Big decisions made by head coach Pete Russell as GB prepares for ultimate test at world championships in Slovakia

HEAD COACH Pete Russell said “no stone was left unturned” when it came to picking his final 25-strong Great Britain squad for next month’s world championships in Slovakia.

BIG DECISIONS: GB head coach, Pete Russell. Picture: Scott Wiggins.

Russell’s team have two final warm-up games this weekend against KHL side Torpedo in Nottingham and Sheffield before heading out to Kosice where they will continue preparations ahead of their first campaign at the elite level of the world game for 25 years.

After opening up against Olympic silver medallists Germany on May 11, GB will then face world-leading nations Canada, USA and Finland before further games against France, Slovakia and Denmark.

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Russell admitted taking his roster down to just 25 names proved a difficult task for himself and assistants Adam Keefe and Corey Neilson.

WE'LL MEET AGAIN: Sheffield Steelers' Davey Phillips, Jonathan Phillips, Robert Dowd and Ben O'Connor celebrate last year's stunning gold medal success in Hungary with former team-mate Liam Kirk. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Sheffield Steelers quintet Jackson Whistle, Ben O’Connor, Davey Phillips, Robert Dowd and Jonathan Phillips were all selected, along with their former team-mate Liam Kirk, who has spent the past year in Canada playing for Peterborough Petes in the OHL after being picked in the NHL Draft by Arizoa Coyotes.

“As a coaching group we had some big decisions to make,” said Russell. “For me, we left no stone unturned. I know the guys who missed out are completely disappointed and so would I be.

“The whole group at the camp have given everything to each other every day and created healthy competition. This effort and attitude has only made our compete group stronger. They may not be in the 25 but they are a part of our group.

“A couple of the guys were unfortunate to be hurt and not had a real opportunity to stake a claim but they will be back next year though.”

IN: Sheffield Steelers' netminder Jackson Whistle is expecgted to be back-up to Ben Bowns out in Slovakia. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Former Sheffield Steelers’ forward Luke Ferrara is another to make the final cut, as is No 1 Rotherham-born goaltender, Ben Bowns.

GB Squad for World Championships in Slovakia, May 2019: Netminders – Ben Bowns (Cardiff Devils), Thomas Murdy (Cardiff), Jackson Whistle (Sheffield Steelers); Defencemen: Tim Billingsley (Nottingham Panthers); Dallas Ehrhardt (Manchester Storm), Steve Lee (Nottingham), Evan Mosey (Cardiff), Ben O’Connor (Sheffield), David Phillips (Sheffield), Mark Richards (Cardiff), Paul Swindlehurst (Belfast Giants); Forwards: Ollie Betteridge (Nottingham), Ben Davies (Guildford Flames), Robert Dowd (Sheffield), Robert Farmer (Nottingham), Luke Ferrara (Coventry Blaze), Mike Hammond Manchester), Liam Kirk (Peterborough Petes), Robert Lachowicz (Nottingham), Ben Lake (Coventry), Joey Lewis (ESV Kaufbeuren), Matthew Myers (Cardiff), Brett Perlini (Nottingham), Jonathan Phillips (Sheffield), Colin Shields (Belfast).