England & Billingham Star Nets Top Award
Three members of the Billingham Stars and Tees Active Academy made the long trip over the Easter Holidays to play for England in the 24th World Hockey Tournament in Zell Am See , Austria.
Forward : Ethan Hehir , Defenseman : James Hellens and Netminder : Alex Kelly
12 teams participated at the under 14 age group from as far afield as Austria, Finland, Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Italy and Canada .. all heavy-weights in the world of Ice Hockey.. this was a tough test for the England Team
The youngsters played 6 games in 4 days and had some fantastic games and results.
The first game on Easter Monday was an eagerly awaited encounter against the ‘Canadian Explorers’ This was a tight opening game with neither team giving much away. England managed to score the opener and keep it tight for a 1:0 victory.
Next up on Tuesday was Oulunkyla from Finland , the over night rest must have worked for Team England as they came out of the blocks firing on all cylinders and gave little away, finishing in style closing out 7:1 winners. Later that afternoon it was the turn of HKMK Bled from Slovenia to face England, in an evenly matched game England again came out victors , this time by a 4 : 3 margin
The stage was set for game 4 as a decider for the group as HK Continental Puchov form Finland were also unbeaten after 3 games. The Finnish outfit showed their technical skills with good movement and passing, racing to a 3-0 lead at the half-way point. The England coaching staff decided on a tactical change and replaced the netminder putting in Kelly from Billingham for the remainder of the game. The change had the desired effect, England battled hard and slowly cut the deficit back and tied the game 3:3
Second place in the group was secure going into the last game against EC Red Bulls of Salzburg … The Austrian outfit in their last game came out fighting hitting the opening mark and never looked back. It was aggressive end to end Hockey with Red Bulls finishing as winners at a score of 3:2
England closed out the tournament playing for 3rd place against the free scoring Hockey Bears of Finland who amassed 30 goals from 5 games in the group stage, by contrast England’s defensive outfit was one of the best in the tournament. The stage was set for an exciting encounter and did not disappoint … The Bears were 2:0 ahead at the half way point, but England kept battling hard and hit the equalising goal from a penalty shot with only seconds remaining in the game. A worthy 3rd / 4th place game that lived up expectations … The tie meant a ‘Penalty Shoot Out’ which went the way of the Finns.
Overall England performed very well against some excellent opposition, James Hellens defensively was superb over the tournament and Ethan Hehir worked tirelessly in attack.
The tournament was won by HK Continental who’s only point dropped was against England in the earlier 3:3 tie
It was not over for England as at the closing ceremony, Alex Kelly was named the MVP ‘Goalie of the Tournament’. In such esteemed company this was a fantastic achievement for the Billingham and Academy trained youngster.