Davey Phillips hopes steep learning curve can help Great Britain pass ultimate French test

DAVEY PHILLIPS believes Great Britain's players have only improved while competing at the world championships in Slovakia.

Davey Philips has enjoyed the experiences of the last two weeks or so in Kosice. Picture: Dean Woolley.
Davey Philips has enjoyed the experiences of the last two weeks or so in Kosice. Picture: Dean Woolley.

But the 32-year-old GB defenceman says all that has been learned in the past 10 days or so in Kosice needs to her brought together in order to beat France in their final Group A game later today to ensure GB stick around at the top tier for 2020 in Switzerland.

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The odds may be stacked against Pete Russell's team - France are ranked eight places above them in the world rankings and have played in 'Pool A' for the last 12 years - but Phillips is convinced an upset can be made at the Steel Arena this afternoon.

Speed was always going to be an issue for GB once they took the step up after promotion last year and so it has proved but, as Phillips points out, it isn't just physical speed on the ice, but the speed of thought in their opponents that has made life so difficult in the first six games, which have failed to bring a point so far.

"It is a learning curve for us all when you’re not used to playing against opposition this good," said the Sheffield Steelers' defenceman. "There’s not as much time on the puck and guys who are used to scoring goals are finding it a lot harder to come by playing against teams who are so much stronger in all areas.

Davey Phillips battles for possession during Saturday night's 7-1 defeat to hosts Slovakia. Picture: Dean Woolley

"There’s not been a lot of time to adjust, given how hectic the schedule, although that's not being used as an excuse because it is the same for every team. But I do think that with each game we’ve got better from the previous and we’ve just got to make sure we keep working hard.

"Playing against this kind of quality as much as we have, does make you look at your own game. Every player has improved since they have been here. With every game, people have looked a lot sharper and their decision-making is a lot better.

"Just everything you have to do you just have to do quicker, whether that is the actual skating or making a decision on what to do with the puck or how to get the puck.

France will come into Monday's game having been on the ice less than 24 hours earlier when a 3-0 defeat to Group A leaders Finland saw them remain just one point and one place above GB.

But while an argument could be made for GB to be the fresher of the two teams having spent Sunday as their day off, Phillips says nothing will be taken for granted by head coach Russell's players.

"They are going to be a good team," added Phillips. "They’ve been in this group for about 10 years now and you don’t stay up in this group for that amount of years if you’re not a good, solid side.

"So it’s going to be a tough game but, on the other hand, it’s still a game we think we can win.

"Staying out of the penalty box is going to be so crucial, given how much is at stake. The penalty kill has not been great but we can’t be giving up that many penalties either against teams who can pass and shoot the puck as quickly as those out here."