Festive cheer for Pegasus thanks to big win over Elks
Pegasus captain Alex Speers had the perfect Christmas present on Saturday as her hat-trick helped earn her team a whopping 9-0 win over the Ulster Elks to put their play-off hopes firmly back on track.
The result left last season's runners-up six points off fourth place but with an all-important game in hand against a Belfast Harlequins side that upset the odds with a magnificent 2-2 draw against leaders Monkstown.
The season goes into hibernation for seven weeks now to allow the Irish internationals in the IHL set-up to concentrate on their preparations for the start of the qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup in Kuala Lumpur in the new year.
However, with neither Belfast Harlequins nor Pegasus having players in the international squad, the game will go ahead at Deramore on January 14 after the original fixture fell victim to frost.
Speers said: "It's ideal for us actually to have a competitive match in mid-January to keep things ticking over although we will be training away as normal and, hopefully, playing friendlies against local teams as well."
"It was a great way to finish the first-half of the season with such a big win after some disappointing results earlier in the campaign and we are now right back in the mix for a place in the play-offs.
"After a slow start to the game when we didn't capitalise on some early chances, I thought we tore the Elks apart at times in the game and the result obviously boosts our goal-difference as well which could be important later in the season.
"If there was a slight disappointment it lay in the fact we didn't make better use of our penalty-corners but we passed the ball well and were clinical in the circle, something that hadn't always been the case earlier in the season."
Belfast Harlequins led 1-0 against Monkstown, who had won the corresponding game 10-1 on match day one, after Gemma Frazer scored with a deflected effort at a set-piece but Sophie Moore put the champions back on terms just before the break.
Ireland star Chloe Watkins made it 2-1 from a penalty-stroke after a foul on international team mate Anna O'Flanagan but Frazer rescued Quins a much-needed point with a late equaliser which was a carbon-copy of her first effort.
Unfortunately for the Belfast side, they are still in the relegation play-off spot ahead of the Elks after Pembroke recorded their first win of the season - a 2-1 success away to Railway Union as the Dublin side moved into eighth place on goal-difference with the bottom-three all level on points.
Quins's co-captain Claire Kilpatrick said: "I think, finally, that all our hard work and patience has culminated in a decent result against an exceptional team and we are ecstatic that it happened at this time so that we can come back after the break and give it our all in the second-half of the season."
EY Irish Hockey League: Cork Harlequins 1 Loreto 2; Monkstown 2 Belfast Harlequins 2 (G Frazer 2); Pegasus 9 (A Speers 3, T Doherty, S Ferris 2, K McKee, M Harvey 2) Ulster Elks 0; Railway Union 1 Pembroke 2; Ulster Premier League: Ballymoney 1 (R Minihan) Portadown 1 (P Joyce); Lisnagarvey 1 (J Flynn) Randalstown 4 (C McGrillen, Z Wilson 2, K McDowell); Lurgan 5 (J-A Wilson 2, C Johnston, L Wright, K Burns) Banbridge 0; Raphoe 0 Dungannon 0; Ards 0, UCD 3; Senior One: Ballyclare 0 Victorians 2 (J Orr, E McAteer); Knock 2 (J Doak 2) Cookstown 0; Larne 2 (B McVeigh, K McCully) CI Ladies 2 (L Ternahan 2); Rainey 5 (R Burns 2, K Ferguson, L Kelso, S Semple) Armagh 0; Irish Hockey Trophy: Greenfields 1 Mossley 0.