Leeds Chiefs' Ethan Hehir gets the call he was hoping for from Great Britain Under-20s
ETHAN HEHIR says his move to Leeds Chiefs has enabled him to achieve one of the main targets he set himself at the start of the season by being selected for the Great Britain Under-20 squad for next year’s World Championships in Lithuania.
The Division II, Group A tournament will take place in Vilnius in January when Martin Grubb’s team will come up against hosts Lithuania, along with Japan, Romania, Serbia and Spain at the Pramogu Arena.
Teenager Hehir made the switch to West Yorkshire from his boyhood club Billingham Stars in the summer convinced he could develop his game more by playing for Sam Zajac’s team in the newly-formed NIHL National division.
That has proved to be the case with Zajac giving Hehir plenty of ice time and responsibility, his 14 appearances so far this season bringing one goal and three assists, as well as a host of plaudits from team-mates and opponents alike.
“It’s always such a proud moment and a privilege playing for GB – I’m really looking forward to it and think we’ve got a good team going out there,” said Hehir, who last year played for GB Under-18s in their Division I Group B campaign in Hungary.
“Moving to Leeds is a massive reason why I got picked, I’m convinced of that. If I’d still been at Billingham I don’t think I’d have stood much of a chance, to be honest.
“I needed that step up for my game and as a team we’re coming on loads and it is a much better standard of hockey week-in, week-out.
"One of my personal aims for the season was getting into the GB team, so that has been ticked off already. Secondly, I wanted to try and establish myself in the league before the end of the season, picking up points and things like that."
Chiefs’ player-coach Zajac, said Hehir’s call-up was fully deserved.
“It’s testament to how he has played for us this season and also his willingness to move away from the club he's played for all his life and try and better himself as a player,” said Zajac.
“He’s been great for us since day one and I think he has surprised a lot of people, who perhaps thought he would take more time to adjust than he has. But, right from the off, he has been excellent for us.”
Head coach Grubb said he and his staff were confident the roster they had settled on was capable of repeating last year's bronze medal in Tallinn.
"We had a tremendous camp last week in Sheffield and competition for places was very fierce, so we had some very tough decisions," said Grubb.
“Not all of our under-20 players were available to us, but the coaching staff are very excited by this squad and we are confident they are the correct players for the World Championship.
“We will be looking to build on last year’s bronze medal in Tallinn and make an impact at the tournament.”