FreeSports broadcaster Aaron Murphy reckons Great Britain has a ‘puncher’s chance’ to survive in the World Championships.
There’s three games to go and Pete Russell’s team are still looking for the one win that could be just enough to keep them in the top flight when the tournament goes to Switzerland next year.
But ‘Murph’ has warned staying out of the penalty box could go a long way in helping the GB players succeed in their sole objective in Kosice.
“It’s been incredible hockey so far, going back to the Germany game on Saturday then the meeting with Canada on Sunday, team USA the most recent encounter,” he said.
“It’s ‘big boy’ hockey and the guys knew this coming here, but the takeaway is when they play five-on-five, they’re battling and letting Ben Bowns see the puck, to me, it was always going to come down to that France game on Monday.
“I agree with the train of thought that taking that level of performance that had against USA into the game with France, they can certainly do it. Plus there’s another factor where GB have an off day on Sunday, while France play the late game that day against Finland so it’s a quick turnaround for them.
“GB have to hope France don’t get anything before then. That’s not out of the realms of possibility, but they’ve played well here in what is a very different level than they’re used to.
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“Teams like France, Norway and Austria are all nine or ten places above GB in the rankings and are perennial top pool teams and compete regularly in the Olympics. They’re all struggling in this competition as well.
“GB will have the advantage of being rested looking forward at that one, but they have to bring it for the full 60 minutes, which is very difficult at this level. Bear in mind, it’s not always easy to do that in the Elite League, but they need to be positive and stay out of the penalty box.
“Take all that into account, you have a puncher’s chance and a game seven situation figuratively against the French.”
Murphy has had a good look at all the teams as he and co-commentator, former GB international Paul Adey, call the action for FreeSports.
He looked ahead to tomorrow’s game against Finland, who take on Denmark tonight and currently sit in third place, with seven points from their three games so far.
And one player in particular has caught Murphy’s eye as one that could be a big threat, Kaapo Kakko, who plays his club hockey with TPS Turku in Finland and tipped, by https://www.newzealandbetting.co.nz/ amongst others, to be a top pick in the NHL draft.
He added: “Kakko has been unbelievable and compared to Jack Hughes (USA), he’s probably more NHL ready in my opinion. He’s six foot two, so he’s a man, while Hughes is listed as five-ten, but to me, not that tall I think.
“Physically I don’t think Hughes is ready yet. You’re maybe looking at two years down the road with him. If you take Kakko, you would think of taking him to camp and make your team. He’s the more complete player.
“We’ve done a couple of the Finnish games and have seen he’s a danger in the powerplay so GB have to stay out of the box and not allow him to operate in those kinds of situation.”
The mention of Hughes of course brings up Ben Bowns’ name following the GB goalie’s wonder save to deny the US prospect and Murphy revealed the Cardiff Devils is getting plenty of attention from the people he’s spoke to away from the GB camp.
He said: “Bowns has certainly drawn some notice from the other teams here and he did so in Budapest last year as well. When you stare down a number one projected draft pick in Jack Hughes, all eyes are on him.
“He’s getting a lot of attention, so in a one-on-one situation against a player so highly rated and to make a save like that, you’re going to get other media and scouts looking at you.
“We’re seeing one or two of the bigger outlets in North America taking notice, who wouldn’t normally, plus Bowns is used to those situations and has stared down Champions Hockey League opposition.
“I don’t think he’s looking at the name behind the puck. He concentrates on making the stop and he sure did there.”
Great Britain’s next game with Finland will be shown live on FreeSports tomorrow (Friday) with Murphy and Paul Adey. Coverage begins at 7.10pm and is available free on Sky Channel 422, Virgin Media Channel 553, on Channel 64 on Freeview and BT and on Freesat Channel 252.