On the 22nd of September, Alpine Ice in Christchurch will play host to the 2012 Skate of Origin, where teams representing the North and South Islands will compete for the Glass Shield. Claire Ziegler with more.
This competition has traditionally been a close affair, although the North has come away the victors in all three games thus far. The South will be primed to challenge for their first win, with a largely home-town crowd there to support. As well as a final opportunity for fans to see local players take the ice this year, it will also serve as the last chance to impress before selection camp begins for the 2013 Ice Blacks team.
However, the rules for the one-off game mean that some interesting combinations will take the ice, which fans may not quite expect.
Stampede fans will be used to seeing 2012’s top NZIHL goaltender Aston Brookes and top-5 scorer Brett Speirs representing Queenstown, but as both started their hockey careers in the North Island, they’ll be suiting up for the Easton North Stars. Also making the jump north for the day will be forwards Andrew Cox of the Perth Thunder, Remy Sandoy of the Dunedin Thunder, and defenseman Jamie Lawrence of the Canterbury Red Devils.
Going back the other way, forwards Ian Wannamaker and Adam Soffer of the Botany Swarm will be in for the Bauer South Stars, as will 2011’s top NZIHL defenseman Dan Nicholls of the West Auckland Admirals. This should lead to some interesting matchups on the ice, as players will once again have to adjust to not only playing with teammates from long-time rivals, but also to playing against their regular teammates.
Aston Brookes will be standing tall in his crease against five other Stampede skaters; whether practice scrimmages will pay off and give them an eye to his possible weak points, or whether he’ll be better able to guard against their favourite spots to shoot will be something to watch on the day.
Similarly, the other Queenstown players will doubtless join the rest of the NZIHL in having to do their best to defend against a Speirs breakaway, something one imagines they’re quite happy to never have to worry about facing during the season
Equally unusual will be the sight of Ian Wannamaker, a six-season veteran of the Swarm playing against rather than with regular linemate KC Ball, as he suits up for the South Stars for the fourth time.
Andrew Cox will be something of a wild card in the lineup – while he’s been playing with the Ice Blacks for the past two years, he’s not yet played in the NZIHL at all, and thus will be less familiar to both teammates and opponents. A good season with the Perth Thunder – who almost made the finals in their first year in the AIHL – should stand him in good stead for the Skate of Origin.
19 year olds Jamie Lawrence and Remy Sandoy will be back with some familiar faces, however, as they both started their NZIHL careers in Auckland, with the Swarm and Admirals respectively. Lawrence was also a member of this year’s Ice Blacks squad, but Sandoy has thus far only had a chance to play with the U18 and U20 squads.
It will be a similar story for Dan Nicholls and Adam Soffer – both ex-Red Devils who made the jump to Auckland this past season. Nicholls is currently based in Wellington, but this year took the opportunity to play nine games with the Admirals, flying out to join them. Soffer only had four games with the Swarm this year, but both should be quite familiar with the South’s lineup, having spent several years playing with their Canterbury teammates, as well as having been Ice Blacks since 2008.
Scoring should be no trouble for either side in this year’s Skate of Origin, with 14 of the top 20 Kiwi scorers from the 2012 season due to take the ice. The South have an edge there, with 8 of the 14, including Top Scorer for 2012, Chris Eaden of the Canterbury Red Devils.
By Claire Ziegler
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