The Steelers Five are doing their country proud alongside the finest British players the Elite League has to offer.
Captain Jonathan Phillips is joined by his Steelers colleagues Robert Dowd, Ben O’Connor, Davey Phillips and Liam Kirk out in Budapest as GB battle it out in the second tier of world hockey.
Sunday’s 3-1 victory against favourites Slovenia will stand right up there with the best performances seen from a national side, a game that saw both O’Connor and Dowd find the back of the net.
Tuesday’s 6-1 defeat to Kazakhstan will have deflated the GB bandwagon but if we are realistic GB has three more points already than perhaps anyone else would have thought of at this stage.
I was out working with GB the last time we reached this advanced stage of world hockey and it was an incredible experience to witness both the standard of competition and the commitment of all of the players to elevate their game – that year in the Ukraine we came just nine minutes from promotion to Pool A and the promised land.
How good would it be for the sport in this country if our captain J could lead us to a top two finish this week and promotion?
The likes of Poland, Hungary and Italy all stand in the way of that happening. These are winnable games though. The issue at this standard is that you are as likely to get relegated as you are promoted.
Those critics of the Elite League should crawl back under their stone, it’s the development of our home league that has seen this vast improvement in recent years. Yes the home grown natural Brits have been joined by a sprinkling of duel national imports but that’s the same for most countries – just ask the Italians.
Our players now play at this same fast four line speed week in and week out in domestic completion, the two goaltenders Messrs Bowns and Whistle are genuine starters in our League and most in Europe.
We also have game changers, the likes of our own Ben O’Connor and Robert Dowd can make things happen. The introduction of Mike Hammond also, he has Fairy Liquid hands, they are so soft.
This GB side also is without the likes of Liam Stewart and Nottingham forward Evan Mosey, players who would have made the squad if not for injury. Steeler Liam Kirk and former Sheffield favourite Luke Ferrara have taken advantage and forced their way into the side, Luke scoring against Kazakhstan on Tuesday.
Win, lose or draw there are positives to be taken from this tournament and the development of the British talent. For the past few years they haven’t been just handed a club slot in their home team, they have had to fight for it. The increased number of imports in the league hasn’t hurt the national side, it’s helped it by making those Brits play at a more competitive level. Look at the likes of Benny and Dowdy; we don’t talk of them being our best Brits we talk of them being some of our best players.
The same can be said for Mark Richardson in Cardiff, Colin Shields in Belfast and of course Bowns between the pipes, he has grown into a genuine superstar of our game. Their performances is a credit to them all for how they have worked, pushed themselves and risen to the challenge. Fingers crossed for the rest of the week.
Back home things are moving along nicely, as I said last week don’t expect any news for a few weeks yet as we won’t be saying too much at all. All I can say is that we are making good progress and I’m excited.
Just 15 weeks left to pre season.
Not a lot of rumours flowing right now.
I had heard that Ervins Mustukovs was France bound but that has gone quiet so who knows. This time of the year is fascinating, the rumours just keep on flowing. Good luck GB, the Steelers Five, we are dead proud of you and we are cheering you all on.