Anyone could have expected that the changes to the Skycity Stampede’s lineup in 2018 would have an effect on their play, but a pair of losses to the West Auckland Admirals likely wasn’t what most predicted.
While the Admirals’ own offensive firepower is certainly one reason they’re sitting pretty at the top of the NZIHL table, the Stampede could stand to tighten up a few aspects of their game before heading into the next round.
Despite multiple opportunities on the power play as well as several stretches of 4-on-4, the Stampede managed only one power play goal per game. What’s worse, giving up a short-handed goal in the third period of game one was a definitive momentum changer. Ryan Ruddle’s short-handed goal gave the Admirals a major boost and they played with confidence for the remainder of the game.
Undisciplined Play & Penalties:
While the Stampede didn’t give up many powerplay goals, the sheer amount of extra time on the penalty kill visibly wore their top skaters down, resulting in sluggish third periods during both games.
In game two especially, the trio of misconducts given to Cameron Trew, Mike McRae, and Kory Helowka didn’t help a team whose top line had already been forced to kill numerous minor penalties – Helowka was also ejected from the game.
There is often a learning curve where North American skaters find themselves having to dial down certain aspects of their game to fit within the NZIHL and IIHF rulebook, and I imagine that is a priority for the Stampede’s coaching staff.
This early in the season every team is going to be going through the same: the growing pains associated with lineup changes and fresh imports as well as patching gaps in the roster left by Kiwi players who have gone on to play overseas or retired. The Stampede have plenty of time to address these issues.
In the moments when things clicked together, the Stampede’s passing game especially by the top line and the defensive pair of Stefan Amston (nee Helmersson) and Cameron Trew was excellent. The loss of Trew for a 10-minute misconduct in game two is what really seemed to disrupt the flow of their puck movement.
Once they tweak a few things and get things cycling like the well-oiled machine we know they can be, I’d be surprised to see another zero-point weekend out of them. This weekend the Stampede take on the Canterbury Red Devils in Christchurch looking to regain some footing in the standings.
Main photo: Debbie Barker