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Sheffield Steelers’ Davey Phillips determined to prove GB ‘belong’

AIMING HIGH: Davey Phillips. Picture: Dean Woolley.
AIMING HIGH: Davey Phillips. Picture: Dean Woolley.
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DAVEY PHILLIPS believes Great Britain need to prove they “belong” at the World Championships in Budapest.

Head coach Pete Russell’s team earned promotion with their gold-medal performance on home ice in Belfast last year, making up for two near-misses in their bid to return to the second-tier of the international game.

On Sunday, Great Britain will begin their Division 1A campaign against Slovenia, who recently played at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, before two days later taking on the much-fancied Kazakhstan, a team who only missed out on promotion last year to the top tier by the tiniest of margins.

Further games follow against Poland, Italy and the hosts Hungary and although Russell’s team will enter the tournament as many people’s favourites to go straight back down, Sheffield Steelers’s Hull-born defenceman Phillips is convinced they can prove the doubters wrong.

“It was obviously good last year when we won gold but, for me, it was bitter-sweet because we’d had disappointments in the previous two years when we came second and I felt we should have got promotion already,” said the 30-year-old.

“It had been coming for a couple of years as far as I was concerned and all the guys in the room felt that we deserved to be in the higher group. So we need to make sure that, at the very least, we stay at this level and prove that we belong there.”

Phillips was made captain for Sunday’s final warm-up game for Britain when they played Lithuania in Coventry, losing 7-2.

And while it was a proud moment for him to wear the ‘C’ for a second time playing for his country, he is more than happy to hand the responsibility back to Steelers’ team-mate Jonathan Phillips come Sunday.

“It is nice to be given that recognition – it’s something I’ve not been able to do much over my career,” added Phillips. “Playing for my country is something I take great pride in.

“I’m sure Jonno will be getting it back next week which is something he richly deserves because he’s a great captain – I can just enjoy doing it for the one game.”

GB head coach, Pete Russell. 'Picture courtesy of Ice Hockey UK

GB head coach, Pete Russell. 'Picture courtesy of Ice Hockey UK

Meanwhile, Phillips’s former defensive colleague Zack Fitzgerald has returned to Braehead Clan for the 2018-19 Elite league campaign.

The 32-year-old American has been brought in as captain by GB coach Russell, who was appointed as the Scottish club’s new boss 10 days ago.

Fitzgerald was one of nine imports released by Steelers’ head coach Paul Thompson at the end of the 2017-18 campaign. He spent three seasons in South Yorkshire after having played his first season in the UK at Braehead.

“Zack is a warrior, a natural leader and a huge character,” said Russell. “For me, we needed to sign a club captain, I knew Zack was that guy I wanted and I am delighted we got him.

We need to make sure that, at the very least, we stay at this level and prove that we belong there.

GB and Sheffield Steelers’ defenceman, Davey Phillips

“Zack will lead on and off the ice. He will defend his net and of course his team-mates. It’s another big part of the core that this club needs and I need.”