BEN O'CONNOR is looking forward to sharing world championship ice with Finland’s teenage superstar Kaapo Kakko tonight - but admits his main focus is already on Great Britain’s final game of the tournament three days later.
The 18-year-old Finnish winger – along with the USA’s Jack Hughes tipped as the top two NHL Draft picks next month – has taken the top tier tournament by storm, scoring six goals in just four games for the fifth seeds.
After losing out to the USA 6-3 on Wednesday GB resume their campaign tonight with the first of two games in as many days, with a clash against hosts Slovakia following tomorrow.
But, already, the main focus for Pete Russell’s is on Monday and their final game against the only other Group A team without a win, France. The winner will avoid relegation.
“Kakko is just something else,” said Sheffield Steelers’ defenceman O’Connor. “He is just at another level so it is going to be fun playing against him, it really is.
“But all these players are very good, they are NHL players for a reason – because they are something special. We know Finland and Slovakia are two very good hockey nations.
“But we just have to focus on ourselves, play like we did against Germany, play like we did against the USA and make sure that we hit that game against France on Monday really flying.
“The way things are probably going to go, it is going to come down to that game between us and France as to who stays up.
“We want to make sure we’re the ones here competing again next year.”
O'Connor admits a disappointingly disjointed performance against Denmark which resulted in a 9-0 loss at the Steel Arena was intensely frustrating for the GB team, particuarly having come so soon after a stirring display against Germany three days later.
"Wwe didn't come to the races at all against Denmark and were flat, added O'Connor. "It doesn't matter what tournament you are at - this group or the group below - if you show up and play like that (against Denmark) then you are going to get spanked and that is what happened.
"It was frustrating after the Denmark game because we had showed against Germany in that opening game that we could play with these teams and
"But it takes a good team full of belief and character to bounce back like the way we did against the USA and put on a really good game.
We didn't give up until th last minute and we went hard against the USA and we needed a full 60 minutes. After that Denmark game we owed it to ourselves and to our fans and everyone back home to prove that we are not just here for the experience.
"We want to be here to stay and playing like we did against the USA puts us back on track."