Only matter of time before Sheffield Steelers’ Josh Waller gets GB call, says Pete Russell

GREAT BRITAIN head coach Pete Russell has told Sheffield Steelers’ Elite Series recruit Josh Waller he has a big international future ahead of him, despite missing out on the plane to Latvia for next month’s World Championships.

ON THE FRINGES: Josh Waller has just missed out on the GB squad for next month's World Championships, but could get the call if injury hits a fellow player. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Seven Steelers’ players currently playing in the four-team tournament at the National Ice Centre have been picked by Russell, with Sheffield Steeldogs’ defenceman Ben O’Connor also among the 27-strong squad. Russell still has one name to add in the coming days to reach his permitted 28-player group.

Jonathan Phillips, Davey Phillips, Robert Dowd, Liam Kirk and Brendan Connolly all retain their place on the roster, while there is a first-ever call-up for defenceman Sam Jones. Matthew Myers, who usually plies his trade for Cardiff Devils but was drafted by the Steelers for the Elite Series, is also selected. Rotherham-born netminder Ben Bowns, currently with Nottingham Panthers is also included.

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“As with any Great Britain squad, the coaching staff had many difficult decisions to make concerning this year’s team,” said Russell. “A number of core GB players are unavailable for selection and we will miss those players for sure, but I still feel we have some great depth across our roster.

“Once again, this is the pinnacle of any player’s career and it will be a massive honour for them to step onto the ice against some of the best teams in the world.”

Waller has played for Guildford Flames in the Elite League for the past two seasons but, with Paul Dixon’s team opting out of the current behind-closed-doors event in Nottingham, the 21-year-old winger was another player picked in the pre-tournament Brit-Draft by Steelers’ head coach Aaron Fox.

Often on the same line as Steelers’ veteran duo Jason Hewitt and Jonathan Phillips, Waller has thrived, scoring one goal and four assists in nine games so far with the Steelers currently topping the group standings ahead of Thursday night’s clash with Coventry Blaze.

But while the Reading-born forward has stood out when representing GB as a junior, it seems he will have to wait at least another year for his chance at senior level, unless injury to a player chosen by Russell opens the door for him in the coming weeks.

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

“This squad has a good mixture of experience and fantastic young talent, but I do want to give a special mention to two players - Joe Hazeldine and Josh Waller - who just missed out,” said head coach Pete Russell “They are exciting prospects for the future and their day will come - and what I will say is that if anyone has to pull out, they will be on the plane.”

Five players – David Clements, Jordan Hedley, Lewis Hook, Ciaran Long and Josh Tetlow – are named in a full World Championship squad for the first-ever time after previously representing GB at junior level.

To watch tonight’s Elite Series clash between Sheffield Steelers and Coventry Blaze buy a live streaming ticket HERE

GB are in Group A - based in the Olympic Sports Centre - where they will come up against Russia, Slovakia, Denmark, Belarus, Sweden, Czech Republic and Switzerland between 22nd May 22 and June 1. Group B consists of hosts Latvia, as well as Canada, Finland, Germany, Italy, Kazakhstan, Norway and the USA. Matches will be held at Arena Riga.

VETERAN PRESENCE: Sheffield Steelers' defenceman, Davey Phillips is on the plane to Riga. Picture: Dean Woolley.

GB squad – Netminders: Ben Bowns (Nottingham Panthers), Jordan Hedley (Coventry Blaze), Jackson Whistle (Nottingham); Defence: David Clements (Coventry), Dallas Ehrhardt (Manchester Storm), Mark Garside (Nottingham), Sam Jones (Sheffield Steelers), Evan Mosey (EHC Freiburg), Ben O’Connor (Sheffield Steeldogs), David Phillips (Sheffield), Josh Tetlow (Nottingham); Forwards: Ollie Betteridge (Nottingham), Brendan Connolly (Sheffield), Ben Davie (Manchester), Robert Dowd (Sheffield), Sam Duggan (oventry), Luke Ferrara (Coventry), Mike Hammond (Coventry), Lewis Hook (Nottingham), Liam Kirk (Sheffield), Robert Lachowicz (Nottingham), Ben Lake (Manchester), Ciaran Long (Manchester), Matthew Myers (Sheffield), Brett Perlini (Panthers), Jonathan Phillips (Sheffield), Ross Venus (Coventry).

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Sheffield Steeldogs' defenceman Ben O'Connor will be with GB in Latvia next month. Picture courtesy of Cerys Molloy.
FRONT LINE: Robert Dowd will be locking horns with the world's best players with GB in Latvia next month. picture: Dean Woolley.