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:

[table id=4 /]

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.

NZWIHL002

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.”

FB_IMG_1542849372923

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.

NZWIHL003

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

Our Time Is Now: 2019 New Zealand Ice Hockey Preview

2019 is potentially a breakout year (in terms of performance) for ice hockey in this country.

The New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation (NZIHF) sees their national teams competing at a higher level than they currently do internationally.

Recent results would suggest that they’re not far removed from the truth either – the Ice Blacks took a convincing 2-1 test series win over Australia this past September .

However, this year’s IIHF tournaments will be their proving grounds.

New Zealand Under-20s

As is tradition, the Under-20s will be the first national side to show the world what New Zealand ice hockey is all about in 2019. But this year they also get to do so in style, debuting a refreshed look for the national jersey as revealed by Puck Yeah yesterday.

Competing at the Division III U20 World Championship in Iceland, the junior side is set to face China, Bulgaria and South Africa in pool play. Their opening game of the tournament takes place January 15 at 2:30am (NZST) versus China.

If they advance passed that stage and through to the semifinals, they could be up against Australia, Turkey, Chinese Taipei or hosts Iceland for a shot at a medal placing.

Coached by Justin Daigle, they will be looking to prove that 2018 was an off-year for the Junior Ice Blacks after a disappointing last placed finish in Bulgaria.

Helmed by newly appointed captain Luke Hill and his alternates Ethan du Plooy and Ryan Fraser, they will be leading the way for New Zealand’s charge towards a higher level of competition.

Depending on the quality of the available live stream, Puck Yeah will provide game highlights via our YouTube channel – subscribe today so you don’t miss out.

NZ-Australia001

Ice Fernz

The national women’s team finished in fourth place at the IIHF Women’s World Championship in Spain last year with the hosts claiming the gold medal honours.

In recent months there has been a change in coaching staff with Andrea Kaisser stepping down and replaced by Rachel Park. It is too early to tell what that change could bring, but when speaking with the new coach about her recent appointment, she was excited about what the future holds for the Fernz.

“I think these girls are talented athletes and have strong leadership within their squad. I’m really hoping for a favourable outcome at Worlds and can’t wait to get started,” Park said.

2019 sees our top female players heading to Brasov, Romania to face-off against Chinese Taipei, Iceland, Turkey, Romania and Croatia for the 2019 IIHF Division II – Group B World Championship.

Currently ranked 32nd in the world by the IIHF, New Zealand’s highest-ranked opponent will be Turkey (27th). The last time the two nations met, the Ice Fernz put on a goal-scoring clinic to win 11-4. Alternate captain Anjali Mulari led the way with 2 goals and 4 assists, while Caitlin Heale contributed a further 2 goals and 3 assists.

Their opening game of the tournament takes place April 1 at 11pm (NZST) against last year’s silver medallists, Chinese Taipei.

28953712_2109967599020496_6877921482115792214_o

Ice Blacks

This is a ‘do or die’ year under the guidance of head coach Anatoly Khorozov. In previous interviews with Puck Yeah, Khorozov mentioned that his plan was to achieve promotion to the next tier of IIHF competition within two years.

After going home from last year’s IIHF Worlds in Spain with the silver medal, losing out to the hosts in a thrilling 6-4 closing game, we’re well into year two of that plan.

The recent test series win over the Australia Mighty Roos during last September’s Winter Games could serve as a catalyst, with several new players coming in and having an immediate effect on the roster, including the Skycity Stampede’s Ryan Strayer and the Dunedin Thunder’s Benjamin Gavoille.

Both were named in a 35-strong wider training squad for 2019 shortly after their debut, with the 22-man traveling side expected to be announced early-mid February.

The trouble with these international tournaments is that it can be difficult for New Zealand national teams to field a full-strength squad considering it’s a self-funded trip. Some unfortunately have to pull out due to the travel costs associated with representing your country in a minority sport, further testing the depths of the talent pool.

However, the NZIHF has been going to great lengths under the guidance of Treasurer Paul de Vere to be fiscally responsible – decreasing the high-cost barrier that has previously posed a threat, making it more affordable for players across senior and age-group levels.

Glancing at the wider training squad suggests that the 2019 Ice Blacks will be able to handle any such setbacks with equally skilled players waiting in the wings – any of the current 35 will be considered unlucky to miss out.

After a brief training camp in the Colorado Rockies, the Ice Blacks will travel to Mexico City looking to earn their way out of the IIHF’s Division II – Group B. Standing in their way of accomplishing that mission will be hosts Mexico, Israel, Georgia, DPR Korea and Iceland.

30724043_1422080561271166_628526596428398592_o

Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia

New Zealand’s Under-18 women’s team is back for another shot at the IIHF’s Challenge Cup of Asia. The annual tournament that highlights the governing body’s upcoming Asian nations will be held in Abu Dhabi, April 14th-19th.

Chinese Taipei’s U18 side were dominant in 2018, coming away with the gold medal while New Zealand settled for silver. The two nations will meet again this year, with Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore also looking to take down the defending champions.

29178060_1510469465730893_7577772342642737152_o

New Zealand Under-18s

The men’s equivalent had a great 2018 winning the only IIHF tournament hosted in New Zealand last year, finishing undefeated against Hong Kong and South Africa to gain promotion to Division 3 – Group A.

But it’s a new year and now their sights are set on taking their game to Sofia where they will play Israel, Turkey, Mexico, Iceland and hosts Bulgaria starting March 26 (NZ time).

Their biggest challenge will likely be Mexico whom missed out on taking gold last year by one point to Belgium.

Back in November, the NZIHF announced a squad that sees Canterbury’s exciting goalie prospect Finley Forbes returning to the crease, along with a few other NZIHL stars of the future including Noah Gregory and Jackson Flight, plus Alexander and Christian Regan.

Along with representing NZ at the U20 level, Ryan Martinoli was also selected for the Under-18s.

Inline Ferns

They don’t play on ice but considering a good portion of this side have also suited up for the Ice Fernz or the Under-18 women’s team in the past, the Inline Ferns are well worth keeping an eye on.

This year the Ferns will travel to Barcelona, Spain for the 2019 World Roller Games where they will look to improve upon a promising, yet ultimately disappointing 2018 campaign in Asiago, Italy.

Had their puck luck gone a different way in their shootout lose to inline powerhouse USA during the quarterfinal stage, New Zealand had the potential to finish much higher in the competition than their seventh-placed finish would suggest.

Initial trials for the senior and junior national sides were held in Hamilton last month, with further trials continuing this weekend. Expect those squads to be announced shortly after.

37420329_1762276473808887_7202867421923770368_o

Main photo: James Allan

NZIHF unveils refreshed jersey design for 2019

2019 sees a new era for New Zealand ice hockey – the country’s national representatives will be wearing a redesigned jersey that features a few subtle changes to the beloved sweater.

As you will see from the video above, a new shoulder yoke design has been introduced to the white ‘home’ kit – similar in shape to what the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks brought in for their third jersey this season.

A touch of silver has been added to the sleeves as well, matching the traditional fern that currently dons the crest, while the trio of stripes also match with the player’s socks.

Numbering on the sleeve remains in a similar position to previous years, but the simple black look of the numbering has been replaced by white with a silver outline to make it pop from the black shoulders.

NZIHF-2019-JERSEY002

Inside the collar features the words ‘Ake Ake Kia Kaha’ – in English it translates to ‘Forever and ever, be strong.’

The phrase is part of a marching song made famous during World War Two by the highly regarded 28th Maori Battalion, along with being the haka performed by the New Zealand ‘Natives’ rugby team that toured across Australia, Egypt and the British Isles back in 1888.

It seems rather fitting then that the country’s ice hockey teams would choose to adopt ‘Ake Ake Kia Kaha’ as their motto.

Ice Blacks veteran Andrew Hay was able to provide Puck Yeah a sneak peek of the home jersey prototype, noting that he’s a big fan of the new look, despite having what he calls ‘a complete lack of modelling pedigree.’

“Overall, (it’s) a much more modern and sleek design, and what would have to be considered the most radical and exciting design change to the New Zealand Ice Hockey jersey – period,” Hay said.

“The material is very light yet tough, and the jersey is a much better overall fit when compared to previous versions, particularly around the elbows and wrists. (Jordan) Challis will be stoked as he’ll no longer need to tape his cuffs to his elbow pads every game.”

IMG_6995

Left: The original 1987 New Zealand jersey. Right: The refreshed 2019 jersey. Photo: Joe Durie

The New Zealand emblem is now larger too, the change is stark when compared to the original 1987 jersey. But it feels like they got the size of the emblem right on this occasion – it stands out well while being portioned appropriately in relation with the overall design.

The Under-20 men’s team will be the first team set to wear the new uniform as they compete at the 2019 IIHF Division III World Championships later this month in Iceland.

Changes to the black ‘away’ jersey will also be revealed during that tournament.

At this stage, the New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation has stated that this design will stay for the next four years as part of the IIHF’s program to replace a federation’s jerseys free of charge. Beyond that period it is possible that a more drastic design change could happen, including refinements to the current crest.

If the NZIHF does a consider a stronger change in direction, then perhaps this design by Reddit user SenorPantsBulge from 2017 could be a hit.

Gn2TnNT

Last year NZIHF President Andy Mills was in Copenhagen signing off on the new design with jersey manufacturer Tackla.

“It’s more than a shirt, it’s every player’s dream to play for their country. It represents achievement and the dedication from all our hard-working ice hockey communities of coaches, administrators, volunteers and families to get our kids on the pathway to one day be wearing the fern with pride. It’s a true acknowledgement of the player’s success and the journey that they can hold dear to them forever,” Mills stated.

While New Zealand’s jersey design hasn’t changed much in the past decade, perhaps this striking new look will be the beginning of further aesthetic changes to the uniform in the not-too distant future.

What do you think of the new jersey? Let us know in the comment section below or on the Puck Yeah NZ Facebook page.

2287472565_f706d95548_o

The New Zealand Ice Blacks circa 2006. Andy Hay features back row, third inside.

Main photo: Logan Swinkels

Puck Yeah’s Golden Pucks of 2018

As 2018 winds down and Christmas is in the rear-view mirror, it allows us time to reflect on the year that’s been while stuffing our faces with leftovers and plenty of chocolate.

The NZIHL season is well and truly over for 2018 and with that comes award season. The league has already named their recipients, which you can find at the end of this article, but Puck Yeah would like to recognize the individual achievements of a few special players that we have enjoyed following this year, starting with…

Best Flow

This goes without saying really. Who has the best hair game in the league? Which player leaves us not only astounded by his skill on the ice but the locks of hair flowing from his helmet.

And the award goes to… Stephen Mawson (Botany Swarm)

DSC_1472

The hair is let loose on Spark Arena. Photo: Mike Froger

Some say Mawson is the inspiration for Connor McDavid’s new look.

Best Face Carpet

There isn’t many contenders in the NZIHL for this award. While many sport some form of beard growth that has become synonymous with hockey, only one has a lip sweater that could rival Ned Flanders for the best facial hair offering in 2018.

And the winner of such a prestigious award, is… Joel Rindelaub (Botany Swarm)

36678572_1687524978035196_6051758921796812800_o

Rindelaub played backup for Team USA during the Ice Hockey Classic tour stop in Queenstown. Photo: James Allan

The mask can’t contain that beast either as Rindelaub’s Ron Swanson-esque moustache has been seen on TV numerous times, either as an extra, a food TV host, or even a guest on The Crowd Goes Wild.

Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Excellence

While Puck Yeah follows the NZIHL and the New Zealand Ice Blacks extensively, we like to pay attention to how the wonder women of the Ice Fernz (and Inline Ferns) perform as well.

So in the spirit of introducing a bunch of new hockey awards this year, we asked Gal Gadot and she said it was cool if we borrowed her lasso to honour New Zealand’s best female hockey player of 2018.

Without further ado, Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Excellence goes to… Anjali Mulari!

37543106_1767063393330195_6096363570210013184_o

Not only does Mulari represent New Zealand at a senior level in both inline and ice hockey, but she finished second (behind fellow Ice Fern Caitlin Heale) in the scoring race at this year’s IIHF Women’s World Championship in Spain. Both scored 15 points in 5 games, with Mulari notching up 4 goals and 11 assists.

The ‘Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey’ Brick Wall

Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey was an iconic video game of the mid-90s that featured on the Nintendo 64.

GretzkyGoalie

If you don’t remember it or never had the pleasure of playing this gem, it was an arcade hockey game that knew how to turn it up to 11: if a skater was on fire, they could literally set the goal in flames with the puck when scoring. On the other hand, if a goalie stopped five shots in-a-row they would temporarily transform into a brick wall, blocking the entire goal.

While Admirals netminder Csaba Kercso-Magos lifted the Birgel Cup this year, we’re giving this prestigious honour (that we just made up) to… Daniel Lee (Skycity Stampede).

DSC_0297-2

Better luck next time, puck! Photo: Josh Fraser

3 shutouts in a 16-game regular season is an impressive feat – the Lee dynasty could be well and truly upon us come 2019!

The Silky Mitt

Major League Baseball has the Golden Glove for the best defensive player of each position, we have the Silky Mitt – the best goal that highlighted a player’s stick-handling abilities.

If you saw our ‘Top 10 Goals of 2018’ video then this is a no-brainer, the award goes to… Ross Venus (Canterbury Red Devils).

RossVenusGoalv2

The true mark of a great goal is how effortless the player makes it all seem, but there’s no way I’m pulling that off anytime soon!

The Weekend At Bernie’s

‘What the hell could that be?’ you ask… it’s our award for the single most dominant performance by an individual in any round this season.

In other words, this player was such a standout he left the opposition for dead on the ice – they partied hard, just like the movie.

And the winner is… Matt Schneider (Skycity Stampede).

37603515_1710671535720540_791905116553740288_o

Photo: James Allan

In round eight against the Red Devils, Schneider ended the weekend with 8 goals and 6 assists, leading the way with his side coming away with the full six competition points.

Those 14 points in two games definitely helped the captain pad his stats and secure the NZIHL’s scoring race from his linemate Mike McRae.

Well that’s our awards wrapped up for 2018, here’s the official awards list:

2018 NZIHL Awards

Birgel Cup Champions: West Auckland Admirals (runner-up: Skycity Stampede)
Finals MVP: Andy Hart, Admirals
League MVP: Paris Heyd, Thunder
Rookie of the Year: Max Hurring, Thunder
Top Scorer: Matt Schneider, Stampede (46 points in 18 games – 22 goals, 24 assists)
Best Goaltender: Daniel Lee, Stampede (13-5 record, .926 SV%, 2.65 GAA, 3 shutouts)
Best Defenceman: Brandon Egli, Thunder (27 points in 17 games – 10 goals, 17 assists)

West Auckland Admirals MVP: Frazer Ellis (25 points in 18 games – 11 goals, 14 assists)
Botany Swarm MVP: Remy Sandoy (7 points in 16 games – 3 goals, 4 assists)
Canterbury Red Devils MVP: Jaxson Lane (8 points in 16 games – 2 goals, 6 assists)
Skycity Stampede MVP: Mike McRae (46 points in 16 games – 19 goals, 27 assists)
Dunedin Thunder MVP: Brandon Egli (stats)

Main photo: Kate Harrison

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!

Dear, Inline Hockey…

I will admit that prior to this year’s World Championships, I had never seen a game of inline hockey before in my life – the closest I’d come was that scene in Mighty Ducks 2.

I don’t know why it has taken this long for me considering many of New Zealand’s best ice hockey players got their start playing inline as it’s more accessible to certain areas of the country than its frozen cousin. When interviewing those same players, they would preach to me how exciting the game can be, and yet…I never watched. Until now.

And I’m hooked!

While I love the speed and skill of the game on ice, inline hockey has its own special charm. For one, there’s no blue-line and therefore no offside, which always seems to be one of the harder rules in sport to explain to a newcomer. Without that blue-line I’ve noticed an added importance for creativity and less stoppages.

The game is also shorter. With only two halves of twenty minutes, it can be all over within an hour – in a world where everyone is time-poor, that’s an advantage for inline.

My interest in the sport was sparked by going down to the New Zealand Inline Ferns training camp (that’s our national women’s team) to shoot a story for The Crowd Goes Wild. It was a whole new world for me, and yet because of my ice background, it still felt so familiar. But when talking to captain Tara Tissink, plus her assistant captains Helen Murray and Anjali Mulari, one thing they really stressed to me was how key it is to have strong puck-handling skills.

Those very skills were put on display by the Inline Ferns at the tournament, as they pushed their attack forward with some smooth dangles, leaving a slew of defenders in their wake.

After years of watching ice hockey either having a dump-and-chase style of attack, or a series of breakout passes to create an opportunity off the rush, to see goals like Tissink’s individual effort against Canada lit up more than just the goaltender. I know goals like that happen in ice hockey too, but for me there was something refreshing about watching the play unfold the way it did.

The frozen game has a lot of structure to it, both in attack and the defensive systems, whereas from watching my first few games of inline hockey, it felt like there was a greater sense of freedom to try things out there on the rink.

While the Ferns finished seventh in the tournament by beating hosts Italy, the result doesn’t accurately reflect how well this team did.

That dramatic game-tying goal in the dying seconds of their game against Canada to draw 1-1 was a highlight, as too was their performance versus USA, the defending champions. That quarterfinal matchup went all the way to a shootout, and had the puck bounced a different way, New Zealand could have potentially progressed much further.

Such encouraging results would suggest that our women’s national teams are heading in the right direction with plenty of young talent coming through. Some members of the senior team were also involved with the junior team, including Hannah Jensen serving as coach – leading the under-18 side to a sixth place finish in the Junior Women’s portion of the World Champs.

37812537_1775751572461377_4096381412825890816_o

In a country where ice hockey is often passed over by the media, inline hockey has it worst. A quick search would suggest that Newshub hasn’t done a story since the days of 3News when the Papatoetoe Roller Hockey Club closed down back in 2013 – while searches for both inline and roller hockey came up nil on the 1News website.

By doing that story with CGW, plus the Inline Ferns highlight reels for Puck Yeah, I feel like I have only just scratched the surface of the sport. That is probably showcased by my very basic knowledge of how the game works, but I just want to say to those inline hockey players and teams out there battling it out in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, and wherever else in this awesome nation we call New Zealand, keep going!

In me you’ve won over at least one new fan this month and there is bound to be more.

All photos supplied by World Skate.

Inline Ferns are heading to the World Champs

Inline hockey isn’t something Puck Yeah has ever covered before, and according to the archives, neither has The Crowd Goes Wild. So with New Zealand’s national women’s inline hockey team all together in Hamilton for a 4-day training camp, the timing was perfect to pay a visit.

Along with former Kiwi Winter Olympian now CGW reporter Anna Willcox, we jumped into the D-Max and headed down State Highway 1 to interview captain Tara Tissink, plus her assistant captains Anjalia Mulari and Helen Murray, whom also leads the Ice Fernz in the frozen version of the game.

The story aired last night with plenty of good adlib by presenters Wairangi Koopu and James McOnie afterwards about the sport and what they imagined could be the selection process for the Ferns. Catch the full video below.

The Inline Ferns begin their campaign this Saturday (9pm NZST) against Canada. Also included in their pool is Australia and Spain, whom finished second last year.

There is some tough competition in Asiago with last year’s victors USA looking to take it out again, but New Zealand are also wanting to improve upon their sixth-place finish with a spot on the podium and a medal around their necks.

All games will be live streamed via World Skate TV.

CGW_180711_INLINE_FERNS_AW.00_01_15_00.Still003

Inline Ferns round-robin schedule:

July 14: New Zealand v Canada at 9pm NZST
July 16: New Zealand v Spain at 12am NZST
July 16: New Zealand v Australia at 10pm NZST

PUCK YEAH 39: Ice Fernz captain Helen Murray

As a hockey player that we greatly admire, Helen Murray is someone we’ve been wanting to have as a guest on the podcast since we began.

Along with being the New Zealand Ice Fernz captain, Helen also plays for the national women’s inline hockey team. Away from the sport, she recently earned her PhD and now works as a scientist at Auckland University’s Centre for Brain Research.

Helen joins us to talk about how she juggles her busy life between those studies and her hockey career, the Ice Fernz’s recent travels, the influence of inline hockey, and so much more!

Puck Yeah wants to support women’s hockey as much as we can, so having a highly motivated figure like Helen on our podcast to hopefully inspire NZ’s next-generation of players makes this a special episode.

28959304_10211949692404388_1783677889141538816_n

Helen taking in her first NHL game during the Ice Fernz’s recent training camp in Toronto.

Puck Yeah is a weekly hockey podcast produced in Auckland, New Zealand. Subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud, or with your favourite podcast app to get every episode free.

Ice Fernz double as NZ ambassadors during training camp in Toronto

For the past twelve days the New Zealand Ice Fernz have been participating in an intensive training camp within what many consider to be the centre of the hockey universe, Toronto.

During that time, the Ice Fernz focused on coming together as a team with practices at York University. There they worked on their systems before challenging themselves against tough local competition in preparation for the upcoming IIHF Division II Group B Women’s World Championship in Spain.

Their desire to test themselves saw the Ice Fernz competing in the 39th annual Leaside Wildcats March Break Madness tournament, one of the city’s largest competitions for women’s hockey. Entered into the Senior A division, New Zealand did not win a game but captain Helen Murray believes the experience was influential on the team. “It’s been incredibly valuable to play against high level women’s teams in the lead up to Spain…we just don’t have access to this level of women’s hockey in New Zealand so that’s been important for our development as a team,” said Murray.

Aside from the six games of hockey played during training camp, the Ice Fernz were also de facto ambassadors of New Zealand and it’s hockey program. Taking in games from the CWHL, the Ontario Hockey League, the AHL and NHL – plus a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame – it’s the kind of trip that many hockey mad Kiwis would be envious of.

Their first stop was Markham, Ontario where the Fernz took in the spectacle of the traveling hockey festival known as Hometown Hockey, a show hosted by legendary broadcaster Ron MacLean that airs on Sportsnet.

The city, 45-minutes north of downtown Toronto, is known for producing NHL talent such as Steven Stamkos, Jeff Skinner and Mitch Marner, but it’s also home to the CWHL’s Markham Thunder.

Two of their players, Laura Fortino and Laura Stacey represented Canada at the recent PyeongChang Winter Olympics where they lost in the gold medal game to Team USA. With those silver medals in hand, Helen and the rest of the Ice Fernz had the opportunity to meet with the Olympians while taking in the CWHL game between the Thunder and the Calgary Inferno.

28576202_10211898657488547_2260998915375178788_n

Ice Fernz Helen Murray (centre left) and Hannah Shields with Canadian Olympians Laura Fortino and Laura Stacey.

The Canadian Women’s Hockey League is a competitive league that is going from strength to strength, featuring teams from Montreal, Toronto, Markham, Calgary, and Boston, plus two from China.

For the first time this season, the CWHL began paying its players – providing a potential pathway for young women who are lacing up their skates and wanting to pursue a playing career in hockey like their male counterparts. When asked if she thought it were possible for Kiwi girls to make it in the CWHL, Murray stated “I don’t think we could currently compete with the speed at that level, but it’s something to aspire to.”

The Ice Fernz’s ambassador duties didn’t end there that night. Standing beside alternate captain Anjali Mulari, Murray appeared on the CWHL’s broadcast of the Thunder/Inferno game where they talked about the state of New Zealand’s game and their inline hockey origins during a second intermission interview.

 

That wasn’t the only media attention they received during their stay. They were also interviewed by The Globe And Mail’s Rachel Brady where they described Toronto as ‘hockey heaven.’

While speaking to Puck Yeah before the Ice Fernz departed for Spain, Murray added “It’s awesome that the media over here are so interested in our program. Everyone we’ve talked to loves New Zealand and is excited that we are developing the women’s game.”

Along with the CWHL game, the Ice Fernz captain says a personal highlight of her time in Canada would have to be witnessing her first NHL game.

That game was last Saturday’s controversial clash between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. The controversy came from Brian Dumoulin’s disallowed goal where he was given a penalty for goaltender interference instead of being rewarded with what would have been a career highlight goal that cut the Leafs’ lead down to two. Toronto scored on the ensuing 4-on-3 powerplay before winning 5-2, their first after a four game losing skid.

Drama aside, the real takeaway from that night was the fact that in front of a sold-out crowd at the Air Canada Centre, the Toronto Maple Leafs gave a special shout out to the Ice Fernz during a break in play. Now 18,000 more people know that New Zealand plays hockey and we have a national women’s team to be proud of, just as the Canadians do.

29067109_1655309454564661_3107480779358208000_n

A true testament to how important the Ice Fernz hockey program is to these girls is seeing players who have previously worn the black jersey visit the team to reconnect and show their support. Two such players who did so during their camp in Toronto were goaltender Grace Harrison, whom recently wrapped up her third season with the St. Lawrence University Saints, and Renata Gottgtroy, whom lives and trains in nearby York, ON.

Another former Ice Fern that has come back to the program is Kiri Langford. She currently works in Scarborough, ON as a strength and conditioning coach for the Canadian Sport Institute Ontario and is applying her expertise to the Fernz’s 2018 campaign as an assistant coach. Murray spoke highly of Langford’s involvement with the team, “She inspires her teammates to challenge themselves and improve as an all-round athlete, and that has always had an impact on me.”

After a robust training camp and awareness campaign for New Zealand hockey, the Ice Fernz have now landed in Valdemoro, Spain where they will begin their World Championship campaign this Sunday (NZ time).

Taking home the bronze medal last year, the team are now ranked second but they have their sights firmly set on gold. Standing in their way will be top ranked hosts Spain, third seed Iceland, plus Romania, Chinese Taipei and Turkey.

The captain believes the team’s biggest asset is their passion and that their determination on the ice has made all the difference in the past when playing tight games against highly-skilled opposition.

However, that doesn’t mean the Ice Fernz will be taking this tournament lightly. “We know Spain and Iceland will be tough opponents. We had an overtime loss to Spain and a gutsy 4-3 win over Iceland last year so we have a lot to prove against both of those teams,” Murray said before adding “We had convincing wins over Turkey and Romania but they are both hard-working teams that we never underestimate, and Chinese Taipei dominated the qualification division last year so we are expecting them to be formidable as well.”

Murray believes what motivates her to lead the Fernz are those very same teammates, both past and present, who have to pay their own way (around $5,000 NZ dollars) to play for their country. “Everyone that plays for the Fernz is juggling full-time work or study…It’s pure passion for the game and for New Zealand that gets us here and that always inspires me,” said the captain. But one player who influenced Murray in particular is her predecessor Sheree Haslemore. “She was a fantastic captain during my first years with the team. Her work ethic and composure are qualities I try to emulate.”

With five other teams in the week-long tournament, the schedule is compact. The penultimate game of the World Championship will be a battle of the top two seeds, as the Ice Fernz take on Spain. With the results being decided on points, that matchup could very well determine the exact medal placings for the teams.

Schedule for the 2018 IIHF Division II Group B Women’s World Championship:
March 18 @ 1:00am – NZ vs Romania
March 19 @ 4:30am – NZ vs Iceland
March 21 @ 4:30am – NZ vs Chinese Taipei
March 22 @ 1:00am – NZ vs Turkey
March 24 @ 4:30am – NZ vs Spain

All times are in NZDT. All games will be live streamed on YouTube and Puck Yeah will be posting highlight packages of each Ice Fernz game to Facebook.

New Zealand’s Under-18s look to defend their Challenge Cup title

This morning New Zealand’s Under-18 women’s hockey team will be boarding a plane to Kuala Lumpur to compete at the 2018 IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia. For some, like rookie Jessie Parker, this will be their first overseas tournament.

The Auckland-based defender was initially named as a reserve when the squad was announced in September last year, and at the time, Parker said she was “screaming for a solid five minutes.” That elation went further after finding out a week later that she would now be making the journey to Malaysia alongside her teammates when another had to unfortunately drop out. “It was out of this world, I’ve never felt happier in my life, it was amazing,” Parker exclaimed upon hearing the good news.

img_3483

The 2018 New Zealand U18s at Auckland Airport with their hardware.

Over the past week, the Under-18s have been together completing a rigorous training camp in Auckland under the guidance of head coach Angelique Mawson. There the team focussed on improving breakouts from their own zone and regrouping to attack.

From following the recent women’s tournament at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, Parker found herself more inspired to compete in Kuala Lumpur as she watched the likes of Team Canada and Team USA putting into practice those very same drills. “To be able to see the drills that we’re doing applied at such a high level is really cool…they were playing really well, the speed and accuracy, it was really easy to see when they applied their drills to the game,” said Parker.

During training camp, the New Zealanders were also put through their paces with fitness testing on a hot, humid Auckland day – that’s only a sample of the intense heat that will likely greet the team in Malaysia. With temperatures in Kuala Lumpur set to reach over 30 degrees celsius this week it’s just as well ice hockey is played inside a freezing barn, rather than being exposed to the elements like their field hockey counterparts would be.

As far as team strengths go, Parker believes it’s their ability to defend well and keep the puck in the offensive zone. Other teams will find it hard to score if New Zealand manage to control the play so effectively, as was the case at the 2017 Challenge Cup where the team scored 57 goals while only allowing nine in return.

Last night the team named Laney Keenan as captain, with Jana Kivell and Rina Watt serving as alternates.

mXzzhR1buH20rsCyPJhQdlP0WLR2f6qXzlHzymVaVoYjJmNbdwFYvI0O4Zsq5nKD0Y4xcDsHWY1kPd0LSgYJAEj66KlXAE6x9doYRDlcD0AAfD3tQGISyqLqKojGXbOB

Last year for the first time in the ten-year history of the Challenge Cup of Asia tournament, New Zealand sent a team over where they would go undefeated with a 6-0 record, including a 4-3 upset win over host nation Thailand, to claim the gold medal.

The Challenge Cup was created by the IIHF to give Asian countries that either play in the lowest division or are not part of the World Championship program the opportunity to complete and develop hockey in those regions.

In 2017 there were seven teams in a single division, but now with Chinese Taipei sending their own under-18 team this year, the tournament has been split into two divisions. New Zealand make up the top division with Singapore, Thailand, and Chinese Taipei. While the lower division comprises of India, the Philippines, Malaysia, and United Arab Emirates.

Once again, Thailand will likely be New Zealand’s biggest challenge at the tournament. But it may be a tougher ask this time around with the Kiwis playing back-to-back games – less than 24 hours before that penultimate matchup they will face Chinese Taipei.

Heather McAslan, Parker’s roommate during training camp, added “We played Thailand last year and the game was only won by one goal, so they’re pretty good…and we’re not really sure how the other (countries) play, so you’ve got to get there and figure out how they play before you can figure out how you play them.”

The fact that these girls are taking on the senior national sides of other countries is also not lost on them. “It’s quite nerve-racking,” McAslan concluded before Parker interjects with a low-key “We’ve got this.”

DIFPEkxW0AAjNHB

The recently opened Malaysia National Ice Skating Stadium inside the Empire City mall just outside Kuala Lumpur will play host for the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia.

With the tournament taking place in March, for these young athletes it occurs during the first term of the school year. To make up for the time lost in the classroom, schools supply the team with “massive” folders of homework so they don’t fall behind their classmates. On top of that, some of the girls have to complete internal exams much earlier than their peers, in McAslan’s case it’s four weeks, while others play catch up on assignments and sit exams when they get back.

Being her first international hockey tournament, Parker is looking forward to the learning experience that comes with that and is earnest about her own performance expectations. “As a rookie I’m probably not going to be doing that great, but I’m just going to be giving it absolutely everything I’ve got and I’m sure the rest of the girls are in that same mindset too,” Parker stated.

But her biggest highlight could be putting on that black jersey representing New Zealand. “It means everything in the world to me. I’ve been imagining just putting on this amazing jersey with my name on the back for months and months. I’m so excited, I’m so pumped to be representing my country in such an awesome sport.”

Combining that confidence in her team with a tireless dedication to the cause, it’s hard to argue with the rookie on New Zealand’s chances of returning home with another gold medal around their necks.

New Zealand’s schedule for the 2018 IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia:
March 8 @ 8:30pm – New Zealand v Singapore
March 11 @ Midnight – New Zealand v Chinese Taipei
March 11 @ 8:30pm – New Zealand v Thailand

All times are in NZDT.

Harrison leads St. Lawrence with shutout win over Harvard

Over the weekend New Zealand-born goalie Grace Harrison backstopped the 10th-ranked St. Lawrence Saints to a 3-0 victory over ECAC rivals Harvard. The win comes almost two years to the day when Harrison got her first start in net as a freshman – that too was a shutout win versus Harvard.

Between then and now, Harrison has earned 14 shutouts in her collegiate career, tied for the second most by a goalie in the St. Lawrence hockey program. The record is currently held by 2008 alumni Meghan Guckian with 17.

In her latest start Harrison turned away 28 shots, helping the Saints improve their record to 14-7-3 overall, including 10-3-1 in ECAC play.

Watch a quick recap of the game below, thanks to Harvard Athletics!

H/T: St. Lawrence University and Harvard University