Hockey's new rules got a qualified thumbs-up from one of the country's leading players after the opening round of the national league at the weekend.

Chief among the changes brought in from September 1 by the International Hockey Federation was trimming the game from two 35-minute halves to four 15-minute quarters.

Black Sticks midfielder Stacey Michelsen helped her Northland team to two victories in the K Cup competition, over North Harbour and Auckland, at the weekend and noticed the change. "The biggest difference is how you come out and start the first quarter," she said last night.

"We decided we really wanted to come out quite aggressively. You are getting that break 15 minutes in which we hadn't got [previously]. I think the game will increase in speed and the 15 minutes [periods] allows that."


One concern was whether the change would lead to more stop-start play, and reduce the flow. Michelsen agreed there was a degree of risk on that score.

"Particularly if you're doing high rotations within the quarters, which a lot of teams would do to ensure they can keep everyone running as much as possible during the 15 minutes.

"I don't think it will necessarily disrupt the flow but it will change tactics a lot, giving coaches the opportunity to change players more easily if they need to, as opposed to having to wait until halftime to talk to the whole team."

In terms of post-game fatigue, Michelsen felt it was similar to a 70-minute match. In Northland's case, any fatigue would have been soothed by delight at yesterday's 3-1 win over Auckland, Michelsen scoring two of the goals.

Canterbury's women also laid down a marker over the opening two rounds with wins over Capital 3-1 and then clubbing Southern 9-1 in Timaru yesterday.

Challenge Cup defending men's champions Auckland rebounded from a 4-1 loss to Southern in Dunedin on Saturday by belting Northland 8-1, three goals coming from Black Sticks attacker Jared Panchia and two from Sam Miskimmin.

North Harbour had an opening 5-2 win over Northland, and they followed that with a penalty shootout win over Midlands in Hamilton yesterday, after the game finished 1-1.