Comets Masters For A Third Successive Year

Cleveland Comets travelled to Nottingham for the British Masters Ice Hockey championships last weekend and produced an amazing performance to retain their Masters crown for a third successive year.

Masters... again!

Masters… again!

With 12 teams from around the country taking part, this is the one to win for those players in the over-35 age group and Comets were not without some serious challenges.

Such is the intensity and the prestige of this tournament that many teams went to the length of signing up imported players to strengthen their rosters in a bid to knock Cleveland Comets from the top of the pile. However the Teesside outfit had the belief in their own home-grown talent using only players already registered with the Billingham-based club. It was to prove a master stroke as team morale was at an unbelievable high as they lifted their third trophy in spectacular style, remaining unbeaten throughout the weekend and also keeping a completely clean sheet over their seven games.

Netminder Chris Outhwaite was in tremendous form as he shut out every single opponent the Comets faced but was probably overlooked for the netminder of the tournament award due to the fact his stalwart defence prevented many pucks getting through to him.

Solent Spartans were blown away with five unanswered goals in Comets’ opening encounter and next up Nottingham Northstars could only do one goal better. With two teams from the capital, Streatham will almost feel they had a success when they gained a point, holding Comets scoreless for the only time over the weekend which gave them the bragging rights over fellow Londoners the Nightwolves who conceded three to Cleveland’s powerful attack.

Heading their group going into the semi-finals Comets were matched up against local rivals Durham Dragons and this looked to be headed for a scoreless draw until Simon Hehir stepped up 75 seconds from time to fire in a decisive winner. With the netminder pulled looking for an equaliser, Cleveland could have had a second only to see Jamie Parrish’s shot towards the empty net ricochet off the post.

Into the final against Grimsby Lightning and the Lincolnshire squad were left to pick up the silver medal for the second successive season as Comets stormed to a 2-0 win and crowned Masters champions for the third successive year.

Captain Peter Johnson could not contain his delight as he lifted the trophy for the third time:

“We are the team that everyone wants to beat and that is shown by the players that our opponents drafted in but you cannot beat a team like this who play every second and every shift for each other.”

Billingham hockey royalty

Billingham hockey royalty

Just your average hockey family…

When your two teenage boys are playing in their respective age sections for the English National team, that would be enough success for most sports-mad families, but not in the case of the Hehirs.

Whilst they spend most of their winter trekking around the country with sons Dylan and Ethan ferrying them from practice to games and national trials, Simon and Jenny Hehir would not need excuses to take the summer off. However, the hockey-mad couple are part of the exciting Cleveland Comets club and last weekend turned out for the British Masters championship to help Cleveland defend their title. This couple are not only key players for the team but are actually a vital defensive partnership with Jenny and Simon patrolling the Comets blue line. Their unique understanding and natural playmaking were key to Comets’ seven game unbeaten weekend.

Whilst Jenny is very much the stay-at-home defender prepared to cover her husband’s forays forward, Simon is a crucial part of Cleveland’s attack force and his game-winning goal against the Teessiders arch rivals Durham Dragons, which knocked the Wearsiders out of the competition, will hold a special place in his memories as Simon learnt his craft as a Durham Wasp.

With Cleveland unbeaten throughout the weekend and never conceding a goal in their seven games there is little doubt that the Comets are well and truly worth the title of British Masters for a third consecutive year.

 

Words and pictures courtesy of Tony Boynton.

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