Great Britain defenceman Paul Swindlehurst says he would have laughed if you’d suggested to him five years ago the national team were about to take on the world’s best.
It’s been half a decade since the 25-year-old was handed his chance by former coach Doug Christiansen in Lithuania in the Division 1B campaign.
Now a mainstay under Pete Russell, the Belfast Giants man is excited about the final stage of what’s been an amazing season for him.
“Starting five years ago in Lithuania, if you’d told me I’d be here in 2019, I would have laughed at you, but the way the team has risen and improved, it’s a credit to the coaches and the staff,” he said.
“There’s a great group and it’s all well deserved and I’m just looking forward to the tournament starting.
“I would say the last 10 months have been the best in hockey I’ve ever had. Playing in that Belfast team, it’s probably the best group I’ve ever played with and been around.
“To win three out of four trophies is an accomplishment, especially considering how good the league is now, as well as the players in the league so Adam Keefe deserves a lot of praise for how he put that team together.”
It’s fair to say the excitement is building in the GB camp with the tournament starting on Friday then GB hitting the ice for their first game against Germany on Saturday.
Swindlehurst gave the lowdown on what’s been happening in the camp and insists the prospect of coming up against some top end talent in the form of the NHL players who will take part hasn’t really crossed his mind.
He added: “It’s really exciting right now, the anticipation of it all and the guys over the last five years have worked so hard to be here.
“It’s a dream come true to come up against the countries we will be that are the best in the world. Everyone’s itching to get started basically.
“The coach has been pushing us hard, but we’re getting the rest we need. It’s all about everyone being on the same page.
“We’ve had plenty of time to get used to each other, between coming to Slovakia a week early and the couple of weeks in Coventry so the more practices the better.
“I’ve not really thought about the prospect of coming up against the NHL players, but it is at the back of your mind. You try and go into and not really care about the sort of guys who’ll be there.
“For me, it’s trying to treat every player the same and deal with each one in their own merits. They’re in the top league in the world so you try not to think about it too much.”