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Keeping it cool . . . Southern Knights players (in yellow and blue) compete in the International Friendship Peewee tournament in Minnesota. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

By Alexia Johnston

Mackenzie District’s young ice hockey players are gaining national and international experience, prompting a growing interest in the sport.
A selection of Mackenzie Bull Thars players were among those who competed in the Southern Knights team at the International Friendship Peewee tournament in Minnesota, United States, earlier this year.
It was events like that which had sparked interest and excitement among schools, Mackenzie Ice Hockey president Jaime Linton said.
The under-14 team selected for the US tournament comprised 17 players from South Canterbury, Dunedin, Queenstown, Alexandra and Gore teams.
Among the team were South Canterbury’s Flynn Linton, Oliver Linton, James Russek, Alex Power, Hamish Ryall, Pippa Russek and Isaac Ryall.
Another New Zealand team, made up of South Canterbury’s Joel Lepard and Jack Helmrich, and players from the rest of Canterbury, also competed.
“Mackenzie Ice Hockey Club [is] excited to be producing so many skaters who are excelling and gaining such memorable experiences,” Linton said.
That experience was no easy feat. Southern Federation players’ ice hockey season started eight months ago, with training for the tournament beginning in December.
And for the Southern Knights, their hard work paid off.
“This year’s Southern Knights had a phenomenal tournament, exceeding all expectations, finishing second out of nine teams.”
Overall, the winter season was also tracking well and teams were competing strongly, Linton said.
Mackenzie has three teams based at Lake Tekapo – two under-14 and one under-17, which train twice a week.