Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars

Cleveland Comets lifted their fourth Masters trophy at the weekend when they took to the ice at Nottingham and came away unbeaten, racking up an impressive 33 goals for whilst just conceding three.

Captain Peter Johnson receives the trophy from Kim Young, EIHA Administrator

After the disappointment of last season when they fell at the final hurdle to North East rivals Whitley Islanders, the Comets made some key changes to strengthen their squad. The crucial move was to reunite the famous Bombers line of Windridge, Fletcher and SV Johnson and that partnership was unstoppable, Andy Fletcher picking up the forward of the tournament award as he netted half of Comets goal haul.

Comets opening game had given them the only nervous moment when they let slip a two-goal lead against Milton Keynes Jesters to be tied at two-apiece. It was a wake up call for the Comets who upped their game in the last ten minutes to rattle in four unanswered for a 6-2 win.

There was no complacency from that point on as Cleveland focused their sights on that title. Basingstoke Hyenas were put away 7-0 and pre tournament favourites Don Valley Vikings had no answer to the free skating Comets as they were put to the sword in a 4-1 defeat.

Hero of the day was defenceman Micheal Thackeray who despite a stomach bug stepped out of his sick bed on three occasions to ensure that Comets blue line was at its strongest. With three wins from three starts Cleveland headed their group at the end of day one and looked semi final bound.

Sunday saw Comets position in the last four confirmed before their final group game as other results went their way. Cleveland’s other key close season signing had been the acquisition of netminder Ian Watson from derby rivals Durham Dragons which had an impact on two fronts. Paired alongside Chris Outhwaite giving Comets outstanding shot blocking whilst without Watson Durham failed to make the final four.

The last group game saw Solihull Grizzlies tamed with a 4- 0 score as Comets advanced to the semi finals unbeaten.

Birmingham’s other top side the Solihull Vikings were the semi final opponents but had little answer to Cleveland’s firepower as they were blanked 5-0 as Comets headed to their final goal.

Nottingham Outlaws had made it through to the last two and with a large partisan home support were hoping to lift the trophy for the first time. Those hopes were dashed and the crowd stunned within 90 seconds as Simon Hehir found the back of the net from close range to send Comets on their way to the title.

Outlaws had Jay Smith between the pipes who prior to the finals start had been voted the tournament's top netminder, but he could do little to halt the goal flow as strikes from Fletcher, Windridge, SV Johnson and Hehir again sent him back to the bench with his team 5-0 down and looking to have no way back. John Stokes took over but it made little difference to the outcome as Peter Johnson and Boynton added further markers for a 7-0 victory that saw the trophy firmly in Cleveland’s grasp for a fourth time.

Player coach Garry Dowd summed up the success with one of his famous 'just a few seconds guys' end of game debriefs:

“This team came here focused to play as a team and not individuals. They worked for each other and stuck to the game plan throughout And that teamwork is what brought the trophy back.”

By Tony Boynton