The Canterbury Cavaliers face a unique challenge in their bid to win their first National Hockey League men’s title since 2005.
The Cavaliers’ squad of 18 haven’t had an ideal build up to the NHL with five of their players now based in Auckland due to relocating to make the Black Sticks.
However, that didn’t seem to have an adverse effect when they began their campaign with a 5-1 win on Sunday against the Southern Dogs in Dunedin.
Auckland-based Sam Lane, Dominic Newman, George Enersen, David Bryson and Jason Niles have all been sporadically involved with Cavaliers trainings leading into this year’s NHL.
“It is pretty difficult for the team. I’ve been pretty lucky I’ve been able to come back because I’m on a two week break from university, but I know at some trainings they’ve only had eight or nine guys,” said Newman.
Black Sticks striker Sam Lane is one player effected heavily by Auckland commitments, having only trained with the Cavaliers on four occasions coming into the season.
“It’s a bit niggly in that regard, but we fit in as nice add-ons,” said Lane.
The squad has also acquired the services of former Australian international Tim Deavin, who joined the team in what Cavaliers coach Andrew Hastie described as a “here’s a stick go and play” scenario when he first joined the team after flying in Dunedin on Saturday evening.
The preparation for the NHL won’t be affecting their expectations.
After finishing runners up in 2016 the team finished a disappointing seventh last year.
“Last year was a big miss, nothing really went our way and we had a lot of injuries through the tournament,” said Lane.
When the Cavaliers head to Wellington this weekend to begin the week long tournament finish to the NHL they will be aiming for silverware.
“We’ve got a really good group of players and a lot of us have grown up playing together. We’re going there to win it,” said Newman.
The Cavaliers play their remaining five round-robin games in the space of six days starting Saturday where they will look for a top four finish to earn a spot in next weekend’s semi-finals.
Meanwhile, the Canterbury Cats will be looking to win the national women’s title they last secured in 2016.
They started their campaign with a dominant 9-1 win over Southern on Sunday.