Belfast Giants' Murphy forced to withdraw from GB Olympic mission
Belfast Giants goaltender Stephen Murphy has been ruled out of Great Britain’s Olympic qualifying tournament in Latvia this weekend.
Murphy hasn’t played for the Giants since picking up an injury in a game against Coventry three weeks ago and with no sign of him making a full recovery he has been forced to withdraw.
Great Britain coach Tony Hand, who was in charge of the Giants during the 2004-05 season, has turned to another former Odyssey favourite Stevie Lyle, who is now playing for Basingstoke, as Murphy’s replacement in the squad.
Lyle will now compete with Ben Bowns for the starting slot against the tournament hosts on Thursday, although both goaltenders will see some action in tonight’s warm-up game with an import select team in Sheffield.
“We knew it was always going to be touch and go with Stephen Murphy and sadly he has not made it,” said Hand.
“He is a tremendous netminder and is really disappointed not to be going, but we have a fantastic replacement in Stevie Lyle.
“Stevie is in terrific form this season with Basingstoke and he is an experienced performer in major international tournaments.”
Experienced Nottingham Panthers defenceman Jonathan Weaver will also miss out through injury and he is replaced by his team-mate Steve Lee.
Only the winners of the four-team group will qualify for next year’s Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, with Great Britain the rank outsiders.
They are rated 21st in the world, with Latvia, who are in 11th place, the favourites to progress. The other two teams in the group are Kazakhstan and France, who are ranked 17th and 14 respectively.
“It speaks volumes of how good our British talent is at the moment in that we lose two players so close to the tournament, but are able to bring in two quality players to replace them,” added Hand.
Great Britain Olympic qualifying fixtures: GB v Latvia (Thursday), GB v France (Friday), GB v Kazakhstan (Sunday).