Red Devils Championship look back with NZIHL Defenceman of the Year, Terry Watt

(Photo: Gudrun Gisela)
(Photo: Gudrun Gisela)

Another successful year has come to an end of the New Zealand Ice Hockey League. A hard fought battle was fought between the Canterbury Red Devil and Dunedin Thunder with Canterbury coming out with their second straight Birgel Cup.

Defenceman Terry Watt as an integral part of the squad, winning his second championship in 4 years. He was a member of my close to home Akwesasne Warriors who won the Federal Hockey League championship in 2011. After a year with Canterbury, Watt is headed off for another hockey adventure in Paris, France. Could another championship be in the midst? Only time will tell. Watt gives me a look back at one of the best games of his career.

March Hockey: How did the team prepare going into the final? How was the pressure as defending champs?

Coach Khorozov. (Photo: www.reddevils.co.nz)
Coach Khorozov. (Photo: http://www.reddevils.co.nz)

Terry Watt: You have to give our coaching staff full credit.  Anatoli Khorozov and Stacey Rout made sure our team was ready. We studied film on Dunedin and made all of our guys familiar with their tendencies, everything from systems right down to their power play and penalty kill. We knew the Thunders strength was their goalie so our game plan going into the finals were to drive the net hard and make it difficult for their goalie to see shots. I don’t really think our guys felt any pressure being defending champs, we used it as motivation going into the finals. Teams win championships, great teams find a way to win them back to back and that was our goal.

MH: Take me through the final minutes of the game. What was going through your mind?

TW:  Well considering the Thunder made a late push we were just trying to calm the younger guys down and get back to playing a simpler game. But as we reached the one minute mark I couldn’t think anything else but how proud I was of the guys on my team. We prepared hard for two weeks leading up to the finals, we had a game plan and we stuck to it. It really shows you how well coached and how deep our team was from our goalie out.

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MH: Takumi Ledbetter received MVP of the Grand Final. Who do you think in your mind could receive MVP for Dunedin?

TW: Without question Matt Canaday. Just like how our goalie Michael Colman was the backbone for our team, Canaday carried Dunedin for most of the game.

MH: Where do you want to take your hockey career now?

(Photo credit: Gisela Gudrun)
(Photo credit: Gisela Gudrun)

TW: I just want to keep competing and winning championships, I want to play at the highest level I can before hanging them up. Growing up I was never the biggest or most skilled guy on my teams, in fact I played AA hockey for most of my youth years. It wasn’t until my midget year I finally made my local AAA team (Ajax Pickering Raiders). For some reason it wasn’t until I got to college that I started to grow and get better each year. Personally I still have a lot to prove, and though I have been fortunate enough to play in some competitive leagues I won’t be completely satisfied until I reach all my goals.

MH: You’ve won two league championships in 4 years, the first being the FHL. Going to try for number 3 next?

TW: I’ve been very lucky these past years of playing on some good teams with very talented teammates who deserve more credit for these championships then I. But I’ve learned a lot and have grown as a player over these past years, as for winning more; yes of course I want another one. Championships are addicting, once you’ve tasted one that’s all you’re thinking about going into each new season.

MH: What is it like to be called NZIHL “Defenceman of the Year”?

(Photo: Gudrun Gisela)
(Photo: Gudrun Gisela)

TW: There are many good defensemen in this league so it’s an honor to receive this award. I’ve played forward most of my life and only made the switch to Deference four years ago. I owe this award to my coaches and teammates over these past few years that have helped me with this transition and the pointers I’ve gotten along the way. I still have a lot to learn on the back end and only want to get better moving forward.

MH: Any last words for the Canterbury Red Devils, the fans and the NZIHL?

TW:  I want to thank the entire Red Devils organizations for giving me this opportunity to come to their beautiful country and giving me a chance to play with some great teammates. This organization is first class from top to bottom. The fans are tremendous and were very supportive throughout the entire season. Playing in the NZIHL was a great experience and I highly recommend it to all Canadians who are willing to look outside of the box and try something new. Thanks for the ever lasting memories and friendships.

March Hockey: All the best Terry, can’t wait to watch your career thrive in Europe!

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A big Thank You to the New Zealand Ice Hockey League

NZIHLAnother Grand Final has come and gone with the Canterbury Red Devils winning their second straight Birgel Cup.

 

Do I see a dynaRED_DEVILSsty in the making? Hard to tell but it was nonetheless an exciting weekend of hockey being played down in Dunedin. Both teams were stellar and it was such an exciting game to watch. Only time will tell if they can make it a three peat and they may have a hard time of pulling that off.

Dunedin_Thunder_logo

With that being said, I’d like to give a big thank you to the NZIHL. I’d like to thank you for being a hard working and talented league. All the teams/players and everyone behind the scenes deserves every moment of thanks for making this season a memorable one. I started following the NZIHL half way through this season and I could not have come across a more exciting, fast paced, hockey league to cover.ADMIRALS

Thank you to the many contacts I now call friends for being so friendly and allowing me into your hockey community. I will strive to broaden my coverage of the league for next year and it might even be possible that you will see me down there for a game or two! Going to try and make this happen.STAMPEDE

The world should know about all the talented players coming from New Zealand and I will make it my duty to let it be known and try to give some more exposure to the league. To the Canterbury Red Devils, Dunedin Thunder, Southern Stampede, WestBotany_Swarm_logo Auckland Admirals, and Botany Swarm, keep playing hard hitting and fast paced hockey. You’ll never know who’s watching.

Let’s all gear up for a great Skate of Origin.

Red Devils lose coach to Kazakhstan days before Grand Final

(Photo: www.reddevils.co.nz)
(Photo: http://www.reddevils.co.nz)

In another piece of shocking news, the Cantebury Red Devils announced that this was will be coach Anatoly Khorozov’s last season with the team. Having already led the Red Devils to the Birgel Cup last year, Canterbury will be looking to send off Khorozov in style with a second Cup in the Grand Final this weekend.

Khorozov will be heading to HC Beibarys Atyrau of the Kazakhstan Hockey Championship league. The team was founded in 2009 and are winners of back to back championship titles in 2011 and 2012.

The Kazakhstan Hockey Championship is made up of 10 teams across the country not including the teams who play for the Koninental Hockey League. Although it is very similar to the KHL style of play in that it is very fast paced and highly skilled. This is a major step up from the NZIHL and I have no doubt

(www.hcbeibarys.kz)
(www.hcbeibarys.kz)

that Khorozov will flourish with his new team.

Although Khorozov will be coaching in Kazakhstan, his home base will still remain in New Zealand. He will attempt to act as a scout for the Red Devils and see if he can import some new talent for the team and NZIHL in general.

The New Zealand Ice Hockey League is a great league that should be given more credit. It houses many talented players that may not get the coverage they deserve. I urge every one of you to try and tune into the Grand Final this weekend. For those of us in the Eastern Time Zone, the puck will drop around 1:00am Saturday night on http://www.nzihl.tv

Stage is set for NZIHL Grand Final

NZIHLAnd what a final it will be.

After a season filled with ups and downs, highs and lows and a tight race to the finish line, the NZIHL Grand Final will be between the Canterbury Red Devils and the Dunedin Thunder.

The Canterbury Red Devils come into the final as TKRT champs  and with a second place record in the standings. They are also the current reigning league champs looking to make back to back trips to the podium. Host team Dunedin Thunder finished in first and captured their first Minor Premier trophy.With their back to back wins over the West Auckland Admirals last weekend, Dunedin secured their home ice advantage for the final.

For a more in depth look at the Grand Final match up, head on over to OnTheFlyHockey.com and give this article a read.

The NZIHL Grand Final will take place on August 24th. Get down to the Dunedin Ice Stadium and grab your tickets now. For all my Canadian fans and readers, you can check out the action at http://www.nzihl.tv. The action will start around 1:00 am EST.

NZIHL Weekend Preview: The Fate of 4 Teams for the Grand Final

NZIHLThis weekend is a pivotal one for four teams in the NZIHL. Four teams have the chance to make the Grand Final. Every stride, every shot, every body check will be fighting for this moment. The action will unfold in dramatic fashion for the Canterbury Red Devils, the Southern Stampede and the Dunedin Thunder. Botany Swarm however, having already played all of their regular season games will be sitting on the edge of their seats watching how the standings will play out.

Red Devils goaltender Justin Findlay sums up the road to the Grand Final:

“Canterbury Red Devils MUST win 2 games in regulation as does Southern Stampede to have a really good chance at making the finals. The Dunedin Thunder must win at least 1 game against West Auckland Admirals and the Botany Swarm are patiently waiting at the top of the table (having played all there regular season games) but can be overtaken by the Canterbury Red Devils as well as the Dunedin Thunder.”

Doesn’t get any more complicated then that.

(Photo credit: nzihl.com)
(Photo credit: nzihl.com)

In the first set the Red Devils will be hosting the Stamps down in Christchurch. They’re coming off of a weekend series with the Botany Swarm having split both games. Swarm proved how powerful they were as they took a commanding 10-3 in the first match-up and only fell to Canterbury by one on the second. Canterbury will need to have top notch goaltending and the ability to stay out of the penalty box this weekend in order to remain alive for the Grand Final.

(Photo: nzihl.com)
(Photo: nzihl.com)

From the Stampede’s point of view, it looks pretty similar. They also took a powerful 10-5 victory over the Dunedin Thunder in their last weekend set but fell in the second game 6-4. I have a slight feeling were in for some rough action with this Red Devils/Stampede series folks.

On the other side the Dunedin Thunder are hosting the West Auckland Admirals. As Findlay said earlier, the Thunder only need to win one game this weekend. The Admirals will be in top form so they better not sit back and go into these games nonchalantly as everybody will be looking for a huge upset.

Catch all the action at ww.nzihl.tv as you’ll be in for some of the best hockey played this season.

Fan Voice: Kevin Alcock and the NZIHL

The latest in our Fan Voice series features Kevin Alcock and his passion for the New Zealand Ice Hockey League. He is a proud hockey fan and takes me down under to the world of the NZIHL.

March Hockey: Where are you located and how did you get into hockey?

Kevin Alcock. Twitter: @kevinnz
Kevin Alcock. Twitter: @kevinnz

Kevin Alcock: I live in Christchurch, New Zealand. I played roller/inline hockey at high school. I went to my first NHL game in 1988 ( Kings v Canucks), soon after I found myself living in Vancouver, BC and started play social hockey. Survived the 1994 riot on Robson Street and I’ve been hooked for life.

MH: Does the NZIHL do enough to promote the league/teams and to involve the fans?

KA: I believe they do the best job they can with their limited resources. The Devils make the local paper after their games, which is very good as hockey is a very minor sport in New Zealand.

MH: Can you give a brief description of the Skate of Origin for our readers?

KA: New Zealand is made up of 2 major islands, North and South (yes us Kiwis have a great imagination). Skaters represent their home island in an annual game. As you imagine the rivalry between North and South is very intense across all sporting codes, so bragging rights are always sought after.

MH: Let’s talk NHL. Who’s your favourite team and player and why?

Trevor Linden (Photo: canucks.nhl.com)
Trevor Linden (Photo: canucks.nhl.com)

KA: After living in Vancouver for so long it is the Canucks, however I have a huge soft spot for the Leafs. People love or hate him, but I’m a huge Roberto Luongo fan, but Trevor Linden is my all time favourite as he represented what I believe a hockey player should be.

MH: Does New Zealand cover enough NHL? What would be your ultimate game to see?

KA: Hell no! Kiwi’s are great lovers of sport and if they actually could see more hockey it would give our local hockey a boost. I subscribe to NHL Game Center Live which allows me to see all the NHL I want or listen to radio broadcasts if I’m at work. Would love to see a Canada/Russia final in Sochi in 2014.

MH: Who are you pulling for in the NZIHL for the championship this season?

KA: The Canterbury Red Devils! Are there any other teams?!

If you’re a passionate hockey fan and want to represent your team or league, get in touch with me on twitter @MarchHockey or facebook, http://www.facebook.com/MarchHockey

Canterbury Red Devils Season Highlights

RED_DEVILSThe Canterbury Red Devils play their final two home games this weekend in the race for first place.

They have put together a highlight package of the past year as a thank you to the fans. It’s worth checking out just for Joe Cocker’s rendition of With A Little Help From My Friends.

In all seriousness though, check out the video for some incredible goals.

One on One with Adelaide Adrenaline’s Charlie Huber

(Photo: adelaideadrenaline.com.au)
(Photo: adelaideadrenaline.com.au)

Charlie Huber is a New Zealander who has recently made the jump from the NZIHL to the Australian Ice Hockey League. After growing up in West Germany, Huber found a home in New Zealand and suited up for the Botany Swarm, winning 4 championships and presiding as alternate captain. He has played numerous IIHF tournaments as a member of the New Zealand Ice Blacks who won silver in 2011.

March Hockey: You played several years with the Botany Swarm of the NZIHL, what was it like to make the jump to the AIHL with the Adelaide Adrenaline?

Charlie Huber: Changing from the NZIHL to AIHL was a step up. As seen by the Trans- Tasman (March’s note: an inter-league tournament) results last year, there is still a difference between the leagues. Also I find the AIHL is able to attract better import players because of better financial backing. This resulting in a faster pace game. But things can change as we know, the Adrenaline team however helped me to adjust quickly. They’re a good bunch.

MH: What was it like representing New Zealand at the World Championships and coming back with a medal?

CH: I was and am very proud every time I put on the NZ jersey. It’s an awesome country and when I think about all the history, people, nature and culture I get to represent, it certainly doesn’t require much further motivation to go into a game. Bringing a medal back, I think, we deserved as all the boys, management and the coaching staff put in the effort for it. Of course it was fantastic to get the recognition for all the effort we put in during the off- season.

(Photo: adelaideadrenaline.com.au)
(Photo: adelaideadrenaline.com.au)

MH: Growing up, what player influenced you the most?

CH: I think growing up I had a few influential players. There were at the beginning a few players from my local senior team at EC Pfaffenhofen. One example would be Roman Mucha, who was an incredible forward with an impressive skill set. Another person that really comes to mind is Bob Sullivan. He was on the ice a few times with my junior teams and displayed amazing skills. Of course being a former NHL player helped my admiration for him.

MH: If you could play with any player, past or present, who would it be and why?

CH: I would really like to play again with my junior team from EHC Klostersee. That group of players was great to be around. All mates from early age and fantastic understanding of other players on the ice. It was all about passing and everyone playing the same system and of course it was nice to have so much success.

MH: Where would you like to see your hockey career go from here?

CH: I had some trouble with injuries this year. So I would like to build up more consistency and get back 100% fit again. Also I hope I can stay away from big injuries in the future. Next year I am hoping to be able to represent NZ in Spain and hopefully we’ll be able to get away with a gold this time!

Botany Swarm vs West Auckland Admirals Weekend Preview

Another important set will take place this weekend for the Botany Swarm as they are in the hunt for first and second  place. Along with the Canterbury Red Devils, Dunedin Thunder and the Southern Stampede, it’s a VERY tight race in the standings.

(Photo: nzihl.com)
(Photo: nzihl.com)

The Swarm pulled off a stunning victory against the Canterbury Red Devils in the first game of their last weekend set. Hitting the double digits mark with 10 goals, the Swarm capitalize on the Red Devils early mistakes. The second game however, they were halted by the Red Devils by a tight score of 4-3. Botany and Canterbury have split their season series as well.

Over the course of the weekend, Brandon Contratto, Evan Mackintosh, and Mickey Rhodes combined for an astonishing 13 points. Look for them to break out even more this weekend.

It’s not all doom and gloom for the Admirals this season. Their last weekend set saw them pick up their first season win, a 6-2 final over the Southern Stampede. I don’t expect them to be standing down this weekend. They’re going to make the Swarm earn their spot in the standings as I can see at least one game heading into overtime.

Get down to Avondale this weekend to check out the Botany Swarm’s last 2 games of the regular season. Puck drops at 5pm local time.

For my Canadian friends that are nightowls, you can catch the action at NZIHL.tv starting at 1am Saturday morning!

Botany Swarm vs Canterbury Red Devils Weekend Preview

The Botany Swarm will have their work cut out for the them as they face the current Toa Kauhanga Riri Tio champions, the Canterbury Red Devils. You could also argue the the Red Devils have their work cut out of them as well.

(Photo credit: nzihl.com)
(Photo credit: nzihl.com)

The Botany Swarm split their last weekend set with the Dunedin Thunder. In their final meeting of the season, the Swarm notched 8 goals and the Thunder only responded with one. The big story of that game though was longtime Botany Swarm forward Josh Hay notching his 100th point in an astonishing 100 games. At only 24 years old, Hay definitely has a long career ahead of him with the Botany Swarm, and the New Zealand Ice Hockey League in general.

(Photo credit: nzihl.com)
(Photo credit: nzihl.com)

The Canterbury Red Devils sit tied for first with the Dunedin Thunder. Depending on how all the games work out this weekend, the standings could change dramatically. The Red Devils completely overpowered and dismantled the West Auckland Admirals in their last weekend set to keep the
Toa Kauhanga Riri Tio trophy at home in Canterbury. Chris Eaden and Brett Speirs will be looking to add to their point totals. It will be interesting to see who starts in goal this weekend for the Red Devils as well.

This is one weekend match up you do not want to miss. I plan on setting my timer to be up at 1am to take it all in. Make sure you either get down to Botany to watch it live or tune into NZIHL.tv and pick up all the action. Puck drops for the first game at 5pm local time.