Dowd aiming high with GB for shot at the big time

BATTLE: Rob Dowd fights for possession against Poland in Budapest on Wednesday. Picture: Dean Woolley.
BATTLE: Rob Dowd fights for possession against Poland in Budapest on Wednesday. Picture: Dean Woolley.
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ROBERT DOWD insists belief is strong among the Great Britain squad that they can go on to achieve something special at this week’s World Championships in Hungary.

GB head into today’s encounter against Italy third in the Division 1A table and, with two promotion spots available, they are fully aware that a third win in four games would give them a genuine chance of moving up to the top tier of the world game 12 months from now.

The odds do remain heavily stacked against them as the tournament's lowest-ranked team, but Pete Russell’s players have already beaten top seeds Slovenia before rebounding from Tuesday’s 6-1 loss to Kazakhstan with a 5-3 win against Poland.

“Nobody is looking behind us right now, we’re only looking up the table,” said Sheffield Steelers’ forward Dowd. “It would obviously be great to secure our place in this group for next year, but, right now, I’m looking for us to do even better and get to the next group – I want to be up there.

“We’re a positive group and we believe we can do it.”

In each game, GB - ranked 24th in the IIHF world rankings - have gone in as the clear underdog but, Kazakhstan aside, have successfully punched above its weight. It is largely down to a positive approach filtering down from head coach Russell and his team, with Dowd acknowledging there is nothing negative about the current roster.

"The mood is really positive," added Dowd. "But then this set-up never really has a negative vibe anyway. We’ve all played together each year for so long now and it is such a tight-knit group that we’ve always been a positive bunch. Obviously after two wins in three, we’re very upbeat."

"Being the underdog suits us out here. It is nice being an underdog, because when you are playing these teams that are seeded or ranked higher than us, they are the ones with everything to lose. We have everything to gain as they are expected to beat us, especially earlier in the week with Slovenia. You can play with no fear when everybody else considers you the underdog."

Italy will, as ever, provide stern competition, not just because they are ranked five places above GB, but also because of the very impressive performance they produced in beating Kazakhstan 3-0 on Wednesday.

Five years ago in Budapest, GB fell 5-1 to the Italians in what was a forgettable second-tier tournament for Tony Hand's side as they dropped down to Division 1B without picking up a single point, losing all five games.

POSITIVE VIBE: GB's squad has retained a positive mindset throughout their training camp and in Budapest to put themselves in contention for a medal. Picture: Dean Woolley.

POSITIVE VIBE: GB's squad has retained a positive mindset throughout their training camp and in Budapest to put themselves in contention for a medal. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Another of GB's conquerors that week, hosts Hungary, provide the final challenge on Saturday, but Dowd insisted there was little point in looking past their initial test against Italy.

"All we need to do is concentrate on Italy on Friday and then worry about the final day afterwards," he said. "If we win against Italy we put ourselves in such a good position ahead of the last round of games.

"Italy are a very good, strong team - they are a big outfit and they all skate very well, very similar to Slovenia, I felt, in the way that they play and the size they have in their squad. They’ve got some good players and they showed that against Kazakhstan - but I think they are beatable.

"Those first couple of rounds of games have shown that everybody is beatable in this group now. We’ve just got to go in with the same kind of mindset that we did going into the Poland game.

"We are just focusing on that next game. In these tournaments, you can’t look any further ahead because of how quickly the games come."