on Monday morning to link up with the team in San Fransisco provided a tight transfer window. Landing at SFO at 6:55am local time, I had just over 90 minutes to complete my transfer, however lengthy delays at passport control made this more of a mission.

With just under half an hour to go before boarding, I had to quickly recheck in my luggage before proceeding to security. By the time I made it through all the usual checks, the flight had begun boarding, commencing an awkward running sequence that was probably much less glamorous than any Hollywood rom-com.

Five minutes later I’m sweating bullets and I’ve boarded my flight in the nick of time, with a few friendly jeers from the Ice Blacks in the back of the plane to welcome me.

The drama didn’t end there however.

Upon landing at Denver International Airport, both Ice Blacks captain Nick Craig and I were told that United had to place our bags on the next flight which would arrive two hours later. Luckily for us, we had to wait for team general manager Graham Tappin and physiotherapist Sunny Murugan to arrive from their recent tour of duty with the New Zealand Ice Fernz in Romania, plus assistant coach Andreas Kaisser.

The bags arrived as advertised, mine a little worse for wear but everything still in tact.

After a three-hour bus trip, we finally arrived into Vail to begin what will prove to be an intensive 10-day training camp. The sole focus: prepare the team for a potential gold medal run at the IIHF Division 2B World Championship later this month.

Once settled into the hotel, the team ran around the complex at 7:30pm for a warmup before splitting into three groups for a circuit of press-ups and leaps, while the second group did squats and the third enjoyed a brief rest period.

Ten minutes later, the squad was stretching before enjoying a dinner being put on by the local Garfinkel’s sports bar. Garfinkel’s also sponsor the Vail Yeti hockey team that play out of the Dobson Ice Arena where the Ice Blacks are conducting their camp.

With a strict daily schedule in place, set by head coach Anatoly Khorozov, the Ice Blacks have been hard at work on perfecting their systems. As Vail sits 8,000 feet above sea level, each player’s lung capacity is also being tested during the intense on-ice training sessions, allowing their bodies to acclimatise for a similar elevation that awaits them in Mexico City (7,382′).

Here’s an example of what the training schedule has been like over the first couple of days:

9:15 to 9:35am: Warmup and stretches
10 to 11:15am: On-ice training
11:30am: Stretching and cool down, followed by team lunch
12:30 to 2:30pm: Rest period
2:45pm: Team meeting to discuss tactics
4:15 to 4:35pm: Warmup and stretches
5 to 6:30pm: On-ice training
6:45 to 7:15pm: Stretching, cool down and ice baths
7:30pm: Team dinner with lights out by 11

Day three saw one training in the morning, with the afternoon free for the team to relax at the hotel, catch up on what’s been happening in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, or explore Vail.

The perk of staying in a picturesque ski village like Vail means the team doesn’t have to travel far to see the sights when they need a break away from the rink. Just a few minutes walk from the team hotel is a gondola ride to the top of Vail Mountain, providing stunning views of the surrounding Colorado Rockies.


Stefan Amston, Sunny Murugan, myself, Nick Craig & Paris Heyd atop Vail Mountain.

As I observe through the lens of my camera, so far I have noticed that between the coaching staff and the senior leadership group, they have everything running like a well-oiled machine and the 2019 Ice Blacks appear to be clicking well both off and on the ice with a solid team culture in place.

Tomorrow they will play their first of three warmup games against the Vail Yeti. With the New Zealand team’s presence being the talk of the town, it’s expected that the Dobson Ice Arena will be packed out to witness the men in black take on the local lads.

The Yeti also features two players who have played in the NZIHL for the Skycity Stampede. Will Compton played during the 2014 season, scoring 10 points in 14 games, while Kirk Golden suited up for the Queenstown-based club in 2013 and led the league in scoring for defensemen with 30 points in 16 games.

Vail are coming off a successful season in the Mountain West Hockey League, winning the Rocky Mountain Division Championship with a 5-4 OT loss and 4-2 regulation win over the Texas Titans. The Yeti will provide a good test for the Ice Blacks after a successful first few days of training camp.

PUCK YEAH 55: Justin Daigle

On this week’s podcast we’re doing a Puck Yeah first and making the whole show available as a video. This episode is also available on iTunes, Spotify and SoundCloud.

West Auckland Admirals captain Justin Daigle joins Joe from our Auckland studio, with Logan dialling in from Sydney, to talk about winning the NZIHL championship in 2018, recovering from a horrific eye injury that almost ended his career, coaching the New Zealand Under-20s, and much more!

Note: With Logan overseas covering the New Zealand Ice Blacks, this will be our last podcast for a few weeks until he returns home.

Main photo: Mike Froger

Ice Fernz come home with silver medal

Report by Paul Harrison

The New Zealand Ice Fernz have finished their 2019 IIHF campaign with a 5-1 over Croatia on the final day of play, good enough to claim the silver medal, while Chinese Taipei win gold after finishing the week undefeated.

The Ice Fernz started this game as firm favourites, with the Croatian team securing only one win so far in the tournament.

However, it took until the 28th minute before the Ice Fernz finally lit up the lamp. With the Kiwis defending on the 4-on-5 penalty kill and against the run of play, Reagyn Shattock skated up the left wing, slipped the puck between the defenders, then held it just long enough to confuse the goalie and find her five-hole for the opening score.

New Zealand scored again two minutes later when a Caitlin Heale shot was fumbled by the goalie and went loose in the circle. With the mere sniff of a chance, Hope Gregory went digging, her efforts soon rewarded when the puck magically appeared and she flicked it home to put New Zealand 2-0 up.

With the momentum starting to build, the Ice Fernz started the third period intent on finishing the job. Harriet Fuller executed a beautiful sprint up the left wing, with an indecisive Croatian defender to beat. An exquisite wrist shot by the big Wellingtonian found the gap between the post and the goalie, to tally Fuller’s first IIHF goal.

Abbey Heale added her maiden international goal too, when 4 minutes later a Horner-Pascoe shot was rebounded, and the younger Heale sibling had no problems in burying the puck to put the Ice Fernz 4-nil up.

After a sustained period of pressure, Croatia finally scored with a wrist shot that found the top right corner of the New Zealand net and denying Lochlyn Hyde a chance of a shutout.

But it fell to seasoned Ice Fernz defender Jaime Jones to restore calm and serenity in the Kiwi camp. After several moments of scrappy and frustrating play in front of the Croatian goal, Jones stepped up, took control of the puck, surveyed the gaps and fired a slap shot at the goal. The puck ricocheted off the Croatian goalie’s blocker and into the net.

In the final minutes of the game Croatia threw all their reserves at the New Zealand play, losing one of their players to a 10-minute penalty for boarding. However, they were unable to stop a New Zealand team that steadily built up momentum and confidence.

The game MVP award went to Abbey Heale, who played an outstanding role on the left wing.

The best New Zealand player award for the tournament went to Jasmine Horner Pascoe, who finished the tournament with 5 goals and 5 assists, enough to secure 2nd place on the overall points table.