Previous World Championship experience key for GB says Sheffield Steelers’ Davey Phillips

DAVEY PHILLIPS says this year’s World Championships will bring a step into the unknown given the way preparation for the tournament has been hampered by the pandemic.

FOCUS: GB and Sheffield Steelers' defenceman Davey Phillips. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Normally, players of all nationalities would be coming into the even on the back of a full season of hockey but, because of coronavirus, that has not been possible.

Only a handful of GB’s players have enjoyed what could amount to anything resembling ‘full’ season, after securing roster spots in Europe, while the majority out in Riga preparing to face-off against Russia today saw the majority of their action via behind-closed-doors events in the UK.

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FRESH START: Davey Phillips and his GB team-mates take on world No 2-ranked Russia in Riga on Saturday. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Phillips, who had a short spell in Hungary before Christmas ahead of icing for the Sheffield Steeldogs in the Spring Cup before being drafted by Sheffield Steelers - where he has played since 2016 – for the Elite Series.

But Phillips says the GB team are turning their reduced preparation time as a positive as they get ready for a second successive campaign among world’s leading hockey nations in Latvia.

“Obviously, we’re not coming in off a normal, full season which is not ideal, but that might mean we’re coming into it fresher in one way, there are pros and cons to it,” said the experienced defenceman.

“Your cardio base would be better from having a longer season, but then on the downside of that you’re always going to come in with a few niggles that you’ve been carrying over from the season and maybe a little bit of fatigue.

WARMING UP: Davey Phillips gets to grips with forward Liam Kirk in practice in Riga earlier this week. Picture: Dean Woolley.

“It’s a little bit of an unknown in that sense, really, all we can do is turn that into a positive, we can’t change how the year has gone, we’re just looking at it that we’re coming in fresher.”

The action Phillips saw with the Steeldogs and the Steelers will prove invaluable in terms of the GB squad’s preparations, but the 33-year-old is fully aware the next 10 days will represent another significant step up in quality.

“We have been able to get some games under our belts and played for a couple of months before coming out here,” said Phillips. “And that has been really good for us, but it’s a little bit of a different kettle of fish here. It’s going to be a lot quicker than what we have been playing in the Elite Series and with no warm-up games as well.

“What was good last time at the World Championships was that we had that warm-up game against Slovakia which was a real good eye-opener for us as to what we could expect coming down the line. I do remember after that game we realised how much of a higher level we were going to be playing at.

“But this time, we should have a little more confidence and that experience from two years ago and know that we can actually play at this level.”

And while most teams are not packed with as many star names as they could be at the tournament, Phillips is under no illusions about the quality that will line up against them over the coming days.

“They are still going to be top-notch, we’re going to come up against some top, top nations, some of the best players in the world,” he explained. “I know some of these teams haven’t got quite the number of top NHL players that they would usually have but, even so, there are still players on these rosters in our group who are very good ice hockey and, in some cases, very highly-paid hockey players.”

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