Steelers' Brendan Connolly excited ahead of GB debut in Olympic qualifiying tournament

Steeler Brendan Connolly has pledged his absolute allegiance to the Great Britain ice hockey cause as he debuts in this coming weekend's Olympic qualifying tournament.

Monday, 3rd February 2020, 3:00 pm

The Canadian hails from Alberta’s Rocky Mountains but meets the criteria to play for GB through his Northern Ireland-born father and his own two years in the EIHL.

The Sheffield forward will join GB's "band of brothers" against Hungary, Estonia and Romania (Thursday-Sunday) at Nottingham Arena; the winners going through to final qualifying round in August ahead of Beijing's 2022 Winter Olympics.

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Brendan Connolly and his GB captain Jonathan Phillips

Connolly also has his eyes on the World Championships this Summer - a tournament he missed through injury last year.

"My Dad was from Northern Ireland, he grew up there," explained Connolly.

"He came to Canada when he was 14 years old...so I was able to get my passport through him.

"You have to play two years in the league so I played Belfast and I played Glasgow last year which makes me eligible, I am really excited for it."

A year ago GB coach Pete Russell had told him he'd be joining "a band of brothers"- but injury prevented him from being part of the memorable moment last May in which Britain retained their World Championship top-flight status.

He said: "I was really excited how the team performed the way they did in the World Championships...they kept themselves up there for another season and gave me the chance to be there this year."

Recalling his injury, while playing for Glasgow Clan against Fife Flyers, Connolly said: "Any time you have a serious injury you start to question a lot of things, if it is worth it.

"It took a lot of rehab this summer, a lot of hard work to get it back to where I wanted it to be but I am happy with it."

As for the weekend opponents, he said: "I don't think you can take anyone lightly; we are trying to do a job. We know that we have to win these games to get to the next qualifier."

His mindset is to: "Play like you are playing for a gold medal and good things will happen."

In May, GB will playing Sweden, Canada and Czech Republic in the Worlds and Connolly says: "As a player you want to play against the best.

"I am looking forward to being on the ice with some of the best players in the world. Seeing how your game stacks up and maybe learning a few things from those guys so I am definitely looking forward to it."

He added he would be "excited and a little nervous" to be playing Canada but said there would be no favours shown: "I'll give everything I've got."