With only the ‘Pool A’ teams currently over in Latvia actually competing on the world stage this year, the IIHF took the decision back in February to abandon promotion and relegation between divisions.
That means Pete Russell’s team are guaranteed a third successive appearance among the world’s elite when the tournament’s top tier reconvenes in Finland next year.
As was the case two years ago when GB returned to compete with the world’s top hockey nations for the first time in 25 years, Phillips and his team-mates are regarded very much as minnows, with further testing meetings scheduled after today’s Group A opener with Russia against Slovakia, Denmark, Belarus, Sweden, Czech Republic and Switzerland.
But, just as they did in Slovakia in 2019, when a spectacular final-day overtime comeback win against France ensured they avoided instant relegation back to Division One, Sheffield Steelers’ captain Phillips says there is a desire within the GB camp to prove they belong at this level.
“Even though we’ve got that safety valve of no relegation, I don’t think that has really been on our minds,” said Phillips, who was yesterday confirmed as GB captain.
“For us, I wouldn’t say the pressure that we put on ourselves has gone away because the high standard that we have set in recent years is still there – we still need to be showing that we belong here at this level.
“So it is a big tournament for us in that respect, there is a lot of pride involved for us being at this level and it’s not been an easy road to get here.
“As professionals, this is why we play and unless you approach every game in the same way, I really don’t think there is much point in playing.”
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