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Listen up... Team black gets some words from the bench during the second period break during a game at Ice Sports Southland on Sunday. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Southern Ice Hockey under-18 league has resulted in junior ice hockey skill levels increasing, Gore Ice Hockey president Grant Scott says.

Traditionally, the competition involved regional sides from Gore, Alexandra, Tekapo, Queenstown, the Maniototo and Dunedin competing against each other.

This season, the players had been split up and mixed together to form four separate “draft teams”.

“The competition just was not fair any more – some teams were just so much better than others,” Scott said.

The new format had resulted in the competition blossoming.

“It’s been great. We’ve had some really competitive games and the skill level overall had really improved,” Scott said.

More than 40 players competed in the mixed competition held at Ice Sports Southland on Sunday.

Scott said his daughter, Beth Scott (16), who earlier this year went to Malaysia with the New Zealand under-18 women’s ice hockey team, was the only athlete competing from the Gore region.

However, ice hockey was becoming increasingly popular around the district.

“It’s become very strong at an under-12 and under-15 level,” Scott said.

It was a great sport and did not require endurance fitness, Scott said.

“It’s a two-minute shift on the ice and then you swap out with the bench.

“It’s a different type of fitness required and momentum compared to other games,” he said.

“The sport is just something that is a bit different – it’s all about speed and skill.”

The next tournament in the Southern Ice Hockey under-18 league will be held on August 5 in Tekapo.