Teenager Kirk makes the step up to join Sheffield Steelers' team-mates for World Championship action

TEENAGE prospect Liam Kirk has been picked along with four Sheffield Steelers team-mates for the Great Britain senior squad to contest next week's World Championships in Hungary.

GB head coach, Pete Russell. Picture: Dean Woolley.

The 18-year-old caught the attention of numerous NHL scouts during the second half of the Elite League season and is expected to be picked in the annual NHL Draft this summer.

After a weekend which saw GB prepare for their trip to the Division 1A tournament in Budapest with two warm-up games against Lithuania, Kirk was told last night that he had made head coach Pete Russell's final 23-man roster and will fly out on Thursday alongside Steelers' team-mates Jonathan Phillips, Robert Dowd, Ben O'Connor and Davey Phillips.

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Rotherham-born first-choice netminder Ben Bowns, who last weekend helped Cardiff Devils beat the Steelers to add the Elite League play-off title to their second successive league championship has - not surprisingly - also made the squad.

Sheffield Steelers' Liam Kirk. Picture: Dean Woolley.

GB followed up a 3-2 defeat in Milton Keynes to Lithuania on Saturday with a 7-2 loss in Coventry last night, with Kirk, Jonathan Phillips, Dowd and O'Connor sitting out as healthy scratches, while Davey Phillips was made captain for the night.

Russell's team earned promotion with a memorable gold medal Division 1B triumph in Belfast last year and will open their campaign in Budapest against Slovenia on Sunday before going on to face hosts Hungary, as well as Italy, Kazakhstan and Poland.

Russell said he had been forced to make some difficult decisions in reducing his original 28-man squad.

“Picking a final 23 is never easy and this year has been no different," he said. "“There will be some disappointed players who have not made the cut, but the competition for places really was intense.

WINNERS: GB celebrate last year's Division 1B gold medal triumph in Belfast. Picture: Dean Woolley.

“Losing Evan Mosey to injury is a blow but we have a quality roster going to Hungary next week. The squad has great balance and we have a nice mix of youth and experience across the roster.

“It will be a massive test for us next week but this squad is excited about taking on some of the best nations in the world. We all know the challenges we will face."

SQUAD - Netminders: Ben Bowns (Cardiff Devils), Jackson Whistle (Belfast Giants), Thomas Murdy (reserve, Cardiff)

Defencemen: Dallas Ehrhardt (Manchester Storm), Steve Lee (Nottingham Panthers), Ben O’Connor (Sheffield Steelers), David Phillips (Sheffield Steelers), Mark Richardson (Cardiff Devils), Zach Sullivan (Braehead Clan), Paul Swindlehurst (Manchester Storm).

Sheffield Steelers' Liam Kirk. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Forwards: Ollie Betteridge (Nottingham Panthers), Brendan Brooks (Braehead Clan), Ben Davies (Guildford Flames), Robert Dowd (Sheffield Steelers), Robert Farmer (Nottingham Panthers), Luke Ferrara (Coventry Blaze), Mike Hammond (Manchester Storm), Liam Kirk (Sheffield Steelers), Robert Lachowicz (Nottingham Panthers), Matthew Myers (Cardiff Devils), Jonathan Phillips (Sheffield Steelers), Brett Perlini (Nottingham Panthers), Colin Shields (Belfast Giants).

WINNERS: GB celebrate last year's Division 1B gold medal triumph in Belfast. Picture: Dean Woolley.