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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

Tough tests against Chinese Taipei and Iceland await Ice Fernz

Tonight the New Zealand Ice Fernz will get their 2019 campaign underway and they will get straight into the thick of it, facing Chinese Taipei first up at 11pm NZ time.

Speaking with RadioSport’s Nigel Yalden on the All Sports Breakfast last weekend, head coach Rachel Park highlighted the fact that they need to start strong if they are to have any success in the condensed five-game tournament.

“I’m expecting Chinese Taipei to be our most challenging contender, they placed second last year. We need to come out with a big W in that one, and if we can do that, I think we’ll continue that momentum into our Iceland game,” said Park.

New Zealand have only faced Chinese Taipei once at this level of international women’s hockey, going down 5-2 last year at the IIHF Division 2 Group B tournament in Spain. This year the Ice Fernz compete in the same division with the aim of winning gold and gaining promotion to Division 2A.

While Mexico is considered New Zealand’s closest rivals in the men’s game, for the national women’s side it is Iceland. The two sides have endured some spirited battles in the past including a 4-3 Iceland shootout win in last year’s tournament and a 4-3 NZ win in 2017.

Speaking with Helen Murray via Skype during their final days of training camp in Austria, the captain confirmed to Puck Yeah that the Iceland matchup is one the Ice Fernz look forward to.

“Some of my toughest hockey moments have been against Iceland. I know every time we come up against them it’s going to be a good game. They’re a really great team of girls as well, so we play really hard on the rink and then off the rink we’re really good mates, so I’m looking forward to that,” Murray explained.

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Hannah Shields keeping the Iceland attack at bay. Photo: Elvar Freyr

Park identifies the Ice Fernz’s defensive coverage as a strength to their game, one that they worked on and tested throughly during training camp, including a warmup game against Austrian champions the EHV Sabres.

And while the team is well served by the likes of Jaime Jones, Rebecca Lilly, Rachel Neville-Lamb and Krystie Woodyear-Smith, it’s within their goaltender ranks where the 2019 Ice Fernz demonstrate an exciting depth of talent – as the last line of defence, it’s their sole job to steer down the opposition and thwart their attempts to score.

New Zealand features two strong options, with a third waiting in the wings if called upon.

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Lochlyn Hyde sets to deny Mexico in 2017. Photo: Elvar Freyr

Lochlyn Hyde returns for another season with the national team after posting solid performances in the New Zealand Women’s Ice Hockey League, including a .914 save percentage and 2.73 goals against average over nine games for the Auckland Steel.

Hyde has also previously competed at the IIHF senior level with the Fernz in 2018 (Spain) and 2017 (Iceland).

But it’s the return of Grace Harrison from her North American endeavours that might make all the difference. The netminder made her international debut for New Zealand back in 2013, at the tender age of 15, earning game MVP honours in a tightly contested 2-1 overtime loss to Poland.

Since then, Harrison has gone on to represent her country at both the 2014 and 2015 IIHF World Champs but elected to take a break from international hockey after receiving a NCAA Division I scholarship, the first female ice hockey player from New Zealand to do so.

Four years of Statistics studies later and an impressive 96-game collegiate career playing for the St. Lawrence University Saints under her belt, the stars have aligned to make it possible for Harrison to compete in the 2019 tournament.

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Grace Harrison in between the pipes for SLU. Photo: Carol Hill

And as if two top-class goalies wasn’t enough, the team roster includes the multi-talented Danielle Strayer from Queenstown who finished the 2019 domestic season with a 5-0 record for the Southern Storm, including a shutout, plus a .959 SV% and 1.02 GAA.

The Minnesota native recently received her New Zealand citizenship and will make the IIHF debut for her adopted homeland this week. While Strayer has been focused on acquainting herself with her new position on the blue line, she also brought along her goalie gear to Europe in case of emergency.

As the NZWIHL’s top goaltender in 2019, that’s not a bad third option to have up your sleeve if you’re the Ice Fernz.

2019 Ice Fernz Game Schedule

April 1: NZ v Chinese Taipei at 11pm
April 3: NZ v Iceland at 2:30am
April 5: NZ v Turkey at 2:30am
April 6: NZ v Romania at 6am
April 7: NZ v Croatia at 11pm

Main Photo: Elvar Freyr

Ice Fernz rookie Terryn Bruce’s position swap already a success

While the 2019 Ice Fernz squad features an experienced and battle-tested leadership group hungry to win a gold medal, there’s also a strong rookie presence this year with six.

For Terryn Bruce, who was initially named as part of the non-travelling squad before receiving the late call up, the feeling of representing New Zealand at the senior level for the first time is surreal.

“This is my first year playing with the Ice Fernz, very excited. It’s my first time going to Austria and Romania, so I can’t wait to play with the team and see the sights, all that kind of stuff,” said Bruce.

While Terryn has previously played for the NZ Under-18s, the Bruce family name will be familiar amongst inline hockey circles as well. Her father Bruce represented the country as recently as last year, playing in-goal during the Vets World Championship in the Czech Republic.

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Terryn’s father Gary Bruce (pictured front row, 4th in) and the NZ Vets inline hockey team.

In the NZWIHL, Terryn plays for the Auckland Steel and this year her coach Rachel Park, who also happens to be the new national head coach, issued Bruce a challenge – to shift from the blue line and play forward instead.

“Yeah, it’s been a bit of a change,” Terryn joked. “I think I played pretty well. I enjoyed it, definitely a different challenge. Playing forward was really exciting being in the thick of it.”

When comparing her stats during this transition phase, the numbers would suggest that the experiment has indeed worked as intended.

Playing 12 games on the backend during the 2018 season, Terryn scored two assists, registered two shots and was a -2. Then as a forward in 2019, playing the same amount of games she scored 4 goals, 1 assist, while taking 23 shots and finishing up as a +6.

In a campaign where the Steel’s dominance of the league was being challenged by the inevitable 2019 champion Southern Storm, that level of progress should be encouraging for the young Aucklander and Coach Park stands behind the decision.

“She’s an absolute force in front of the net. She draws in players, draws in the penalties and you just can’t get her out of there so it’s great,” said Park.

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Winner winner, chicken dinner!

Bruce isn’t the only Ice Fernz rookie that has changed positions to fit within Park’s system for the upcoming IIHF Division 2B Women’s World Championship in Brasov, Romania.

Danielle Strayer has come off a strong NZWIHL season with the Storm, finishing as the top-ranked goaltender with an undefeated 5-0 record, .959 SV%, 1.02 GAA plus a shutout against Auckland. However with Grace Harrison and Lochlyn Hyde already taking up the two goalie spots, Strayer has been challenged by the head coach to play defence instead.

That sort of decision-making has the potential to turn into a stroke of genius for Park if either Harrison or Hyde fall to injury or illness and need to be rested – Strayer can serve as an emergency backup without missing a step.

It’s a vision that the players are getting behind and they’re not afraid to test themselves if that means the Ice Fernz become a stronger side for it.

“It’s really different learning the systems all over again as a forward instead of a D, but it’s good because you have a lot of support on the ice as opposed to when you’re (playing) defence or goalie – you’re the last port of call. As long as you backcheck and rectify the mistake, you’ll be sweet,” said Bruce.

There is a definite air of excitement amongst the team, one that will serve them well if the Ice Fernz manage to gel together during their six-day training camp in St Polten, Austria. If everything clicks there, then the possibility of coming home with a gold medal around their neck is an obtainable goal for this 22-strong squad.

2019 Ice Fernz Game Schedule

April 1: NZ v Chinese Taipei at 11pm
April 3: NZ v Iceland at 2:30am
April 5: NZ v Turkey at 2:30am
April 6: NZ v Romania at 6am
April 7: NZ v Croatia at 11pm

Depending on the availability of live streams, Puck Yeah will have game highlights available on our YouTube channel.

Main photo: Paul Harrison

NZIHF appoint Director of Women’s Hockey ahead of Ice Fernz campaign

The future of women’s hockey is currently at the forefront of discussion in North America – the growing success of the CWHL and NWHL sees the topic of an inevitable merger for a singular national women’s hockey league coming up more and more.

Here in New Zealand, it’s no different – except for the scale of operations of course. A recent Puck Yeah poll suggests that the majority of local hockey fans would support an expanded NZWIHL when the time is right.

The key factor there is developing a deep enough talent pool. One that can eventually become sustainable with the next generation coming through and challenging the current guard for roster spots on the national women’s team, the Ice Fernz.

That is going to require some serious recruiting and promotional efforts by the New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation when the sport remains on the outside looking in compared to other female codes in this country.

While the NZWIHL is beneficial in preparing our nation’s best, the season passed by between late January and early March this year with little fanfare – if you blinked, you missed it. The mainstream media coverage was severely lacking, but don’t blame the big four of TVNZ, Mediaworks, Stuff and NZME for that. If the NZIHF isn’t proactive in promoting their product, then what chance does the women’s game have of enjoying a higher profile?

For the women’s league to achieve the level of success seen by their Australian counterparts at the AWIHL, let alone the CWHL or NWHL, there needs to be an all-in attitude from those involved to make the NZWIHL more visible.

Well, proactivity is here. The NZIHF have recently appointed Victoria Buckley as their new Director of Women’s Hockey.

Buckley’s credentials include Canterbury Minor Ice Hockey President and Secretary. During her time as CMIH President, Buckley was instrumental in implementing the NZIHF’s ‘First Shift’ initiative in the region, along with establishing a Mites league (Under-8s) to address the need for those new age-group players to have their own competition.

That ‘can do’ attitude and ability to get things done could be hugely beneficial for New Zealand women’s ice hockey going forward. But for now, the attention turns to the Ice Fernz.

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Photo: Elvar Freyr

Come April 1 the Fernz begin their World Championship campaign against last year’s silver medalists Chinese Taipei. NZ will also face Iceland, Turkey, Romania and Croatia in their bid to win gold and gain promotion to the IIHF’s Division 2 – Group A.

Today the team departs for a training camp in Austria before proceeding onto Brasov, Romania for the real deal.

Puck Yeah recently interviewed new Ice Fernz head coach Rachel Park for a podcast that will be released next Wednesday. The Ontario native also runs the bench for the Auckland Steel team that features a strong contingent of national representatives for both ice and inline.

One player of note that Park is excited to have on her roster is Jasmine Horner-Pascoe – the Auckland forward finished second in NZWIHL scoring this year with 28 points (15 goals, 13 assists) in 12 games.

The new head coach praised Horner-Pascoe’s puck-handling abilities, “Her hands are just magical. She’s full of surprising dangles and I’d even say she’s probably the best I’ve seen on the ice in terms of a female player (in New Zealand) with those kinds of hands.”

The return of Helen Murray is another highlight of what Park considers to be a very solid roster despite a 25% attrition rate, describing the captain as someone who is ‘consistent on the ice and a great leader.’

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Photo: Elvar Freyr

New Zealand’s offence is further bolstered by the return of Caitlin Heale.

Heale came out with top scoring honours in last year’s tournament with 15 points (7 goals, 8 assists). Across just five games, those numbers highlight what this side is capable of and can be the difference between a medal placing and relegation. But after a disappointing fourth-place finish in 2018, the Ice Fernz will be out to prove they deserve that elusive IIHF promotion.

The turning point could come from the goal crease. The addition of Grace Harrison to the goalie ranks, alongside Lochlyn Hyde, sees a strong tandem in play with the number one starting role up for grabs at training camp.

Hyde finished the 2019 NZWIHL season with a .914 save percentage and 2.73 goals against average over nine games with the Steel – good enough to finish third in goaltending ranks behind the Southern Storm’s dynamic duo of Jordan Wichman and Danielle Strayer, who is making the switch to defence for the Fernz.

Grace Harrison recently wrapped up her senior season at St. Lawrence University with a 9-7-5 record while enjoying a .922 SV%, 2.18 GAA and two shutouts. That stat line remained relatively consistent throughout her 96-game NCAA Division I career with a GAA reaching as low as 1.62 and a top SV% of .923 – both coming from her sophomore year.

Harrison was exceptionally dominant in net this past January. Amounting a staggering .970 SV% and 0.76 GAA while going undefeated with a 3-0-1 record, her performance was recognised by the Women’s Hockey Commissioners’ Association with the ‘National Goalie of the Month’ award.

Coach Park sees Harrison’s collegiate experience as being invaluable to the team. “As a goaltender you see the entire ice. She’s going to be able to identify what’s breaking down, what’s working and also (bringing) that leadership perspective. The girls really appreciate what she’s been able to accomplish over there,” Park stated.

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Photo: Carol Hill

To be successful in this tournament Park believes the team needs to ‘mesh as a squad and get on the same system’ while also working on being more aggressive on the puck to match the increased intensity of international hockey, plus learning to counter their opponent’s tactics more effectively to create stronger scoring chances.

After my interview with Rachel Park wrapped up I felt like I came away from it having learnt more about the current state of the women’s game and hopefully you will too.

The Ice Fernz are an important part of growing the game in New Zealand, and as a country that loves to back a winner, a gold medal in Romania would go a long way to raising the team’s profile on the nation’s busy sporting landscape.

2019 Ice Fernz Traveling Squad

Forwards:
Harriet Fuller, Kirstin Gerken, Hope Gregory, Abbey Heale, Caitlin Heale, Jasmine Horner-Pascoe, Helen Murray, Caitlin Orr, Jemma Read, Reagyn Shattock, Hannah Shields.

Defence:
Terryn Bruce, Hannah Cross, Jaime Jones, Rebecca Lilly, Rikki-Lee McLean, Rachael Neville-Lamb, Ashley Richmond, Danielle Strayer, Krystie Woodyear-Smith.

Goalies:
Grace Harrison, Lochlyn Hyde

2019 Ice Fernz Game Schedule

April 1: NZ v Chinese Taipei at 11pm
April 3: NZ v Iceland at 2:30am
April 5: NZ v Turkey at 2:30am
April 6: NZ v Romania at 6am
April 7: NZ v Croatia at 11pm

Depending on the availability of live streams, Puck Yeah will have game highlights available on our YouTube channel.

Main Photo: Elvar Freyr

New Zealand Under-18s set sights on Bulgaria

Today the New Zealand Under-18s will be living the hockey dream for the next two weeks as they fly out to Romania for training camp ahead of the 2019 IIHF Under-18 World Championship in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Competing in the ‘Division 3 – Group A’ tier, New Zealand will be up against Israel, Turkey, Mexico, Iceland and hosts Bulgaria with their first game taking place on March 26 at 3:30am (NZ time). Full team schedule is listed below.

Earlier this week I interviewed Head Coach Steve Reid via Messenger to find out how things are shaping up for the Under-18s.

Last year the Under-18s played in a 3-team tournament which New Zealand won to gain promotion to Div 3A, how much of an adjustment is it for the team to go from a small competition like that to a standard IIHF format? Does that change how the team prepares?

Yeah absolutely, the longer tournament is a first for some of these boys. They will need to look after themselves while we are away, eat well, drink lots of water and keep their vitamins up. They will need to recover and look after their bodies, which we will help them with along the way.

From a coaching point of view it means we rely on every player to play their part and for every line to fulfil their role. In a short two-game tournament you can ride your top two lines if you want, this year we can’t. 

During the tournament you’ll face Israel, Turkey, Mexico, Iceland and Bulgaria. At the under-20 and senior levels, these are the countries that NZ will often face. In your experience has their style of play changed much through the years?

Turkey have really evolved over the last 3-4 years as they have had a consistent federation head coach. The other teams have for the most part continued their same styles.

Aside from winning the gold medal and advancing NZ to the next IIHF division, what is the ultimate goal for an age-group team like the Under-18s?

Our core goal is to win gold you’re right, but bigger than that is we are preparing these guys for higher honours. Nothing beats seeing players climb the age groups and then ultimately playing for the Ice Blacks. 

Before heading overseas has the team been able to get together for training camps over the summer months? And what takeaways or learnings did you come away with afterwards?

We had a mini camp in Dunedin late February – this gave us a good chance to bring the guys together, start work on combinations and also our systems. The uptake was great and I know everyone is looking forward to flying out.

How would you describe the current talent pool available in this age group for New Zealand?

Second to none. I’ve been coaching NZ teams for eight years now and collectively this is the most talented age group I’ve ever worked with. Don’t get me wrong, we have had great youth players in the past, but this team is exciting and I’m really looking forward to taking them to the world stage. 

Traveling and playing in these tournaments isn’t cheap, did your final team selection have to change much due to those factors?

Every other year I say yes to this question, but this year we have been able to secure great flights and a great training venue in Romania.

Nick Flight (Team Manager) and Csaba Kercso-Magos Snr (Assistant Coach) have been great – Nick locked our flights in and we are actually travelling to a hometown of Csaba’s so he has been able to twist a few arms for great deals. 

Finley Forbes returns for another year in the crease, would you consider him your number one starter for the tournament and how would you rate his development over the past twelve months?

Finley is a great goalie and a kid who has heaps of potential. He has lots of hockey ahead of him, we are really lucky to have two quality goalies in Finley and Rhett Wilson.

Rhett has a lot to prove with a year out of the game, so I’m looking forward to these two friends battling for the top spot. It’s great to have confidence in both guys though. 

Outside of the goal crease, who are some standout players in the 2019 squad?

From our few days in Dunedin, Alex Regan, who is captaining the team this year, is looking solid on the back-end and also scary good on the rush. Josh Hurley is looking sharp along with the Auckland line of Christian Regan, Lachlan Butler and Max Vesper who definitely know how to find the net. 

Where will the U18s training camp be held prior to the tournament and what do you think are the key things that need to be worked on to achieve a podium result?

We are training in Gheorgheni, Romania for 7-8 days, it’s about a 3-4 hour bus trip from Bucharest.

To succeed it’s a case of coming together as a team, buying into our systems, repeating as many times as possible and talking about all the variables. Last but not least, FUN. If we keep it fun and enjoyable everyone will work harder.

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New Zealand U18 Game Schedule

March 26: NZ v Israel at 3:30am
March 27: NZ v Turkey at 3:30am
March 29: NZ v Mexico at 12am
March 30: NZ v Iceland at 12am
April 1: NZ v Bulgaria at 2:30am

Depending on the availability of live streams, Puck Yeah will have game highlights available on our YouTube channel.

Photos: Matt Bennell

What’s happening with Puck Yeah in 2019?

Dear reader,

I thought it was about time I gave you an update on the state of Puck Yeah and what’s happening with the website and podcast that I like to call ‘New Zealand’s home of hockey’ for 2019.

Well first of all, we’re based out of Australia now. My wife Sarah and I have packed up our lives in Auckland and moved across the ditch to Sydney after she was offered an incredible job opportunity that had to be taken – the crazy thing is this all started to happen a week after our wedding, so there’s been a couple big life decisions of late.

And yes, my Puck Yeah podcast co-host Joe Durie was one of my groomsmen – he looks pretty decent in a suit I might add.

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Photo: Christina Stirpe

Upon learning this news, those I am close with amongst New Zealand’s ice hockey community firstly congratulated Sarah and I on our recent wedding and secondly, a recurring question was asked: what does that mean for Puck Yeah and the NZIHL’s media coverage?

Rest assured Puck Yeah will continue on! The way our coverage of the 2018 NZIHL season was received was overwhelmingly positive and it meant a lot to me personally knowing that all those hours of hard work were being appreciated by the very people it’s intended to benefit: the hockey players, the teams and their fans.

There is one thing that will change however.

As of last Sunday I notified the NZIHL and the New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation that after some careful consideration I would be stepping back from my volunteer role as their Media Director.

Truth be told I became burnt out last season and I had to let some things fall by the wayside in an effort to preserve my mental health. There just wasn’t enough hours in the week to do everything I wanted to do for the NZIHL and Puck Yeah, which is my own doing really – so I prioritised the league’s needs to make sure games were being promoted and seen live or online through YouTube.

Now that those media operations are in a good place, I feel like I can step aside and focus on what’s important to me – I’ve put a lot of my own time and money into the Puck Yeah brand over the past two years and we’re starting to really see that pay off, so from 2019 onwards that will be my priority.

This means that there is one or two volunteer positions now available to help the NZIHL with their social media needs for the 2019 season, running from mid-May to mid-August.

If this is something that interests you then don’t hesitate to get in touch with myself to find out more via our contact form – it’s a great way to gain valuable experience to help get your foot in the door elsewhere. And I’ll still be onhand to answer any technical questions as best as I can from Australia.

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Joe asking Justin Daigle the hard questions under the bleachers

So, what about Puck Yeah for 2019?

While evaluating where we currently stand as a news and social media service, Joe and I took into consideration any constructive feedback we received last year, starting with…

THE PODCAST

Looking back on 2018, the one thing that I wish we hadn’t done was let the podcast disappear for an extended break, twice. With so many stories to share and players we want to interview, Joe and I are determined to not let that happen in 2019.

This week we started off the new season with a bang recording a fresh Rick Parry interview after the shock news dropped that the veteran goalie would be joining the Botany Swarm after spending the past five years with the West Auckland Admirals.

There’s plenty more to come with a new episode out next week featuring an interview with New Zealand Inline Ferns captain Tara Fox and team manager Courtney Fox, whom recently tied the knot.

We’re also looking at ways to make podcasts a more visual experience where possible.

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The brand new Rodecaster Pro makes podcasting between Australia & New Zealand so much easier for us!

DOCUMENTARIES

Puck Yeah will be releasing at least two documentaries this year – the first one being a feature on how ice hockey is growing in Wellington following on from the disappointment of last year’s cancelled Ice Hockey Classic at Westpac Stadium, and the unique characters making it happen. Expect a trailer for that to come out in the next few weeks.

The second documentary is an ambitious project that will come from myself filming the New Zealand Ice Blacks through their intense 10-day training camp in Vail, Colorado along with the 2019 IIHF Worlds in Mexico City, where they hope to win gold and gain promotion to the next tier of international competition.

What I am trying to achieve will see Ice Blacks fans enjoy the most comprehensive coverage of the national team ever seen. But such an effort doesn’t come for free.

Needing help to cover the costs of flights, travel insurance for camera gear, plus the three weeks working freelance as a video journalist and media manager for the team, I have started up a Givealittle page – to find out more please take the time to check it out and consider making a donation. There are also corporate sponsorship opportunities available.

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Filming the Ice Blacks for The Crowd Goes Wild in 2018.

THE WEBSITE

One thing I really wanted to do last year but didn’t have the time for was implement a new section for this website that would be dedicated to tracking NZIHL stats.

My aim is that it can be a valuable resource for the community, namely the volunteer livestream commentators, with the required info available with a simple click – so I’m open to hearing suggestions of what you would like to see from this.

The NZIHL use the IIHF’s Hydra system which displays information using PDF files. It’s basic, it works, but having to download those files every time you want an update (depending on your browser of choice) is a pain in the ass.

This will involve a fair amount of data entry – so if there’s anyone who has an interest in stats that wants to help out, hit us up!

It would be amazing if analytics (such as GameScore) could be part of this, but unfortunately the NZIHL does not track the necessary stats for this to happen. Although if they could start counting hits that would be great!

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Photo: Josh Fraser

Along with the podcast and the documentaries, Puck Yeah will continue to be heavily involved with providing news updates and promotions of the NZIHL, the Ice Blacks, the Ice Fernz, and plenty more NZ hockey action through our social media channels.

The game highlights, including segments like goals/saves of the week, will be back of course – making those videos is my favourite part of this whole thing.

It’s awesome to see Kiwi hockey fans bringing that passion online and I love that Puck Yeah can be a part of that. Thanks so much for taking the time to read our articles, listen to the podcast, or watch the videos we produce.

Here’s to an incredible year of New Zealand ice hockey!

Much love,
Logan Swinkels
PUCK YEAH

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Main photo: James Allan

22 Thoughts on the 2019 Ice Blacks

April will see the New Zealand Ice Blacks traveling to Mexico City for their annual IIHF campaign with a singular objective: to finish first and earn promotion.

With two months to go, it’s down to the business end of preparations, culminating in an extensive ten-day training camp held in Vail, Colorado.

Puck Yeah will be right there with them, filming their progress for a documentary to be released later this year while also reporting back regularly so fans can stay connected with the Ice Blacks on the other side of the world. Such coverage is costly for us so please consider donating to our Givealittle page.

On Sunday night New Zealand’s 22-strong traveling squad for the 2019 IIHF Division II-Group B World Championship was announced as follows:

Forwards:
Paris Heyd, Matt Schneider, Jordan Challis, Alex Polosov, Dale Harrop, Benjamin Gavoille, Frazer Ellis, Ryan Strayer, Joseph Orr, Nick Henderson, Andrew Cox, Martin Lee, Chris Eaden, Robin Vortanov (non-traveling reserve).

Defence:
Stefan Amston, Callum Burns, Nick Craig, Blake Jackson, Andrew Hay, Jaxson Lane, Stephen Mawson, Logan Fraser (non-traveling reserve).

Goalies:
Rick Parry, Csaba Kercso-Magos, Vince Mitalas (non-traveling reserve).

Andy Mills, the President of the New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation, has previously mentioned to me that he believes New Zealand sides should be playing in higher divisions than they currently do and I would for the most part agree with him on that statement – the Ice Blacks certainly should be.

After back-to-back silver medal placings at the IIHF Worlds, this year they must capitalise on their recent success against Australia and get back to the IIHF’s Division II-Group A tournament.

Out of the five New Zealand Ice Hockey League clubs, the current Birgel Cup champion West Auckland Admirals boast the most Ice Blacks with seven this year, the Botany Swarm and Skycity Stampede both provide four, while the Dunedin Thunder and Canterbury Red Devils feature three and two respectively.

If all those that were named today remain healthy, this 2019 squad will be one of the strongest sides to wear the black jersey in recent history. And that’s despite some notable omissions like goaltender Daniel Lee who was unavailable due to study commitments.

Anatoly Khorozov returns as head coach to see through his ‘two-year mission’ to make IIHF promotion a reality. However, Adam Blanchette won’t be returning to the bench beside him for this year’s campaign. Instead he will be joined by Andreas Kaisser, last seen coaching the Ice Fernz in 2018 and now the current General Manager of the NZIHL.

Here are my 22 thoughts (shout out to Elliotte Friedman) on the 2019 New Zealand Ice Blacks, starting with…

FORWARDS

Paris Heyd (Dunedin Thunder)
NZIHL commentator Matt Wiffen said it best, dubbing Paris Heyd “Captain Fantastic” after the skilled centre scored one of many highlight reels goals last season. And while he’s not the captain of this side, the Dunedin Thunder’s main man often leads by example with his on-ice performance.

Awarded the title of the NZIHL’s 2018 MVP after almost taking the Thunder to the Birgel Cup Finals, his addition to the Ice Blacks is a no-brainer. My favourite element of Paris’ game is how strong he is on his edges – when he’s controlling possession, defenders have a tough time forcing a turnover. More often than not he’s creating a high percentage scoring chance instead.

2018 Stats: 17 games, 15 goals, 21 assists, +6, 10 PIMs, 18.75 S%

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Photo: James Allan

Matt Schneider (Skycity Stampede)
Backing up the selection of Heyd with more offensive power is Stampede captain Matt Schneider. Hailing from Vernon, BC and once drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, this 6-foot-7 (but feels more like 7 foot on skates) behemoth can dominant a game early with equal parts size and skill.

We have seen Schneider do exactly that countless times since his NZIHL debut in 2012. Last season he was the top scorer with 46 points in 18 games and was crowned league MVP the season before that.

Possessing a wicked shot that goes in more often than not, Schneider is a fierce competitor that hates to lose. He will be a key part of the Ice Blacks’ offence – good luck to any goalie trying to see past his screen.

2018: 18 games, 22 goals, 24 assists, +29, 22 PIMs, 55.00 S%

Jordan Challis (Botany Swarm)
With 157 games over 12 years, Jordan Challis’ game is on roll after coming off his best season offensively. With 24 points in 15 games he led the up-and-down Swarm in scoring, followed up by an impressive outing for New Zealand against Trans-Tasman rivals Australia at the 2018 Winter Games.

Turning 27 shortly before training camp, Challis still has a lot to offer the Ice Blacks.

When interviewing the 43-cap veteran after their test series win over the Mighty Roos back in September, it was clear just how much achieving IIHF promotion would mean to him – Challis embodies the belief that New Zealand should be at a higher level and competing against Australia more.

Challis also has dad strength now, so there’s that.

2018: 15 games, 9 goals, 15 assists, even +/-, 20 PIMs, 34.62 S%

Alex Polosov (Swarm)
Once an age-grade representative for Estonia in 2004-05, Alex Polosov now calls New Zealand home and returns to the Ice Blacks fray for a third consecutive international season after a strong performance in the black jersey last year – scoring 9 points in 5 games.

The 5-foot-9 forward provides solid offensive depth for this 2019 lineup. If one of the main cannons fails to fire, Polosov still remains a threat with his ability to finish plays effectively during 2-on-1 breakouts. Here’s hoping he can continue the excellent chemistry with Ryan Strayer as seen at the 2018 Winter Games.

2018: 16 games, 6 goals, 6 assists, -3, 14 PIMs, 31.58 S%

Dale Harrop (West Auckland Admirals)
The Christchurch native had one hell of a 2018 season – NZIHL champion, Trans-Tasman Challenge winner, and two-time participant of the ‘Kurt Baker Challenge.’

The Admirals enjoyed plenty of goal-scoring up and down the lineup on their way to their first Birgel Cup victory, with Harrop being one of those consistent performers – tallying 20 points in 16 games.

Harrop is the type of character that every locker room needs. He knows how to keep things light, but also when to switch into beast mode and score crucial goals while staying out of the penalty box.

2018: 16 games, 5 goals, 15 assists, +9, 10 PIMs, 45.45 S%

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Photo: James Allan

Benjamin Gavoille (Thunder)
After making his New Zealand debut during the Winter Games series, Mexico City will be Benjamin Gavoille’s first IIHF experience for the Ice Blacks.

The French-born forward was instrumental in seeing the Dunedin Thunder come so close to securing a Birgel Cup Finals berth for the first time since 2014, finishing third in team scoring behind Heyd and Brandon Egli (27) with 20 points.

Gavoille’s attitude coming into the team really impressed me. While NZ might be his second home, he appreciates how meaningful the black jersey is for the country’s elite athletes – he has well and truly earned his spot with his initial performance in that same jersey.

2018: 17 games, 13 goals, 7 assists, +8, 10 PIMs, 27.66 S%

Frazer Ellis (Admirals)
Named 2018 MVP of a championship-winning team, at only age 22 Frazer Ellis’ two-way game is growing from strength to strength – he contributes regularly on the score sheet and denies opportunities for his opponents at the other end.

During last year’s IIHF Worlds in Spain, Ellis was burying the puck at a goal per game pace for New Zealand. The 2019 campaign has the potential to be a breakout year for the young forward with plenty of support from his fellow Admirals on hand.

2018: 18 games, 11 goals, 14 assists, +16, 37 PIMs, 52.38 S%

Ryan Strayer (Stampede)
The introduction of Ryan Strayer to the Ice Blacks lineup for the Winter Games felt like a breath of fresh air – and his style of play is one we’re fond of here at Puck Yeah.

His infectious energy both on and off the ice is not to be underestimated – if the debutant wasn’t contributing offensively, which he was, he can find other ways to have an impact on the outcome. Going to the corners, disrupting rushes and creating turnovers, it’s all part of Strayer’s game and he too, along with Gavoille, rightfully deserves a place in the 2019 roster.

2018: 18 games, 5 goals, 14 assists, +8, 12 PIMs, 22.73 S%

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Photo: James Allan

Joseph Orr (Thunder)
Currently playing US collegiate hockey for Williston State College, Joe Orr is backing up his seventh and best season for the Dunedin Thunder with two goals and eight assists in 13 games of ACHA competition.

While the flying winger was part of New Zealand’s Winter Games roster last year, the Mexico City tournament will be Orr’s first IIHF senior competition. Previous he represented the country at under-20 and under-18 competitions.

He is the second youngest member of the team, behind Callum Burns, but his play on the ice will likely suggest otherwise with his strong puck-handling skills – I won’t be surprised if Orr produces at least one highlight reel worthy goal during April’s tournament.

2018: 17 games, 9 goals, 8 assists, -3, 12 PIMs, 20.00 S%

Nick Henderson (Admirals)
Admirals fan favourite and the man affectionately known as ‘Hendo’ is going into his seventh consecutive year with the Ice Blacks, making up part of the side’s veteran group.

Once considered more of a defenceman, Henderson has transitioned well to the wing, his now preferred position. He can score goals but I would consider him more of a playmaker that will help anchor New Zealand’s second or third line.

2018: 18 games, 7 goals, 14 assists, +11, 22 PIMs, 35 S%

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Andrew Cox (Perth Thunder, AIHL)
I will admit that Cox is a player that I don’t get the chance to see play very often aside from when he’s with the Ice Blacks.

For the past seven years the Auckland-born winger has been applying his trade across the ditch in the AIHL for the Perth Thunder. While Cox enjoyed high-scoring years in 2014 and 2015, last season was his best yet with 31 points in 28 games. I look forward to seeing what he will bring to the table this year.

2018: 28 games, 12 goals, 19 assists, 18 PIMs

Martin Lee (Montreal)
Lee is another player I don’t get to see play much – the last time he stepped out on the ice for a NZIHL game was back in 2013 for the Canterbury Red Devils. Since then he has played at an elite level in Poland and Sweden, but Lee now resides in Montreal where he runs the ‘ML Hockey Development’ school.

Seven years removed from his last IIHF appearance for the Ice Blacks, the journeyman’s vast experience from playing around the world will help keep this team grounded.

Chris Eaden (Canterbury Red Devils)
The Ice Blacks are immediately stronger with this man in the lineup – Eaden is the NZIHL’s all-time leader in goals (203) and points (372). That’s a two points per game pace. But after a disappointing 2018 season that saw Canterbury finish last, the Red Devils captain will be looking to start the 2019 season on a more positive note.

Eaden takes his strength and conditioning more seriously than most, establishing ‘The Eaden Project’ where he helps his clients achieve their own fitness goals with the motto ‘Making normal people abnormally fit.’ With extensive knowledge in this area, Eaden brings more to the table than just his scoring prowess – and superior fitness will be important to edging out the competition if games go into overtime.

If you don’t believe me just check out @eadenproject on Instagram.

2018: 14 games, 8 goals, 12 assists, -18, 33 PIMs, 14.55 S%

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Photo: James Allan

DEFENCE

Stefan Amston (Stampede)
Originally from Sweden, the home of offensively gifted defencemen, I would consider Amston the biggest offensive weapon the Ice Blacks currently have on the blue line.

Last year’s tournament in Spain was Amston’s debut as a New Zealand citizen/representative, racking up 5 assists across his first 5 games. More points on the board this time around could result in seeing gold around his neck come April 27 – that just happens to be the day after my birthday, and all I want this year is to see this team finally achieve what they are capable of doing.

2018: 18 games, 6 goals, 7 assists, +21, 8 PIMs, 50.00 S%

Callum Burns (Stampede)
The youngest member of this year’s squad knows how to fly! Once a winger, Burns has quickly grown into his new defensive role for the Stampede and the Ice Blacks as well. But that doesn’t stop him from displaying his explosive speed – he’s a talented puck-carrying defender that loves to create scoring chances off the rush and it’s a pleasure to watch it happen from the stands.

A pairing of Amston and Burns could be lethal for the Ice Blacks’ special teams.

2018: 15 games, 2 goals, 10 assists, +9, 12 PIMs, 50.00 S%

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Photo: James Allan

Nick Craig (Admirals)
After suffering an injury early last season that saw the Ice Blacks captain sitting on the bench and chomping at the bit for the Winter Games plus the Admirals’ Birgel Cup run, Nick Craig is back and ready to lead the Ice Blacks to a first-place finish – he won’t be satisfied with another silver medal.

He will feel at home with so many of his Admirals teammates joining him for this journey. I know I’m not the only one who can’t wait to see what results a hungry Craig is capable of producing.

2018: 5 games, +5, 2 PIMs

Blake Jackson (Admirals)
Considering Jackson only registered 3 shots on goal for the entire 2018 NZIHL season, one of which went in, his focus is more on keeping the opposition at bay and clearing any rebound opportunities away from his netminder. But perhaps he should shoot more? There must be some lucky powers behind that moustache.

The Admirals defender was part of the 2012 Ice Blacks team that last played at the Division 2A level…I think you know where I’m going with this. Division 2B silver medals just don’t cut it anymore.

2018: 18 games, 1 goal, 2 assists, +3, 31 PIMs, 33.33 S%

Andrew Hay (Swarm)
As one of three Hay brothers to represent New Zealand in the past 12 months, Andrew knows what it means to wear the black jersey with pride, and he does so by providing a solid stay-at-home presence on the blue line.

As with Blake Jackson, Andrew was on the last Ice Blacks team to compete in the IIHF division above where they are currently placed. No doubt he would like to help guide New Zealand back there before he ever considers the notion of hanging up the skates – which is crazy. Surely it must be NZ law by now that at least one member of the Hay family is an Ice Black at all times.

2018: 15 games, 1 goal, -3, 29 PIMs, 12.50 SG%

Jaxson Lane (Red Devils)
While the Canterbury Red Devils were well represented in this year’s New Zealand Under-20s team, Lane is one of only two in the Ice Blacks – the other being stalwart Chris Eaden. This will be his first IIHF experience at the senior level, but the defender has previously worn the black jersey for the Under-18s and Under-20s back in 2011-12.

With Lane’s Red Devils coach Khorozov also running the bench at Mexico City and the experience of fellow d-men Craig, Jackson and Hay behind him, there is plenty of support, making this tournament a great opportunity for Lane to establish himself.

2018: 16 games, 2 goals, 6 assists, -20, 16 PIMS, 15.38 SG%

Stephen Mawson (Swarm)
Mawson’s inclusion to the squad is a testament to how hard he works to be successful. Having only picked up ice hockey a few years ago, he was more accustomed to the hard floors of inline hockey, but has since quickly become a key member of the Botany Swarm’s defensive core in just three seasons.

Playing forward during the latest summer edition of the Backyard Hockey League in Auckland, Mawson finished third in league scoring behind Botany Swarm/Iceholes teammate Ritchie Hopkinson and Kyle Kaliniak with 28 points in 15 games.

The Ice Blacks rookie has seen plenty of ice time and on a good team he can definitely produce. Bring the flow, bring the noise.

2018: 14 games, 2 goals, 3 assists, -11, 20 PIMs, 16.67 SG%

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Photo: Mike Froger

GOALIES

Rick Parry (Admirals)
As far as hockey careers go for New Zealand-born goalies, Parry is the gold standard to follow for the country’s younger goaltenders that are starting to come through the ranks. To help facilitate their growth he recently created the ‘Rick Parry Goalie Academy’ with his first camp coming up next month.

Sharing starts with Csaba Kercso-Magos, the veteran of 129 NZIHL games finished third amongst the league-leading goalies for 2018.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Parry both as a person and a hockey player, his interview on the Puck Yeah podcast remains one of my favourites to date. I have full confidence that this Admirals goalie tandem can also deliver the goods just as they did in the NZIHL last year.

2018: 6-2 record, .913 SV%, 3.25 GAA

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Photo: Jay French

Csaba Kercso-Magos (Admirals)
After a highly successful year that saw the Hungarian-born goalie put up his best numbers since making his NZIHL debut in 2011, now’s the time for Kercso-Magos to make a run at the starting job for the Ice Blacks.

Last season proved that he is capable of stepping up for those big game moments as seen with three strong starts for the Admirals during the NZIHL playoffs – allowing 2.33 goals per game in a fierce battle with the Dunedin Thunder and the Skycity Stampede for top honours. Considering the high goal totals often seen in the league, those numbers were more than enough to keep his team in contention.

I’ve been impressed with Kercso-Magos’ ability to calm down and simply focus on making the next save. At 25 he’s hitting his prime and will provide a few good years in the crease for the Ice Blacks, especially with the Stampede’s Daniel Lee also pushing for starts when he’s available.

2018: 9-1 record, .931 SV%, 2.77 GAA

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Auckland on top after NZWIHL’s opening weekend

In the same weekend that Kendall Coyne Schofield became the first woman to compete at the NHL’s All-Star skills competition, the New Zealand Women’s Ice Hockey League had its opening round of games for the 2019 season. And much like Schofield, it all began with a flying start.

The two-time defending champion Auckland Steel found out firsthand how serious the Southern Storm are about taking the title south of the Bombays for the first time since the 2015-16 season.

Southern scored the first goal of the new NZWIHL season courtesy of an unassisted powerplay goal by Beth Scott during the opening period, with Auckland equalizing via Reagyn Shattock three minutes into the second.

Both sides played clean competitive hockey throughout with just the single penalty called in the middle stanza. Kelly Cooper breaking the deadlock with a go-ahead goal assisted by Kirstin Gerken going into the second intermission.

The score remained 2-1 in Southern’s favour until Anjali Mulari did what she does best with less than three minutes remaining on the clock – tying the game and forcing overtime.

With Auckland’s Lochlyn Hyde and Southern’s Jordan Wichman standing tall in net, the Friday night showdown would be decided with a penalty shootout. Coco Lund’s clincher giving Southern the 3-2 win and setting the tone early for the season.

The Storm backed up that impressive win with another the following morning, beating the Canterbury Devilettes 6-1. Their defence was largely untested with Canterbury only registering 11 shots on goal compared to Southern’s 55 – Kellye Nelson was the standout player of the game, firing at a 100% rate to score a hat-trick off three shots.

Canterbury stayed within the line of fire for Saturday’s second game as Auckland looked to bounce back from their overtime defeat. Hyde and Tabitha Crump sharing the minutes in-goal to shutout the Devilettes, while the Steel’s offence ran rampant.

Mulari top scored with five points (3 goals & 2 assists) with Jasmine Horner-Pascoe also notching a trio of goals. Auckland captain Helen Murray was the game’s other scorer in a 7-0 rout.

Come Sunday, the Storm opted to knockout their South Island rivals with a convincing 4-0 victory. Wichman registering a 12-save shutout to continue her impressive opening weekend in net, while at the other end, New Zealand Under-18 representative Lilly Forbes faced a barrage of pucks – stopping 67 of 71 shots on goal.

Nelson once again leading the way during those crucial special team minutes with one goal on the powerplay, the other on the penalty kill.

In Sunday night’s rematch of the opening game, Auckland showed the Southern Storm that they are still this league’s team to beat.

After allowing Kellye Nelson to score her second shorthanded goal of the weekend 42 seconds in, the Steel were in control for the remainder of the game. Jamieson Jones tallied two, while Mulari, Rachael Neville-Lamb, Jemma Read and Laura Thresher also contributed towards the 6-1 scoreline.

Monday morning’s clash to round out the long weekend saw Auckland and Canterbury battle it out, the Devilettes looking to pick themselves back up from their previous defeat.

Mulari opened the goal account a minute into the contest before Canterbury’s Emma Kloss scored twice to give the Devilettes a 2-1 lead heading into the first break.

The score would remain that way until halfway through the third period when Auckland’s Neville-Lamb and Horner-Pascoe lit the lamp in quick succession. The Devilettes unable to recover from that moment on – they head home having lost all four games of the short season and wondering what they can do to beat Auckland or Southern.

So, after a jam-packed weekend that featured six great games of New Zealand’s top-tier women’s hockey, this is how the standings are shaping up:

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The NZWIHL continues February 2-3 with the Auckland Steel traveling down to Dunedin Ice Stadium to face the Southern Storm. Puck drop is 5pm and 9:30am this Saturday and Sunday respectively.

The NZWIHL returns for 2019

While the NZIHL doesn’t return for another season until mid-May, there is another way to get your fix of competitive national league hockey and it might be one that many Kiwi hockey fans aren’t quite familiar with yet.

The New Zealand Women’s Ice Hockey League start their 2019 season tomorrow with an exciting round of games taking place all weekend long at Auckland’s Paradice rink in Botany Downs.

The NZWIHL runs until the beginning of March with 18 games on the schedule featuring the Auckland Steel, Canterbury Devilettes, and the Southern Storm.

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First up, the Southern Storm will take on the defending champion Auckland Steel, who will once again be the team to beat with a lineup headlined by a vast selection of current Ice Fernz, including: NZ captain Helen Murray, Anjali Mulari, Rachael Neville-Lamb, Jemma Read, Jasmine Horner-Pascoe, Terryn Bruce, Jaimeson Jones, Ashley Richmond, Reagyn Shattock and goaltender Lochlyn Hyde.

That’s not to say the other two sides won’t also be dressing their fair share of players to watch out for.

Canterbury will feature a few notable NZ representatives with Krystie Woodyear-Smith, Lilly Forbes and Emma Kloss on the roster. Meanwhile the Storm boast seven Ice Fernz named in the traveling squad for April’s IIHF World Championships in Romania: goalie Danielle Strayer, Kelly Cooper, Gina Davis, Hope Gregory, Abbey Heale, Rina Watt and Kirstin Gerken.

Southern netminder Jordan Wichman is excited about the prospect of facing off against some of the country’s best. “I find it to be a privilege to be able to play with and against some amazing senior players, and I was lucky enough to have grown up playing with some of them back during my competitive inline days,” said Wichman.

“For me, the preparation for playing these girls is completely mental. As a goalie, it’s super easy to get psyched out in moments of pressure, as it feels like your whole team is relying on you. My pre-game routine of having good banter with my teammates helps me build my confidence for the game ahead, and sets me in the right mindset to take on anyone.”

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After two seasons with Auckland, Jordan Wichman will play for the Southern Storm in 2019.

Following on from the extended Auckland round, Southern will host the Steel at the recently renovated Dunedin Ice Stadium.

Similar to IIHF tournaments that have a smaller pool of teams, the champion will be decided by who has the most points in the league’s standings at the conclusion of play. Following the same points structure as the NZIHL, three points are allocated to a regulation win, two for an overtime victory, and a single point for an OT loss.

The NZWIHL began in 2014 to provide more competitive game time to further develop New Zealand women’s ice hockey and strengthen both the senior and age-grade national teams ahead of their respective IIHF tournaments. Along with the Ice Fernz, the majority of the New Zealand Under-18 women’s team lace up for the three regional clubs.

In the league’s four-season history, Auckland have won each year bar the 2015-16 season when Canterbury claimed top honours.

Auckland have only suffered one defeat in the previous two years, but with the Canterbury and Southern teams making some significant roster changes in a bid to challenge the Steel’s reign, don’t expect a repeat of last season’s one-sided results.

After finishing in third place the previous three seasons, Wichman believes the Storm have what it takes to change their fortunes. “I have full confidence in my team – they are a fantastic bunch of ladies and we have all been working really hard this past year to improve our game. We plan on giving our games everything that we have.”

Puck Yeah will be following the NZWIHL and provide coverage of games where possible – keep an eye out for further updates on our website, Facebook and Instagram.

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Full NZWIHL 2019 Schedule:

Jan 25: Auckland v Southern (4:45pm) at Paradice Botany Downs

Jan 26: Canterbury v Southern (9:45am) & Auckland v Canterbury (5:45pm) at Paradice Botany Downs

Jan 27: Canterbury v Southern (9:45am) & Auckland v Southern (5:45pm) at Paradice Botany Downs

Jan 28: Auckland v Canterbury (9:15am) at Paradice Botany Downs

Feb 2: Southern v Auckland (5pm) at Dunedin Ice Stadium

Feb 3: Southern v Auckland (9:30am) at Dunedin Ice Stadium

Feb 9: Canterbury v Auckland (4:30pm) at Alpine Ice, Christchurch

Feb 10: Canterbury v Auckland (4:30pm) at Alpine Ice, Christchurch

Feb 16: Southern v Canterbury (5pm) at Dunedin Ice Stadium

Feb 17: Southern v Canterbury (9:30am) at Dunedin Ice Stadium

Feb 23: Auckland v Southern (7am) & Southern v Canterbury (4:30pm) at Alpine Ice, Christchurch

Feb 24: Canterbury v Auckland (4:30pm) at Alpine Ice, Christchurch

Mar 2: Auckland v Southern (8am) & Canterbury v Auckland (5pm) at Dunedin Ice Stadium

Mar 3: Southern v Canterbury (9:30am) at Dunedin Ice Stadium

IIHF Worlds: New Zealand U20s comeback over South Africa falls short

The New Zealand Under-20s have saved their best performance for last at the 2019 IIHF World Championships, but it was South Africa that proved to be victors of a closely contested battle to decide the tournament’s bottom two placings.

With one last game to salvage a result, the challenge was set from the get-go as the Junior Ice Blacks performed the ‘Ka Mate’ haka to their opponents. A sight more commonly seen during an international rugby test between the two nations.

This time it was the South Africans that were caught off guard early – Haydn Boul opened the scoring two minutes in after a defensive blunder gave the Christchurch forward a clear path towards goal, popping the puck over the shoulder of South Africa starting goalie Ryan Boyd.

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South Africa answered back 37 seconds with Dion Phakathi scoring the equalizer. From that point on they took control of the first period. Delano Schuurman tallied two goals, one coming on the powerplay after Tazmin Hall was called for tripping, and New Zealand found themselves heading into the first intermission down 3-1.

All four of NZ’s penalty minutes came in the opening period. Whatever was said by head coach Justin Daigle during the break must have worked as they tightened up their play and produced their best twenty minutes of hockey for the tournament in the second.

Luke Hill led his team by example to start the comeback, cutting through South Africa’s defence and shooting the puck past Boyd on a seemingly impossible angle.

The game-tying goal wasn’t pretty but it showed a glimpse of the strength around the puck this New Zealand side is capable of. Charlie Lilly was taken down by South Africa’s scrambling backcheck, only to recover quickly and make the puck available for Boul to score his second of the game.

Evan Froger had arguably his best game in the black jersey yet – the 6-foot-1 netminder stood tall to make 33 saves and keep New Zealand within the game.

With a deadlock in place, South Africa took charge with ten minutes left in the decider – Luca Meyer carrying the puck behind the net and finding Brandon Delport open during a NZ line change for the go-ahead goal. Meyer then scored an insurance marker five minutes later to put the game out of reach for the Junior Ice Blacks.

South Africa claim seventh place with the 5-3 win.

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The eighth-placed finish sees New Zealand finish last in back-to-back Under-20 tournaments, however at this stage there appears to be no risk of relegation with the Division III qualification group merging with Division III this year. Regardless, it is a tough result to swallow for the New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation.

Meanwhile in this morning’s gold medal match, China have taken top honours after defeating Australia 5-1. The win sees them promoted back to the IIHF’s Division II – Group B for 2020.

Watch the video highlights above for our recap of the action – subscribe to the Puck Yeah NZ YouTube channel for more NZ hockey videos.

Photos supplied by Ice Hockey Iceland