Sheffield Steelers' American coach caught up in GB excitement

You might not think an American newcomer to our ice hockey shores would have been on the edge of his seat when he watched the Great Britain team play in the World Championships in Slovakia, recently.

Monday, 3rd June 2019, 2:12 pm

Especially as GB were on a hiding to nothing against elite opponents in Group A of the tournament in Kosice, Slovakia.

But new Sheffield Steelers' coach Aaron Fox, who had been studying the form of his own Sheffield players in the GB side (Ben O'Connor, Jackson Whistle, Davey Phillips, Jonathan Phillips and Robert Dowd) said he’d savoured the excitement of the dramatic 4-3 overtime victory against France, which guaranteed a place in next year's top pool.

Fox said any mistakes made by GB players during the tournament had to be seen against the background of the standards of hockey nations like Canada, the US and Finland.

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Looking back, he said: "I think early on in the tournament they played a couple of pretty decent games, where they kept some scores close there, and there are some games obviously that they looked a little bit out of place.

"Coming down to it, we knew there was going to be a couple of key games that they had a chance to win, one of them didn't go very well for them, the Denmark game (0-9.) "They got off to a rough start and it kind of snowballed the wrong way.

"In that France game (the decider to determine who would be relegated) it could have gone the same way as well...3-0 (down) midway through a game, you could really see the character in the group that was there.

"It turned, they got a break on that first goal that built a little momentum and the game changed and they put France back on their heels and it was quite an exciting afternoon of hockey, that's for sure!"

Davey Phillips - amongst the caps

He said performances from the Steelers' contingent had been "a little up and down" but pointed out that was understandable considering the level of competition.

"I thought Benny's last game was obviously his best game, for sure.

"Dowdy had a pretty good tournament, he was noticeable throughout, I think," said Fox.

"He was one of the better forwards, for sure.

Ben O'Connor saved the best to last

"Davey - when you saw him play the physical side of the game that I am going to hope he plays for us, I liked his game.

"But, again, mistakes were made all over that tournament from the UK team and that is because the level of competition is so high it is normal.

"I was happy the way they all played, obviously the assist that Jono had, the game-winner...I looked out there three-on-three Jono on the ice and I am like: 'This is awesome!'

"He wins a race, wins a battle and finds (Ben) Davies in front for a golden goal, it was awesome."

The Sheffield coach said there had not been "a ton of opportunity there" for second-string goaltender Whistle but: "when he came in I thought he played pretty sound.

“It is not an easy job for sure to get thrown into blow-out games but he played solid, I thought."