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Three takeaways from Team GB’s Winter Olympic qualifying roster

HC Litvinov star Liam Kirk is included in Pete Russell’s 22-player squad.

Liam Kirk, Team GB (Image: HC Litvinov)

Team Great Britain head coach Pete Russell announced his roster for the 2024 Winter Olympic Qualifiers on Monday [22 January], with his 22-player squad facing Romania, China, and Serbia in Cardiff next month.

Forwards Cam Critchlow, Sean Norris, and Brandon Whistle are set to earn their competitive debuts, while veteran leaders Mark Richardson, Ben Bowns, and Robert Dowd retain their places on the roster.

“We had plenty of options and it was tough to select the final 22-player roster,” said Russell.

“I really like the look of our squad and I am pleased to add Cam, Sean, and Brandon, who were close to being selected for last year’s World Championship. This is the start of another big year for us and we’re happy to be hosting a tournament on home ice again.”

To advance to the final round of qualifying for the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy, Team GB must top their pool in Cardiff.

With that in mind, here are three observations following the national team’s latest squad announcement.

Team GB Winter Olympic Qualifying Takeaways: Notable Omissions

Let’s start with a trio of notable omissions: Lewis Hook, Keiran Brown, and Ben Davies – all of whom would add quality to the team.

Hook, as the Elite League’s leading homegrown forward, will feel hard done by not to have made the cut. The 27-year-old has 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists) in 29 appearances for the Guildford Flames, averaging more than 20 minutes of ice time.

Brown has proven himself as a prolific scorer at the National League level and has impressed while wearing Team GB colours previously. The Leeds Knights star is on pace for 125 points (70 goals, 55 assists) this season, such is the extent of his dominance in the second tier.

winter olympic qualifying team gb world championship training camp squad 2023 - goalscoring festival -National League | Kieran Brown, Leeds Knights (Image: James Hardisty)

Team GB Qualifying Omission: Kieran Brown, Leeds Knights (Image: James Hardisty)

While there is little-to-no doubt that Brown could make the jump into the Elite League, signing a contract extension with the Knights will limit his national team chances.

Ben Davies misses the chance to play a Winter Olympic qualification tournament in his hometown, despite producing solid two-way performances for the Cardiff Devils under his national team coach. Ruthless from Russell.

Team GB Winter Olympic Qualifying Takeaways: Interesting Inclusions

David Clements drifts in and out of the Team GB picture – but he is completely deserving of his place on the blueline.

The Coventry Blaze defender has made massive improvements to his craft in recent years, helping Danny Stewart’s men climb into the top half of the Elite League standings with clutch contributions at both ends of the ice.

Clements is equipped to contribute in all situations against China, Serbia, and Romania, with his puck-moving ability crucial to his selection.

Critchlow, in the midst of his age-32 season, is set to make his well-deserved competitive debut. Captain of the Manchester Storm, the former Jacksonville Iceman already has 21 points (nine goals, 12 assists) this season and will offer Team GB some scoring punch from the bottom six.

Norris’ inclusion comes as a surprise.

The 24-year-old has six points (two goals, four assists) in 30 Elite League appearances for the Belfast Giants this season, albeit in limited fourth-line minutes.

Norris, who clocked 76 points in his final National League campaign, has offensive upside, but his breakthrough is yet to come at the professional level.

Team GB Winter Olympic Qualifying Takeaways: Qualification is Essential 

Team GB’s days as a minnow in the world of international ice hockey are over, we’re talking about a nation that competes in the top pool of the Men’s World Championship.

China, Romania, and Serbia – while emerging hockey nations – shouldn’t cause Team GB too many issues with the likes of Cade Neilson and Liam Kirk on the roster.

February’s tournament in Cardiff is a chance for Russell & Co. to put previous Winter Olympic disappointments behind them and punch their ticket to the final round of qualifying.

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