It’s just a matter of hours now before Great Britain take to the ice for their first top flight World Championship in a quarter of a century when they take on the Germany and they’re going to stay up.
I don’t say that out of blind support or any kind of misguided cheerleading, but there are many reasons why we should be optimistic at the possibility of a trip to Switzerland for next year.
Here are six reasons why GB and everyone associated should be optimistic of avoiding relegation in their biggest test in a generation ahead of the opener against Germany
1. Preparation has been better than ever
Having had the pleasure of chatting to the last GB coach to take the country to this tier, Alex Dampier, earlier this week, from what he told of the preparation, it was as bad as it could get.
Going from the play-off finals at Wembley to the airport to the first game against Russia in Bolzano meant no time to play warm-ups, sort their lines, tweak any systems or generally get themselves ready for the biggest challenges of their career.
In 2019, GB have had seven warm up games and almost a month together getting ready for their crack at the big timers in Kosice. If Pete Russell is anything, he’s meticulous and will have assessed and prepared everything to the nth degree. We’ll soon see the result of that.
WATCH NOW: Heroes in Hungary
2. Spirit of Budapest
Whatever GB had in spirit and character in Budapest a year ago, it’ll be there again in Kosice as the players get the chance to do what they’ve dreamed of in their careers.
In Division IA last year, not a lot was expected of Pete Russell’s men and from that first result, a 3-1 win over Slovenia, they started to find their rhythm. The small setback of a 6-1 loss to Kazakhstan didn’t halt their progress and they did it.
The togetherness and sense of achievement last year’s promotion did is still there and the class of 2019 will need to call upon that again.
3. Experience of continental ice hockey
With the advent of the Champions Hockey League and improved performances in the Continental Cup, it’s no coincidence British players are getting the benefit of playing more regularly on the international stage.
While results maybe don’t go the way of the British sides, they are competing and going toe to toe with their superior opponents and the gap that was once there is not as wide as it once was. GB maybe aren’t quite on a level footing, but they’ve shown they have nothing to fear and that can only benefit them in Slovakia.
One result should be enough and there are two or three countries that GB are capable of beating in this competition.
4. The Pete Russell effect
Hard to believe it’s been five years since Pete Russell took over from Doug Christiansen to bring this team to where it is.
Russell’s body of work has been impressive and he’s a guy who carries himself very well in whatever realm he finds himself in. The players buy into his gameplan and they have his back as much as he has theirs. That’s key.
It’s a huge challenge for the Scotsman, no doubt, but he’ll relish and learn from what he’s about to go and do in Slovakia. He has the players and staff to do it and any success that comes from Kosice will largely be down to him.
5. We’ve got Ben Bowns
The Cardiff Devils netminder has improved in the last few years and there’s no denying the experience he’s gained on the European and international stage has made him such a key player for GB.
Sometimes there are saves Bowns has no right to make and for a last line of defence, any coach who knows him will tell you, he’s a pretty solid one to have.
The GB defence know they can rely on him and this could be a massive tournament for the Devils man as he gets ready for arguably his biggest challenge yet.
6. There are winnable games
It’s been suggested that one win should be enough to keep GB in the top flight. Looking at the teams they’ll face and the make-up of them, you would have to say that there are maybe three games there Pete and his team fancy taking something from.
Big hitters like Finland, Canada and USA and perhaps even hosts Slovakia are off limits, although anything taken from any of these games much be regarded as bonuses.
Germany, under a new coach, they may need a few games to find their rhythm. Denmark tend to be a team happy to be in the top pool without really going any further and could find it hard against a GB out to mix things up.
Then there’s the French, which will be the last group game. They’re another country that don’t seem to push for the knockouts and a game against GB to survive may not be their cup of tea.