No identity crisis for GB as they face biggest test

JONATHAN PHILLIPS believes head coach Pete Russell has helped Great Britain's senior team find its '˜identity' again.

BIG TEST: Sheffield Steelers' GB international, Jonathan Phillips. Picture: Dean Woolley

GB continue their preparations in Budapest today ahead of tomorrow’s World Championship Division 1A opener against Slovenia.

Phillips was part of the GB team that won gold in Belfast last year, earning them promotion to the world game’s second tier.

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It means tougher tests than those experienced at the SSE Arena now await Phillips and his team-mates who, after opening up against the Slovenians face-off against Kazakhstan, Poland, and Italy, before closing out against tournament hosts Hungary next Saturday.

While GB enter the event as the lowest-ranked team at 24th in the world, rankings will count for little over the coming days as the six teams battle it out for the two promotion places available to face off against the likes of Canada, Sweden and Russia in 2019 in Slovakia.

For many people, GB will be favourites to come straight back down by finishing the week in the one designated relegation spot – but Russell and his players are determined to show they are worthy of inclusion at the higher level, particularly after having to settle for the second-best silver medal position in the two years prior to their promotion.

“The way we are seeing things is that we’ve got as much chance of going up as we have of being relegated,” said Sheffield Steelers’ captain, Phillips.

“We’re certainly not going there to just stay in the group. If we bring our A-game every night, then we’ve got as good a chance as anybody else.”

Pete Russell, GB ice hockey head coac. Picture courtesy of Ice Hockey UK.

Phillips said head coach Russell – assisted by Corey Neilson and Adam Keefe –had had nothing but a positive impact since he took over the role ahead of the 2015 Division 1B tournament in the Netherlands.

“He’s always been a good coach, he knows the game well and has got a good understanding,” he added. “But, most of all, he brought the passion and the pride back into the GB team which kind of went missing for a few years and he just sort of lifted everyone.

“That’s something we had under Paul Thompson a few years ago, but it was a bit uncertain for a while with different coaches, so it was good to find our identity again.”

Pete Russell, GB ice hockey head coac. Picture courtesy of Ice Hockey UK.