KIERAN BROWN believes Great Britain Under-2os can be genuine gold medal contenders at this year’s World Championships in Estonia.
Slava Koulikov’s team open their Division 2 Group A campaign against Lithuania in Tallinn tomorrow and, after taking bronze on home ice in Dumfries last year, are looking to clinch top spot and, with it, promotion to the next tier.
The British team have been in Estonia most of the week and warmed up with impressive wins against two of next week’s rivals, first hammering Korea 8-1 before overcoming Spain 6-3.
Seventeen-year-old Sheffield Steelers’ forward Brown believes the confidence gained from those warm-up games – in which he followed up a hat-trick against Korea with another strike against Spain – has given the British squad a timely confidence boost.
“Everyone is pretty confident going into the first game, particularly after the way we played against Korea,” said Brown, who missed last year’s tournament in Scotland through injury.
“The warm-up games help because we’re going to be playing against them both in the tournament – but we need to make sure we’re not too cocky because that’s when you can come unstuck.
“I think it’s pretty realistic for us to be aiming for gold.
“We took bronze last year and with the team we’ve got this year we’ve got a really good chance – I think this team is even stronger than last time.”
Brown is joined on the GB roster by Steelers team-mate, defenceman Jordan Griffin, while former Sheffield forward Liam Kirk – an NHL draft pick for the Arizona Coyotes last summer – has also been made available after being allowed to make the trip from Canada by his current OHL club Peterborough Petes.
Brown, who played alongside Kirk for the Steelers under Paul Thompson last season, believes the inclusion of the 18-year-old winger can only be a major positive for the British team.
I think it’s pretty realistic for us to be aiming for gold. We took bronze last year and with the team we’ve got this year we’ve got a really good chance – I think this team is even stronger than last time.Kieran Brown
“It’s good to see him - he’s such a good role model when you see what he has done,” added Brown. “It pushes the rest of us to play even better, him being here gives us quite a bit of confidence as he is a big player to have on your team.
“It helps spread confidence throughout the group and he’s been drafted so there’s also the factor that players on other teams know they need to be careful whenever he’s on the ice.”
Head coach Koulikov - who on Saturday made Kirk his captain with Jordan Kelsall and Chad Smith the alternates – has been pleased with his team’s preparations before and after their arrival in Estonia.
“It was great for team morale to get the second win that followed on from Wednesday’s success over Korea,” said Koulikov.
“The games were very useful. We were able to try different line combinations and it was a good chance to implement the tactics we want to use in the tournament.
Great Britain U20s World Championship schedule (all face-offs listed as UK time): Sunday, January 13 v Lithuania (6pm - live on Freesports); Monday, January 14 v Korea (2:30pm - live on Freesports); Wednesday, January 16 v Estonia (6pm - delayed FreeSports coverage at 10:30pm); Thursday, January 17 v Romania (2:30pm - live on Freesports); Saturday, January 19 v Spain U20s (11am - live on Freesports)