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Giants pair on the Olympic trail as GB bid to ignite qualifying hopes



National call: Ben Lake is on Great Britain duty this

National call: Ben Lake is on Great Britain duty this

National call: Ben Lake is on Great Britain duty this

Belfast Giants duo Ben Lake and Paul Swindlehurst are set to play key roles this weekend as Great Britain aim to reach the final stage of qualifying for the 2022 Winter Olympics in China.

The national team have convened at Nottingham's Motorpoint Arena for a mini-tournament with Estonia, Hungary and Romania from which the winners will reach the final qualifying stage in August.

GB, who are coached by Pete Russell and have Giants chief Adam Keefe as one of their assistants, are favourites to progress from the group as the highest ranked team and given their recent performances in the World Championships.

The hosts kick off their campaign today when they face Romania (7.30pm), with their clash with Estonia taking place on Saturday (6pm).

Their toughest game will likely be against the Hungarians - whom they pipped to reach last year's World Championships back in 2018 - on Sunday (6pm) and should be a winner-takes-all clash for a place in the final qualifying in six months' time.

"Really looking forward to it. It's always nice to play for GB and represent your country, especially in Olympic qualifiers because not too many people get to do that," said Swindlehurst, who is in his seventh season with GB.

"I've worked hard with Keefer this year on my game. To make the GB team just pushes you on a bit further to keep getting better. Hopefully things go well there."

For dual-national Lake, this is his second season with GB having been drafted in for last year's World Championships and he knows that the hosts will need a bright start.

"It's always exciting to be able to play with that group of guys on that team. I think everyone's excited about it, especially off the results of the World Championships," said the forward.

"We feel we have a good shot at winning the group and advancing and seeing how far we can go. We know what's expected of us and we know if we don't come together right away then it'll be a long tournament."

Belfast Telegraph