BEN BOWNS says he is drawing inspiration from previous Great Britain Winter Olympics heroics as he looks to help the current-day team move one step closer to the 2018 games.
GB famously won the gold medal in Germany back in 1936, but have not appeared at the Olympics since 1948.
Rotherham-born netminder Bowns – now plying his trade with current Elite League leaders Cardiff Devils – was part of the GB team that beat Netherlands 6-5 in the opening game of their Olympic Pre-Qualifiers Group G campaign in Cortina, Italy, on Thursday. Today they take on Serbia before facing hosts and pre-tournament favourites Italy tomorrow.
Only one team can progress to the next stage of qualifying.
GB will be expected to defeat Serbia, although they will do well to match the 8-0 win enjoyed by Italy over the former Yugoslav republic on Thursday evening.
Bowns admitted that being part of an Olympic qualifying tournament made the campaign more special, with the lure of progressing and being only one step away from qualifying for the main event in South Korea two years from now proving a huge motivating factor.
“It is unreal to think that GB once won gold in ice hockey at the Winter Olympics,” said Bowns, formerly of Sheffield Steeldogs and the now defunct Hull Stingrays.
“It is inspiring to know that we once beat those traditional powerful nations to win the top prize. To represent your country at a World Championship is right up there, but this is something else.”
Whereas Serbia will represent something of an unknown quantity, if head coach Pete Russell’s team can prevail it is likely to set up a winner-takes-all clash against Italy tomorrow.
Italy have won all three meetings between the two teams since the turn of the century and, with them being six places higher in the world rankings, would go into the final match of the tournament as favourites.
Hull-born defenceman David Phillips, now playing with Manchester Storm, said the strong bond forged within the GB squad in the last few days would prove vital over the next 48 hours. He said: There is a great team bond within this group and our ability to dig deep showed against Netherlands as we had to really pull that one out of the bag.”