The tournament underdogs get their first top-tier campaign for 25 years underway when they take on Germany at the Steel Arena in Kosice later today.
Further tests will come against other heavyweight nations such as Canada, Finland and the USA.
Sheffield Steelers’ defenceman O’Connor, now in his ninth world championship campaign, says success would be represented simply by avoiding an instant return to the second tier – something he believes is possible given the squad’s resolute team spirit.
“Some of us have been playing together for a long, long time, on and off, since Under-11s Conference in some cases – we go back a long way,” said O’Connor. “With (goalie) Ben Bowns we started back in Sheffield together for the Under-10s, so you’ve got these connections with each other which counts for a hell of a lot out there on the ice.
“It makes you want to work extra hard for the guys next to you, particularly when it’s for your country, in front of our fans and the people watching back home.”
Pride is a factor that has often been attributed to British teams in recent years and O’Connor hopes that will help make people sit up and take notice the talent on display.
“Staying up at this level would be a success and getting respect from the hockey world,” he added. “For a long time now we’ve had very good players but it is just not known about. It’s time we showed the rest of the world that we can play hockey, that we do have good players and that we do know what we’re doing.”