GB Ice Hockey Back at the Top

GB picked up a great win over Dinamo Riga last Wednesday. Can they be the shock troops in the World Championships? (PHOTO: Scott Wiggins)

It has been 25 years since the Great Britain’s men’s ice hockey team played at the ice hockey world championship. It was a win in overtime against Hungary last year in Budapest that’s secured the place in the tournament which starts in Slovakia this week as a reports.

It has been a long hard fight for the team over the last quarter century, but they are finally on a comeback and will now face some of the giants of the sport.

Canada is 26-time world champions, the United States who have a fearsome reputation and Germany who are the Olympic silver medallists. The bookies favourite for the event are Olympic champions and Russia and the Canadian team, and they are closely followed by the USA and Sweden.

Of course, being new and having had such a gas since they last attended Great Britain are certainly far from being favourites.

Ranks just 22 in the world they are the lowest ranking team within the Championships, so it is fair to say many have questioned whether Pete Russell’s team will be able to make any progress.

It was 1994 when they were last in top-flight competition, and the standard is particularly high this year.

When he took the helm in 2015 Russell was one of the only people prepared to take on the team, there was little interest from anywhere else.

However, the fiery Scotsman was not going to be put off easily and has worked hard to bring his team up to standard.

The 44-year-old has developed a team of men who are able and keen to play at the top level and understand the task ahead. His coaching message is simple “be competitive, be aggressive, but don’t give away too many chances; Play with emotion and physicality, but stay on the right side of the referee.’

This is certainly not going to be an easy task the team which includes Ben O’Connor his father was part of the 1994 team, and like father like son Ben is a staunch defender.

Ben plays with the Sheffield Steelers and shows a lot of the same prowess as his dad Mike; he is a strong skater and a highly skilled player who has global recognition thanks to a penalty shot scored against South Korea a few years ago.

Another player to watch is Ben Bowns who plays domestically with the Cardiff Devils and is a stunning goalkeeper. He has also attracted attention from abroad and if Great Britain has a good tournament both he and O’Connor could find themselves being offered contracts in perhaps and America Russia or Sweden.

Liam Kirk was the first English player to be drafted to the NHL and should prove to be a very strong link for the Great British team.

The whole team will relish the challenge, and all of them will be looking to take Britain as far as they possibly can.

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