The Monday After – Big British year begins well

Great Britain Under 18's Women won their first medal since 2013 in Dumfries last week (PHOTO: Ice Hockey UK)

What a weekend in British ice hockey and if what we’ve seen doesn’t get you excited for the next few months, there’s something wrong with you.

In Dumfries last week, Great Britain’s Women’s Under 18’s picked up their first medal since 2013 to finish third in their Division 1 Group B section, with three victories from five.

Covering the event from afar, one name kept popping up time after time and that was netminder Ella Howard, who produced two shutouts and was one of the players of the tournament.

A great week for coach Cheryl Smith, who has continued to develop and progress the national team from the women’s side and was just the first chapter.

In Belfast, we had Belfast Giants go toe-to-toe with some good sides in the Continental Cup Final group, but losing in heartbreaking fashion on penalty shots in the last game to Arlan Kokshetau of Kazakhstan.

They were two down in the third period before clawing their way back to take the game beyond regulation time, where they went down valiantly.

Belfast Giants were magnificent in the Continental Cup, but were edged out of the prize on penalty shots (PHOTO: William Cherry/Press Eye)

The positivity coming from that has been great to see and their efforts over those three games should act as a spur for what promises to be an exciting title challenge in the Elite League.

It’s been tight the last few years in general, but this season seems even tighter with Cardiff Devils and Giants battling it out at the top, Nottingham Panthers and Fife Flyers and the rest bar one all clustered between fifth and tenth place.

You just know it will go the distance as other sub plots develop in the next couple of months so it’s another reason.

And that leads to the Men’s World Championships in May, which will include Great Britain for the first time in the top tier since the mid-90’s.

What Pete Russell and his achieved last year against the odds has started this feelgood factor in 2019, specifically in the national team and young players want to be part of it.

Seeing the likes of Jonathan Phillips, Robert Dowd and Ben Bowns come up against the likes of Sidney Crosby among others is quite something to look forward to.

Let’s hope it’s the start of a golden dawn in British ice hockey that leads to more exposure in the sport.

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