Destination Tallinn as Slava’s boys go for gold

Peterborough Phantoms coach Slava Koulikov is eyeing up success in the NIHL National Cup (PHOTO: Peterborough Phantoms)

After an entertaining week in Dumfries with the Women’s Under 18’s competition, all eyes on the Great Britain national team turn to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, where the Men’s Under 20’s begin their campaign.

It’s been a useful few days for coach Slava Koulikov and his pool of players who go into Sunday’s opener against Lithuania in the World Championship Division 2 Group A on the back of two successful warm-up games.

Victories over Korea and Spain have given them some pre-tournament confidence and coach Koulikov insists his team are prepared for what lies ahead in the Tondiraba Ice Hall.

“The games (during the week) were very useful,” Koulikov said. “We were able to try different line combinations and it was a good chance to implement the tactics we want to use in the tournament.

“We have had an excellent few days of preparations and everyone is very focused.

“The two warm-up games were not just about getting the results, but trying tactics and line combinations and the coaching staff took a lot from the games.

“We’ve also had some excellent training sessions and we are well prepared for the week ahead.

“The boys and the staff are excited to get going for real against Lithuania.”

After the heartache of just missing out on the prize last year, edged into third in Dumfries last season, they’re ready to go again are aiming for the top prize.

The week begins against Lithuania then a meeting with Korea on Monday, before resting on Tuesday, followed by a meeting with hosts Estonia on Wednesday.

(PHOTO: Ian Turner/Ice Hockey UK)

They take on Romania on Thursday before another rest day, before GB round off the campaign against Spain on Saturday.

Liam Kirk was the tournament’s top scorer last year, scoring 14 points – seven goals and seven assists – for GB last year.

The Peterborough Petes forward has been selected as captain this week, along with Dundee Stars’ Jordan Kelsall and Chad Smth of Fife Flyers’ as alternate captains.

And Koulikov admitted it was a tough choice before settling on the players he picked to undertake important roles in the team.

He added: “I think we have chosen a great leadership team and I have no doubt they will do a fantastic job.

“But it was a tough choice as there were many candidates who could have undertaken the roles.

“There is a great spirit in the camp at the moment and everyone is focused on the opening game against Lithuania.”

All of GB U20s’ World Championship games will be shown on free-to-air television in the UK on FreeSports.

FreeSports is available free on Sky Channel 422, Virgin Media Channel 553, on Channel 64 on Freeview and BT and on Freesat Channel 252.

Great Britain U20s World Championship schedule (all face-offs listed as UK time)

Sunday 13th January: GB U20s v Lithuania U20s – 6pm LIVE

Monday 14th January: Korea U20s v GB U20s – 2:30pm LIVE

Wednesday 16th January: GB U20s v Estonia U20s –6pm (Delayed FreeSports coverage at 10:30pm after live EIHL game)

Thursday 17th January: Romania U20s v GB U20s – 2:30pm LIVE

Saturday 19th January: GB U20s v Spain U20s – 11am LIVE

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