Team GB World Championship Watch, Panthers Appoint Graham, Tetlow Departs Nottingham: BIH Takeaways

Brett Perlini scored Team GB's second goal of the game versus Norway (Image: Dean Woolley)
Brett Perlini scored Team GB's second goal of the game versus Norway (Image: Dean Woolley)

This week’s edition of British Ice Hockey Takeaways focuses on Team Great Britain’s opening weekend of play at the IIHF World Championship and upheaval surrounding the Nottingham Panthers. 

Team GB World Championship Watch

After falling against Denmark in a pair of lopsided losses last week, few predicted that Team GB would be 0-1-1 following the opening weekend of play at the IIHF World Championship.

Pete Russell’s squad have battled hard since landing in Tampere, losing 5-1 to Czechia before scoring thrice in seven minutes to drag Norway kicking and screaming to a penalty shootout.

Also of note: the Brits are playing like they belong in the top-flight. And they do, as Elite Prospects UK explained:

With that in mind, let’s dig into a couple of key takeaways from games one and two.

Ben Bowns Starts Positively

You don’t need me to tell you that Ben Bowns always steps up for Team GB: he’s a clutch performer and proved it once again versus Norway.

The 31-year-old stopped 29 of the 33 shots he faced on Sunday [15 May], including this sprawling pad save in overtime:

“He stands on his head every time we come away for a tournament with Team GB,” Ben Lake said after Saturday’s loss to Czechia, “he’s our rock back there every game and tonight was no different.”

Bowns’ importance to the national team is impossible to overstate: his ability to keep Team GB within touching distance is unmistakable.

Sparks Fly with Cade Neilson on the Ice

Cade Neilson played a key role in Team GB’s comeback against Norway, injecting fresh energy into second line colleagues Robert Dowd and Brett Perlini on his 21st birthday.

Neilson, an NCCA commit with Alaska-Fairbanks for 2022-23, has operated with a physical edge throughout the World Championship and seems to be relishing the opportunity to test himself in the senior game.

Cade Neilson, in action for Team GB at the 2022 IIHF World Championship (Image: Dean Woolley)
Cade Neilson, in action for Team GB at the 2022 IIHF World Championship (Image: Dean Woolley)

It’s telling that Russell sent Neilson out to take Team GB’s decisive fifth penalty shot: he believes in the kid and everyone else should too. The former Aberdeen Wings captain has shown he can hang at the elite level and it’s a sight to behold.

Extra Team GB Talking Points:

Alright, it’s time for a couple of quickfire talking points about the national team:

  • Team GB’s coaching staff played a key role in turning the Norway game around: their situational deployment of offensive and defensive specialists was excellent.
  • Russell’s ‘Lake – Scott Conway – Evan Mosey’-line is popping off: they look lively through two games.
  • Props to David Clements and Dallas Ehrhardt, who have grown into a dependable third pair.

Austria (Almost) Stun Team USA

Also of note: Team Austria’s stunning performance against the United States of America. Although the Austrians ultimately lost in overtime, they put the rest of Group B on notice by racing to a 2-0 lead versus a powerhouse nation.

Austria’s 3-2 overtime loss to the USA also featured this stunning assist from 2022 NHL Draft-eligible prospect Marco Kasper:

If nothing else, Austria’s point-winning performance versus the USA makes their final day showdown with Great Britain even more important. In the race to avoid relegation, every result matters. And, at least for now, there’s nothing to separate the two nations.

Gary Graham Unveiled as Panthers’ Coach

Omar Pacha’s vision for the Nottingham Panthers is starting to come together. He appointed his first head coach on Friday [13 May], unveiling Gary Graham as Tim Wallace’s permanent replacement behind the bench at the Motorpoint Arena.

Graham joins the Panthers from the USHL’s Omaha Lancers, marking a significant jump from junior hockey in the United States to the United Kingdom’s top professional league.

However, the 43-year-old amassed vast experience in the senior ranks before taking the job in Omaha, having previously coached the Fort Wayne Komets (ECHL), Pensacola Ice Flyers (SPHL), and ORG Beijing (VHL).

“I can’t speak enough about his character,” explained Pacha. “Gary’s pedigree as a coach is certainly up there but it was more the person we are really happy to have, how he is as a human being. He’s the right guy for our situation, we’re really happy to have Gary. I think he’ll be a great fit for our organisation and how we want to build, with his enthusiasm and passion for the sport.”

Graham arrives in Nottingham with a daunting task ahead of him: the Panthers are starting a rebuild and fan morale is low after a disappointing season last time out.

Gary Graham, formerly of the Fort Wayne Comets (Image: FW Comets)
Gary Graham, formerly of the Fort Wayne Comets (Image: FW Comets)

“I want to coach exciting hockey to be very fast in the transition,” said the American to the delight of Nottingham fans. “We like to play with the puck: your best defence is playing in the offensive zone – I really believe that.

“We’re going to focus on being quick to check, which is even more important on the Olympic [-sized] sheet. My year in the VHL really helped me learn which systems are better on bigger rinks compared to North America because there are some changes. We will play differently from how I coached in the ECHL and USHL, there are some strategies we must use.”

While it’s too early to judge whether Graham is the right person for the job, he’s certainly saying the right things.

“I’ll tell you this: expect a physical, in-your-face type of team,” he told Panthers TV. “I want teams to hate us when we go on the road and I want them to fear us when they play in our rink.”

Ominous.

Josh Tetlow Signs for RoKi, Departs Nottingham

It’s official: Josh Tetlow will not be suiting up in the Elite League next season. He’s off to Finland’s second division to play for RoKi.

The 24-year-old departs Nottingham with four top-flight campaigns (plus the Elite Series) under his belt, totalling 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) through 185 regular-season appearances.

His recent form earned him a call-up to the 2022 IIHF World Championship, where he’s playing a key role for Team GB.

Josh Tetlow, Team Great Britain (Image: Dean Woolley)
Josh Tetlow, Team Great Britain (Image: Dean Woolley)

Tetlow’s decision to pursue an opportunity outside the Elite League jumps off the page, especially considering Nottingham’s pending rebuild.

However, the 6-foot-6 defenceman isn’t in entirely unfamiliar territory. During the pandemic-interrupted 2020-21 season, he made 14 appearances and registered three assists in the Finnish third division for JHT.

Also: he’s joining a strong team. RoKi, short for Rovaniemen Kiekko, finished sixth last season and have a positive record for improving their players.

As a result, Tetlow should be commended for signing with a club based in the Arctic Circle. It’s a brave step, one that will boost his development.

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