Belfast Giants duo named in GB squad for Olympic qualifiers next month
Belfast Giants players Ben Lake and Paul Swindlehurst have been named in the Great Britain squad for their Olympic pre-qualifiers in Nottingham next month.
GB will take part in the IIHF Olympic Pre-Qualification Round 3 tournament at the Motorpoint Arena against Estonia, Hungary and Romania from Thursday 6 to Sunday 9 February.
The winners will progress to the last round of qualifying in August which will determine the final competing teams for the 2020 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Lake and Swindlehurst were both part of the GB squad that sensationally kept themselves in the top tier of the World Championships in 2019 in Slovakia, and now both will help them take one step closer to a place in China.
Swindlehurst, 26, has been a mainstay under head coach Pete Russell, with this the seventh season that the Blackrod native will have represented his country.
The imposing defenceman has played in every game for the Giants this season, scoring one goal and adding three assists.
Lake, meanwhile, will represent the team for the second time after the dual Canadian-British national qualified to play for GB last season and was called up for the World Championships.
The 29-year-old forward has 13 goals and 34 points in 47 contests for the Giants this season, ranking him third in team scoring.
However, it was disappointment for the Giants' remaining British contingent, with Lewis Hook, Mark Garside, Ciaran Long, Stephen Murphy and Liam Reddox all missing out on call-ups.
Garside in particular looked to have put forward a strong claim given his excellent displays on the blue-line, while Murphy perhaps was unfortunate not to go as back-up to starting netminder Ben Bowns.
There are first call-ups for former Belfast Giants forward Brendan Connolly, as well as defenceman Travis Ehrhardt and forward Scott Conway.
Other former Giants named in the squad include defenceman David Phillips and netminder Jackson Whistle, with Sheffield Steelers forward Jonathan Phillips expected to captain the team again.
“Picking this group was tough but in a good way, as there was serious competition for spots," commented head coach Russell.
“The guys who we have added into the group are having really good seasons so far and we could not ignore their progress at this stage.
“In-season tournaments are a little different from the World Championship and the in-form guys can help us hit the ice with strong confidence levels. It’s a short preparation and only three games that await us, so we have to be ready both mentality and physically right from the start.
“Some really good players have not made the 22 and I am sure those guys will finish the season strong to look to force the way back into the World Championship group.
“But right now it’s about the challenge that awaits us all in Nottingham and it’s not a easy one. We will, as always, respect our opponents and be backed by our own fans as the home nation. What a great opportunity and experience awaits us all.”
Great Britain roster
Netminders: Ben Bowns (Cardiff Devils), Jackson Whistle (Nottingham Panthers)
Defencemen: Josh Batch (Cardiff Devils), Dallas Ehrhardt (Manchester Storm), Travis Ehrhardt (Glasgow Clan), Steve Lee (Guildford Flames), Ben O’Connor (Sheffield Steelers), David Phillips (Sheffield Steelers), Mark Richardson (Cardiff Devils), Paul Swindlehurst (Belfast Giants)
Forwards: Ollie Betteridge (Nottingham Panthers), Brendan Connolly (Sheffield Steelers), Scott Conway (Atlanta Gladiators (ECHL)), Ben Davies (Guildford Flames), Robert Farmer (Lausitzer Fusche (DEL2)), Luke Ferrara (Coventry Blaze), Mike Hammond (Lausitzer Fusche (DEL2)), Ben Lake (Belfast Giants), Matthew Myers (Cardiff Devils), Brett Perlini (Nottingham Panthers), Jonathan Phillips (Sheffield Steelers), Ross Venus (Coventry Blaze)
Belfast Telegraph Digital