Belfast Telegraph

Great Britain can give big guns run for their money, insists Keefe


Tactics: Great Britain assistant coach Adam Keefe
Tactics: Great Britain assistant coach Adam Keefe
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Belfast Giants head coach Adam Keefe says Great Britain want to impose their own style of play on other teams at the IIHF World Championships, rather than changing to suit them.

Keefe is in Kosice, Slovakia with the national team over the next two weeks as they return to the top tier of international ice hockey for the first time since 1994.

One of the fairytale stories of last year, GB returned to the World Championships after the most unlikely of gold medal wins in Division 1A in Hungary last year, earning back-to-back promotions against all the odds.

Now they will face up against the likes of ice hockey powerhouses such as Canada and the USA, who both possess rosters consisting of only NHL players.

Their opening match is today against Germany (face-off 3.15pm UK time), who also have their own NHL superstar in the form of Leon Draisaitl, who scored a staggering 50 goals and 105 points for the Edmonton Oilers this season.

But Keefe, who is an assistant to GB head coach Pete Russell with the national side, refuses to bow to the star power of the other nations in Group A and says they'll be encouraging the players to stick to what won them those consecutive promotions.

"We want to play our game and be tough to play against - that's the number one identity of this team," declared Keefe, who was nominated for European Coach of the Year earlier in the week for the Giants' treble-winning season.

"They want to be tough to play against, never give up and are always in the fight.

"That starts with a tough German side that are coming off the back of a very successful Olympics, so they'll be a very good team and they have one of the best players in the world (Draisaitl) on their team.

"We're certainly going to have to be good and be smart, and make good decisions on the puck."

This will be the biggest step up in quality that any of the GB players will have ever faced, going from the Elite League - where they are household names - to facing ice hockey's top names who are global superstars.

But Keefe is confident that, while they will respect the incredible ability of their opponents, they will not afford them too much and slip up as a result.

"You don't want to go in there and respect a team too much, give them too much time and space to make you pay," he warns.

"You need to go out and approach the game like they're just men, which they are. Obviously their skillset is pretty good but they're human, and you need to approach them with not too much respect. That'll be the mindset going into every game.

"They have to go out and play the best they can and not worry who they're up against."

The overwhelming opinion is that GB will be relegated back down to Division 1A at the first attempt, with not many giving them a hope at causing an upset.

With the bottom side in each group going down, if GB are to stay up then the likelihood is it would take a win over France in their final game on May 20 to do so, probably at the expense of the French, who are ranked seventh in the eight-team group.

"We just want to remain (in the top group)," he adds.

"It doesn't change the mindset - we want to approach every game like that's our opportunity to stay up," insists Keefe.

SCHEDULE: May 11: GB v Germany; May 12: GB v Canada; May 14: GB v Denmark; May 15: GB v USA; May 17: GB v Finland; May 18: GB v Slovakia; May 20: GB v France

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