The Kingston Kestrels Para Ice Hockey team recently retained their league title earlier this month, after victory over the Peterborough Phantoms saw the Kestrels notching up their sixth victory this season to remain undefeated, with still two games left to play in the season. Incredibly, Kingston has netted a total of 45 goals in their six matches played so far this season, while conceding only one in their championship season.
It has seen the Hull-based side winning back to the back champions and with their only blip – if you want to say that, in that only goal let in so far this season against Manchester in their opening game of the season. Since that goal, the Kestrels have gone 270 minutes (and thirty-one seconds, if being accurate) or four and half hours of play without seeing another conceded in their ‘goals against’ column as we speak.
The significance of that victory against the Peterborough Phantoms was that Kingston has now gone two-years without tasting defeat in a British Para Ice Hockey league game, with ironically, their last defeat coming against the side that they beat to retain their title in the Phantoms, as July 9th, 2016, being their last loss in the league.
That said, in their dominance over the span of the last two-years, they have only lost once in that whole time and came back in last year’s Playoff semi-final against the Manchester Mayhem – as the Mayhem won 3-2 and what was made worse was that the loss came on the Kestrels home ice in Hull.
From back to front, or front to back, Kingston has been in blistering form and perhaps no one has illustrated that point anymore so than their forward Matt Clarkson, with the GB International scoring more than 80% of the Kestrels goals in the league this year. Plus, with two more regular season games left to play in their schedule, what is no doubt that he will be adding to that tally too.
Speaking with the GB forward, I ask what his thoughts were on his sides recent title win, he told me;
“As the British league gets stronger year on year, back to back title wins are a great achievement for the club. Just a couple of years ago we were developing players as we were rebuilding but we’ve pulled together with great coaching and team spirit to become a dominating force in the BPIHL. We expected Manchester and Cardiff to be a real threat this year yet we’ve won our games against them so far with the 6-0 win against Cardiff probably being our best win to date”.
On the subject of his own personal performances this season and what he had done differently to previous seasons, Clarkson added;
“I’ve got a new Ballistic Sledge and new Warrior carbon sticks for this season. In addition, I’ve made changes to my gym routines which includes the use of the gym’s new SkiErg machine. This is a great piece of equipment for Para Ice Hockey players. I’m enjoying my game, playing with confidence and belief that I can do whatever I need to do for my team. Ultimately, I wouldn’t be performing as well as I am without being part of a good team”.
One man of which non of this would be possible is the Player-Coach and Founder of the Kingston Kestrels is Simon Berry, I managed to ask him a couple of questions on the club and started off with what has contributed to the success of the team these past two-years, his response was:
“The last two seasons have seen the team develop around each other, having more confidence in less experienced players from the offset. I have changed training around to be more full-on for fitness, speed and moved into three major drills that move into progression. In saying this, Matt Clarkson has risen to another level with his new sledge”.
On losing out in the playoffs and if that spurred the team on this year, he replied:
“The loss in the playoffs was hard because I was coach aiming for ten from ten. Taking nothing from Manchester, they were on fire and it was a cracking game. They are the only team to score on us on so far this season. We won the disability sports team of the year and also picked up athlete of the year ( ). Every year I am up for awards as well as the team too, which speak volumes in itself”.
Summing up the season so far in his eyes on how his side have done, on the whole, Berry responded:
“In Summary, TEAM Together Everyone Achieves More. This season has been so far amazing with the goals scored to conceded. We have also played a rookie netminder (Stephen Gibson) against Peterborough and won 7-0”.
“My talk in the changing room was too have confidence in him as we didn’t need to play any different and he will shine. If he faced 10 and saved 10, well don Gibbo (Gibson)”.
Berry then singled out for praise, as he went to add;
“Martin Tony King our player of the year, has seen him losing lots of weight and gave 100% in training and has made a difference in the team, which is why we praise him to encourage him and believe in him. This has built his confidence and self-esteem”.
Huge Thanks to Simon Berry and Matt Clarkson for their time on this article.