Queenstown Ice Arena was the scene of a decisive victory for the New Zealand national ice hockey team on Friday night. The Ice Blacks triumphed 6-1 over the Australian Mighty Roos, earning New Zealand both their largest-ever margin of victory over Australia as well as their first-ever series win against their Trans-Tasman rivals.
NZ set the pace of play for the entirety of the game, coming out strong in the first period with an early goal from Matt Schneider – Australia had done well defending Schneider and linemate Alex Polozov in the previous day’s game, but their line had something to say about that in game two. Polozov, who assisted on the first goal, continued his dominant play, scoring at the halfway mark of the period.
Rather than coming out swinging during the second period, Australia frequently looked flat-footed and caught off guard. They could not seem to find an answer defensively for the duo of Polozov and Schneider, who combined for a third goal five minutes in. The goal went to Polozov, but Schneider had several more excellent opportunities as the game progressed.
It was only the hard work of goaltender Alexandre Tetreault that kept the Roos in it – However as the minutes ticked by, New Zealand worked Australia over hard in the corners, seeming to have a counterpunch for every strategy the struggling Roos employed.
Veteran Ice Blacks Dale Harrop and Jordan Challis, who normally play for intense NZIHL rivals West Auckland Admirals and Botany Swarm, both scored before the buzzer sounded, signalling the end of the second. Australia remained scoreless after a would-be goal was waved off immediately due to the officials’ decision that it was kicked in by a skate.
The Roos finally found their footing in the third period, but it was too little too late, and every time they generated momentum, the Ice Blacks pushed back.
Australia got on the board within the first minute of play courtesy of a rocket shot from Lliam Webster that beat kiwi goaltender Rick Parry up high. Webster was a presence on the ice all night for the Roos, but New Zealand never sat back or buttoned off, and his goal ended up the lone tally for Australia.
As minutes raced off the clock, the Ice Blacks put one more on the board courtesy of a well-positioned shot from Chris Eaden that popped up and over Tetreault’s shoulder much to the delight of the hometown crowd.
MVP of the match for Australia was awarded to Kieran Webster and MVP of the match for New Zealand went to, very unsurprisingly, Alex Polozov.
Limited late-release tickets are available from EventFinda for Game 3 of the series at Queenstown Ice Arena, puck drop 7:00pm NZ Time
Photos by James Allan