Team Great Britain In-line Hockey



Great Britain Head to Slovakia aiming for Promotion
2008 IIHF In-Line World Championships Preview

18th June 2008

Hopes High for Promotion Attempt

The Great Britain Men’s team fly to Bratislava, Slovakia on Friday June 20th for the 2008 International Ice Hockey Federation’s Inline World Championships looking to achieve promotion to the World’s elite nations and the Division One Gold medal. GB will compete in the eight nation Division One, looking for promotion to the top eight nations in the world currently led by 2007 World Champions Sweden.

This year’s IIHF tournament holds extra significance globally for the sport, as it marks the return to the international fold of the Canadian National team, conspicuously absent from the event since 1998, however with the Canadians re-joining the competition the IIHF event confirms its status as the highlight of the International Inline Hockey calendar.

In order to return to the elite competition, Canada must first gain promotion from Division One, a feat no Division One nation has managed since the tournament’s inception. Fortunately for GB they avoid Canada in the preliminary round and are instead grouped with last year’s Division One champions Brazil, old rivals Australia and tournament debutants Bulgaria. First place in that group will qualify the Brits for a mid-tournament promotion playoff with the bottom placed team from an elite group featuring Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia and Austria.

Promotion Opportunities

GB are aiming for their fourth successive promotion game in which they have steadily come closer to winning each year, last year losing in overtime to the Austrians 6-5 after defeats in 2005 (Austria) and 2006 (Slovenia).

But defeat in the playoff game this year will not mean the end of the promotion dream. From the 2008 tournament onwards, the winners of the Division One gold medal will now be promoted to the elite competition for the subsequent year with the bottom placed team from the elite tournament relegated to Division One. This rule change if introduced in previous years would have seen the British promoted twice after Division One gold medals in 2004 and 2006.

The change in rules comes after the return of the Canadians increasing the prospect of regular relegation and promotion from the elite division. Canada face in their group New Zealand (Division One runners up in 2007), Hungary and Japan. The winner of that group will play a promotion / relegation game against Finland, USA, the Czech Republic or Germany, all powerhouse nations in the elite competition, raising the distinct prospect of an established nation being displaced by the Canadians. Great Britain and their rivals would then compete against the former elite nation for the Division One gold and automatic promotion back to the elite group for 2009.

Coach Expects

GB Head Coach Nick Crawley in his first venture behind the bench following stints as Assistant coach from 2003-05 is eagerly anticipating his team’s tilt at the 2008 competition.
“Its going to be very exciting,” says Crawley who takes a 17 player roster to Bratislava, “Canada coming back in has really got people talking. Everyone has known they were coming back for two years and now they’re here it really shakes the competition up. From our point of view it of course makes it harder for us to win Division One but if you want to improve you have to play and beat the best.”

On this year’s team Crawley is keen to see how the blend of five new faces fits in with twelve returnees, many of whom have a Division One title to their name. “It’s a good mix,” says Crawley, “The trials were excellent this year and it was really hard making the cut but I like the options that I have and I’m looking forward to seeing what the team can do. One thing’s for sure, if we want promotion we have to come out of the blocks flying and that means we have to be ready for our opening game against Australia on Sunday.”

GB’s arrival on Friday will be followed by a practice on Saturday and the tournament’s opening ceremony. Then on Sunday an early morning practice will be followed by the Australia game at 3pm local time.

Real time stats

All of GB’s games will feature in the IIHF’s Hydra real time statistics engine being used in full for the IIHF tournament meaning fans at home can follow the team’s progress second by second. GB’s game reports will appear on the IIHF website at www.iihf.com and game reports will also appear on the gbhockey.net website, the GB Hockey blog at blog.co.uk and the GB Hockey Facebook group page.

Milestones

The GB team has several milestones set to be achieved. On top of the five players making their debuts for GB (Joe Bjorndal, Scott Glover, Tim McKay, Ben Schofield and Mark Hallam), the tournament has special resonance for one member of the GB team. Andrew Sillitoe will compete in his 50th game at the IIHF tournament. Since statistics have only been kept for the last six years, the first years of competition have never shown on his stats sheet. Despite these missing stats, Sillitoe is third all time in GB scoring.

Another player looking to break records this year is GB’s all time leading scorer John Dolan. The Dundee Stars ace needs just seven points to break 100 for GB. In thirty-two appearances Dolan has scored 53 goals and added 40 assists for 93 points. Those who follow Dolan’s progress know it’s a matter of when, rather than if he breaks the three figure barrier.

Sheffield Steelers ice hockey star Mark Thomas returns to the GB fold for the first time since 2005 looking to improve on his fifth place ranking in the all time scorers list. The 24 year old defenceman should make a big impact and add further depth to the line-up.

Individual achievements will however be insignificant compared to another title in Division One and the Holy Grail of promotion. GB will be giving it their all to achieve that goal.

GB Schedule

Sunday 22nd June 2008 (Face-off 15:00 local, 13:00 GMT)
GB versus Australia

Monday 23rd June 2008 (Face-off 19:00 local, 17:00 GMT)
GB versus Brazil

Tuesday 24th June 2008 (Face-off 15:00 local, 13:00 GMT)
GB versus Bulgaria

Wednesday 25th June 2008 (Face-off 18:00 local, 16:00 GMT)
Possible promotion playoff

Thursday 26th June 2008
Division One and Elite Quarterfinals

Friday 27th June 2008
Division One and Elite semi-finals / placing games

Saturday 28thJune 2008
Division One and Elite Finals

2008 IIHF In-Line Team Great Britain Roster

Name Position Caps Goals Assists Points Club
Joe Bjorndal *
F
0
0
0
0
Chapman University
Stuart Brian
F
20
7
7
14
Cruisers
Chris Colgate
F
13
11
9
20
Nott Rollersnakes
Mark Corfield
D
14
0
4
4
Nott Rollersnakes
John Dolan
F
32
53
40
93
Dundee Stars (Ice)
Scott Glover*
D
0
0
0
0
Nott Rollersnakes
Mark Hallam**
D
0
0
0
0
Hallamshire Hornets
Simon Hehir
D
32
17
58
75
Durham Destroyers
Karl Niamatali
F
7
2
3
5
Blackpool Raiders
Tim McKay*
F
0
0
0
0
Kingston Panthers
Alex Pearman
F
6
5
2
7
Hallamshire Hornets
Andrew Sillitoe
D
32
24
32
56
Tunbridge Wells Inline
Mark Thomas
D
19
17
23
40
Sheffield Steelers (Ice)
Joe Wightman
F
13
7
4
11
Nott Rollersnakes
Remi Moses
D
6
2
3
5
Manchester Warriors
James Tanner
GK
20
0
0
0
London Street Warriors
Ben Schofield*
GK
0
0
0
0
Projoy Warriors

*Denotes debutant

**Played in 2002 (no statistics available as before tournament's current format)

 

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