Sheffield Steelers' Robert Dowd out to spring surprise with GB at World Championships

ROBERT DOWD believes Great Britain are being the surprise package of the IIHF World Championships for the second tournament running.

SURPRISE, SURPRISE: Sheffield Steelers' Robert Dowd listens in during a practise session in Riga earlier this week. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Head coach Pete Russell's team stunned the hockey world when it sealed qualification to the top tier back in 2018, with their stunning performances in Hungary.

The following year, they endured a baptism off fire on their return to the elite for the first time in 25 years, an initial 3-1 reverse against Germany being followed by heavy defeats to Canada, Denmark, Finland and Slovakia.

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SHARPENING UP: GB's players are put through their paces in Riga earlier this week. Picture: Dean Woolley

It was an outcome which cause an even bigger surprise than their promotion 12 months earlier, but one which was thoroughly deserved, earning them the right to compete with the world's best for a second successive year.

The coronavirus pandemic ensured that second crack at the big time was delayed by 12 months or so, with last year's tournament in Switzerland being postponed and, although the odds will be heavily stacked against them once again, Sheffield Steelers forward Dowd believes they can go into the event without any fear.

"It was such a special feeling to stay up and now we want to build on that and make further strides," said Dowd. "It’s a tough group once again, but it’s great to face different teams this year with Russia, Belarus, Czech Republic and Switzerland in our group.

“We now know we belong at this level and even though there’s no relegation this year, it’s important we don’t let our guard down. We want to impress on the world’s biggest ice hockey stage and I believe we can spring a few surprises again.”

Sheffield Steelers and GB forward Robert Dowd. Picture: Dean Woolley.

The 9-0 defeat to Denmark aside, Dowd believes GB proved tough to overcome in every other game.

“Everyone took so much from the World Championship in Slovakia in 2019,” he added. “It really opened our eyes to what playing at this level is all about.

“We all felt we gave a good account of ourselves but, at the same time, we knew we could do better. By and large we were pretty content with our performances, but the Denmark game was probably the exception when it just a bad night at the office

“We went to the top level and we competed. We played some of the best nations in the world and we certainly weren’t embarrassed."

LISTEN UP: GB assistant coach Corey Neilson instructs GB player's earlier this week in practice. He and Adam Keefe will oversee the team while head coach Pete Russell remains in the UK for family reasons. Picture courtesy of Dean Woolley.

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