Belfast fans will help lift Team GB up to top level: Peacock
Former Belfast Giants forward Craig Peacock believes the Great Britain team can handle the pressure of being tournament hosts as they aim for World Championship gold.
After finishing second in their last two tournaments, Pete Russell's Great Britain team have their eyes firmly set on coming out on top this time around and they are hoping that playing in Belfast will prove to be the difference between success and the disappointment of falling just short.
Peacock, who was part of the Giants' league title wins of 2012 and 2014 during seven years at the SSE Arena, is relishing his return to Belfast and is embracing the challenge in their World Championship Division One, Group B tournament at the SSE Arena.
"It's going to be something different," said Peacock.
"A lot of us have been on the GB team now for a few years and we've never played on home ice so it will be nice to play a tournament in the UK.
"It might add a little bit of pressure on us this year, but it's something that we are looking forward too."
It has been a case of so near yet so far for GB in the last two years as the national team's solid progress fell just short of bringing real rewards.
They won their first four games in last season's tournament, but defeat to Ukraine in their final game saw them miss out on the coveted gold medal and promotion to Group A that they have desperately sought for a number of years now.
It was the second time in successive years that a final game defeat ended their promotion hopes and that heartbreak is now driving Peacock and his team mates as they prepare to start against Croatia tomorrow afternoon.
"I'd like to think it's third time lucky," said Peacock.
"It's been really tough the last two years.
"We've gone into that last game just needing a draw to win the gold medal and unfortunately we fell short and lost both games by a goal.
"That's been tough to take and it's definitely a feeling that we don't want to feel again.
"To win the gold medal on home ice would be something pretty special."
Great Britain arrived in Belfast after two warm-up games against Poland and although they won the second of those in a penalty shoot-out, the defeat in game one is the main lesson for the team.
"The biggest thing we took from those games was the way we started on Friday," said Peacock.
"We know that we can't start like that. One bad result in this tournament could end it for you early on."
Ranked 24th in the world, it is a tough route to break into the elite top-16 nation group which competes to become world champions, but coming out with the gold medal over the next week would take Great Britain a step closer to rubbing shoulders with the big boys.
Croatia have undergone something of a rebuilding process since taking the silver medal in 2014 and with more home-grown players on board they have finished in fourth place in the last two years.
The man behind the Croatian bench will be a familiar face to all long-serving Belfast Giants fans.
Enio Sacilotto was a regular visitor to Belfast during his three-year spell as coach of the Bracknell Bees from 2000 to 2003.
He's sure to get a warm welcome at the SSE Arena tomorrow afternoon.
TOMORROW'S FIXTURES: Netherlands v Japan (12.30pm), Great Britain v Croatia (4pm), Estonia v Lithuania (7.30pm).