Sheffield Steelers’ Sam Jones quickly learning to adjust to another step up in class with Great Britain at IIHF World Championships

SAM JONES admits he’s had to literally learn fast since joining up with the Great Britain squad for the World Championships which get underway in Latvia today.

STOP RIGHT THERE: Sheffield Steelers and GB defenceman Sam Jones in practice in Riga earlier this week. Picture courtesy of Dean Woolley

The 23-year-old Sheffield Steelers defenceman has been forced to adjust up for the second time in the space of a few weeks ahead of tomorrow’s Group A opener against Russia, ranked two in the world and 17 places above GB.

Having spent most of the season off the ice because of the coronavirus pandemic, Jones leapt back into action for Telford Tigers in the second tier NIHL National Spring Cup in March.

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A few weeks later he stepped up another notch when part of the Steelers’ roster for the four-team Elite Series – finally getting to ice for a team he first signed for last summer ahead of the abandoned 2020-21 EIHL campaign.

READY FOR ACTION: Sheffield Steelers' defenceman, Sam Jones. Picture: Dean Woolley.

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After six weeks with the Steelers, Jones – hoping to make his GB debut in Riga – has again had to step up the intensity levels in readiness for what will be a thorough examination of his and his 27 team-mates’ top-tier credentials.

After facing off against a Russia team packed with NHL and KHL players, subsequent tests follow against Slovakia, Denmark, Belarus, Sweden, Czech Republic and Switzerland.

“There was a lot of doubt about whether this tournament would happen in the first place so everyone is just happy to have this opportunity,” said Jones, one of nine defencemen on the trip.

EXPERIENCE: Sheffield Steeldogs' defenceman, Ben O'Connor. Picture: Dean Woolley.

“The energy levels have definitely been another step up. It’s going to be a massive step up for us, so everything in practise we’ve been doing it quick, the coaches have been on to us about how quick we need to be.

“So it has been about getting used to not forcing plays, not just giving the puck away. Especially for a lot of the newer guys, it’s about getting up to that pace, both physically and mentally – getting your brain switched on and making quicker decisions.”

Jones is one of six Steelers players on the 28-strong roster, with fellow defenceman Davey Phillips and forwards Robert Dowd, Brendan Connolly, Jonathan Phillips and Liam Kirk also on board. Sheffield Steeldogs’ D-man Ben O’Connor is also there.

Jones says the fierce competition for places among the defencemen has brought the group closer together.

BEEN THERE: Davey Phillips is one of the most experienced GB players at the tournament. Picture: Dean Woolley.

“You’re battling against these guys for a spot, which is a good thing because it keeps pushing you as an individual, but at the same time everyone is also supporting each other so well.

“Our D group has good chemistry, a good mix of some younger guys like myself and more experienced guys.”

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