Reigning NZIHL champs Skycity Stampede started out their preseason just as they wanted to, with a pair of wins (7-5 and 8-2) over the visiting Dunedin Thunder. Sporting slick new uniforms and some updates to the roster, the Stampede showed that they’re still the team to beat in the hunt for the Birgel Cup.
The Stampede suffered a couple of blows this offseason, losing longtime and much-beloved goaltender Aston Brookes to Australia for the year as well as roster stalwarts Mitchell and Lachlan Frear to suspension. Replacing a reliable Kiwi goaltender can be tricky, as NZIHL import rules make relying solely on import talent in net impossible. So the Stampede couldn’t just source one from overseas.
Their solution? Former Canterbury Red Devils (and current New Zealand Ice Blacks) goalie Daniel Lee.
“Obviously losing Aston was a big hit to us this offseason,” said Stampede Head Coach Adam Blanchette. “Luckily enough we were made aware of the situation early enough to find the right fit for the job. Danny has always played well against us and I was lucky enough to coach him with the Ice Blacks this year.”
Lee spent the offseason training with goalie coach and former Stampede player Adrian Volpe. However, Blanchette says it isn’t Lee’s record playing for New Zealand or his training regime that scored him a spot on the roster.
“As good as a player can be, the most important thing is personality. That’s the biggest reason Daniel Lee is joining the Skycity Stampede this season.”
Another loss was losing defenseman Hayden Argyle to retirement. Argyle played thirteen seasons in the NZIHL, but he hung up the skates for good after one last championship with the team last year. But Blanchette is quick to put any worries about the Stampede’s defense to rest.
“Obviously losing Mitchy [Frear] and Args [Argyle] was a huge loss to our defense,” said Blanchette. “No doubt about that. However I believe we have what could be our best d-corps since I’ve been involved in the team. Stefan Amston and Callum Burns are both coming off great performances at the IIHF Worlds in which both players took home awards for their defensive play. Cam Trew and Cameron Frear have always been solid players and really the foundation of our defense. And coming from overseas will be former Memorial Cup winner Patrick Volpe and Kory Helowka. Both players bring experience and play a style of game that will complement our locals very nicely.”
You can read more about the Stampede’s new imports over on the Puck Yeah Import Report.
The Stampede open up their NZIHL season in Auckland, playing the West Auckland Admirals, last year’s runners-up for the Birgel Cup, on June 2nd and 3rd at Paradice Avondale.
Main photo: Kate Harrison