Belfast Telegraph

Quadruple can be more than just a dream for Belfast Giants, says new GB call-up Lewis Hook

Belfast Giants forward Lewis Hook
Belfast Giants forward Lewis Hook
Belfast Giants forward Lewis Hook
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Come down to any Belfast Giants practice on any weekday morning and there'll always be two men grafting out on the ice long after everyone else has hit the showers.

One is Jonathan Boxill, the tireless centre who has been a key fourth-liner for the Giants this season, eating plenty of minutes on the ice and on the penalty kill.

The other is Lewis Hook.

The 22-year-old, who joined the Giants at the start of the season from the Milton Keynes Lightning, has shown from the very start that he has the work ethic to get to where he needs to be, and bear in mind how difficult moving outside of England for the first time in his career and stepping up to a side where the expectations are just that much higher must have been.

But so far he's relished it, establishing himself as a valuable middle six forward on the Belfast roster and has been a reliable player on the left wing, contributing offensively and defensively as part of a successful team.

With six goals and 18 points in 46 games so far, the numbers don't tell the whole story of Hook's season as he's played a hugely key role in taking the Giants up to second in the Elite League and into the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup.

Medvescak_022 (2).jpg
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th November 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Belfast Giants' Lewis Hook with Medvescak Zagreb's Vilim Rosandic during Thursday nights IIHF Continental Cup, Group E game at the SSE Arena, Belfast. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Yesterday his club form and dedication was rewarded, a call-up to the Great Britain squad for an exhibition game against KHL side Dinamo Riga next month as they begin preparations for their first tilt at the World Championships since 1994.

"It's always a proud moment getting called up to the national team and I'm looking forward to getting down there in February, skating with the boys and playing the game," says Hook. "It should be good fun and it's a privilege to play for the national team.

"I've been playing well, I've been doing everything Keefer's (Belfast Giants head coach and GB assistant coach Adam Keefe) been telling me to do but you never want to take anything for granted, so I'm just happy to be part of it."

The Peterborough-born winger has now spent three-and-a-half years under British coaches having played for Pete Russell at the Lightning and now with Keefe.

If you looked into that too closely, you might say he's been doing that deliberately, but Hook smiles when it's put to him that might be the case.

"That's it, yeah!" he laughs sarcastically. "Pick me, pick me!"

But what the call-up has definitely done is proven that his decision to make the leap to Belfast was the correct one, and that he's there on merit.

It would have been easy to stay in Milton Keynes, who would have gladly welcomed him back for a second season, but that wasn't the challenge that Hook wanted - he was aiming for something bigger.

Once in Belfast, he could have been swallowed up and faded into a bit-part player behind the stand-out names like Darcy Murphy, Hunter Bishop and Kyle Baun. But that hasn't happened, and now he's reaping the rewards.

"Absolutely," he says decisively when asked if the GB call has justified his move across the Irish Channel. "In fact, take away everything to do with the national team, the way we've been playing and the way I've developed as a player justifies the move over.

"I enjoyed my time in Milton Keynes, I think that helped my development massively, and I've been developing even more since I came here and I'm really happy I did so."

Medvescak_023 (2).jpg
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th November 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Belfast Giants' Lewis Hook celebrates as Patrick Dwyer scores against Medvescak Zagreb during Thursday nights IIHF Continental Cup, Group E game at the SSE Arena, Belfast. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

One thing that he wouldn't have received in Milton Keynes was the opportunity to play European hockey, something which is rather appropriate going into this weekend.

There's no better place to prove yourself than against some of the best Europe have to offer, and Hook will get to do so in the Continental Cup final at the SSE Arena as the Giants take on Arlan Kokshetau (Kazakhstan), HK Gomel (Belarus) and GKS Katowice (Poland).

The Nottingham Panthers were the talk of British hockey in 2017 when they became the first Elite League side to win it, and this year the Giants are determined to become the second on home ice.

Adam Keefe's side are ranked second behind the Kazakhs, who have won four straight coming into the tournament, and it could mean a winner-takes-all clash when the two meet in Sunday's final game.

But first they have to get through Gomel tonight in their opening game (7pm face-off), and Hook insists they're not short on motivation to pick up their first trophy of the season.

"It'd be huge for us and the confidence going into the rest of the season," he says. "I think we'd deserve it, we've been on a hell of an away trip and we've done really well there.

"It'll set us on a perfect journey for the rest of the season and it comes with privileges like getting into the Champions Hockey League which would be great for the fans and for Belfast. It's a huge weekend and we're ready for it."

Of course, with the Giants still in the thick of things in the league and the Challenge Cup, a victory this weekend would be the first leg of what would be an unbelievable quadruple of every trophy on offer.

It'll certainly be tough, with the league title likely to go right down to the wire with Cardiff, their Challenge Cup defence no walk in the park against Glasgow in the final four and this weekend sure to be a mammoth task as well.

But can they do it? A certain Great British international thinks so.

"We want it. We know we can do it, it's not far out of our hands. We know if we play the way we play, it's possible," Hook insists.

"It's a dream that can become a reality."

 

The Continental Cup - schedule

 

Today

3pm: GKS Katowice v Arlan Kokshetau

7pm: BELFAST GIANTS v HK Gomel

Tomorrow

3pm: Arlan Kokshetau v HK Gomel

7pm: BELFAST GIANTS v GKS Katowice

Sunday

1pm: HK Gomel v GKS Katowice

5pm: Arlan Kokshetau v BELFAST GIANTS

 

The other teams

 

ARLAN KOKSHETAU

 

Head coach: Vladimir Kapulovsky

Captain: Vladislav Kolesnikov

League: 1st in Kazakhstan (26-7-3)

 

How they got here

1st in Group D

W 2-1 (PS) vs Lyon Lions

W 4-3 (PS) vs Kurbads Riga

W 3-0 vs HK Gomel

 

Recent form

06/01 W 4-2 @ Gornyak Rudny

05/01 W 1-0 @ Gornyak Rudny

26/12 W 6-3 vs HK Astana

25/12 W 5-2 vs HK Astana

19/12 L 1-3 @ Nomad Astana

 

Top scorers (Goals - Assists - Points)

1. Ivan Kiselyov - 12-18-30

2. Dmitri Potaichuk - 11-17-28

3. Dmitri Shitikov - 11-13-24

4. Konstantin Savenkov - 8-15-23

5. Sergei Yegorov - 4-16-20

 

Netminders

Starter A: Ivan Poloshkov - 1.18, .958

Starter B: Mikhail Demidov - 2.43, .908

 

Former KHL players

Mikhail Demidov (Torpedo Nizhny Novogrod, 2013-14)

Anton Kazantsev (Barys Astana, 2008-11)

Vladislav Kolesnikov (Barys Astana, 2013-14)

Vladimir Malevich (Several teams; 2008-10, 2012-17, 2018)

Yakov Seleznyov (Several teams, 2008-17)

Alexei Antsiferov (Barys Astana, 2013-15)

Vadim Berdnikov (Several teams, 2008-17)

Alexander Nesterov (Several teams, 2008-18)

Konstantin Savenkov (Barys Astana; 2012-13, 2017-18)

Eliezer Sherbatov (HC Slovan Bratislava, 2017-18)

Dmitri Shitikov (Several teams, 2008-17)

Vadim Yermolayev (Barys Astana, 2008-13)

 

International players

Anton Kazantsev (Kazakhstan)

 

GKS KATOWICE

 

Head coach: Tom Coolen

League: 2nd in Polish Hokej Liga (28-5-0)

 

How they got here

2nd in Group E

W 4-0 vs Ritten Sport

L 2-3 vs Medvescak Zagreb

W 4-2 vs Belfast Giants

 

Recent form

08/01 W 11-2 v Polonia Bytom

06/01 W 4-2 @ MH Automatyka Gdansk

05/01 L 2-6 @ KH Torun

30/12 W 8-2 vs Orlik Opole

27/12 W 4-3 vs JKH GKS Jastrzebie

 

Top scorers (Goals - Assists - Points)

1. Patryk Wronka - 19-29-48

2. Grzegorz Pasiut - 16-26-42

3. Janne Laakkonen - 13-29-42

4. Jesse Rohtla - 19-20-39

5. Martin Cakajik - 7-28-35

 

Netminders

Starter: Kevin Lindskoug - 1.47, .947

Backup: Michal Kieler - 1.72, .904

 

International players

Damian Tomasik (Poland)

Jakub Wanacki (Poland)

Bartosz Fraszko (Poland)

Patryk Krezolek (Poland)

Mikolaj Lopuski (Poland)

Tomasz Malasinski (Poland)

Grzegorz Pasiut (Poland)

Radoslaw Sawicki (Poland)

Marek Strzyzowski (Poland)

Maciej Urbanowicz (Poland)

Patryk Wronka (Poland)

 

HK GOMEL

 

Head coach: Oleg Khmyl

League: 5th in Belarusian Extraliga (18-17-3)

 

How they got here

2nd in Group D

W 6-2 vs Kurbads Riga

W 2-1 vs Lyon Lions

L 0-3 vs Arlan Kokshetau

 

Recent form

08/01 L 1-6 @ HK Lida

06/01 W 3-1 @ HK Lida

29/12 L 0-1 vs HK Lida

27/12 L 0-5 vs Neman Grodno

25/12 W 3-2 (PS) @ Belarus U20

 

Top scorers (Goals - Assists - Points)

1. Alexander Zhidkikh - 12-11-23

2. Yevgeni Solomonov - 8-11-19

3. Andrei Kolosov - 7-12-19

4. Yevgeni Khuzeyev - 10-7-17

5. Pavel Musienko - 9-8-17

 

Netminders

Starter A: Roman Bobariko - 2.33, .912

Starter B: Alexei Merzlov - 2.21, .917

 

Former KHL players

Yevgeni Solomonov (Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, 2014-15)

 

Giants shorts

Only Arlan Kokshetau have had multiple skates in Belfast ahead of today's tournament, both HK Gomel and GKS Katowice didn't arrive until yesterday due to midweek games... with IIHF rules allowing up to 23 players to dress for a game, it means the entire Giants roster will ice each day, however some will be restricted to very limited game time... the Giants will be rocking their special Continental Cup jerseys again this weekend, with their change white jersey being used in Sunday's game against Arlan... if you have nothing to do after Saturday's game with Katowice, the A View From The Bridge crew will be in McCool's with another of their live shows, this time featuring all four members... great to see so many former players and other sporting stars sending their support on Twitter, such as Theo Fleury, Daryl Lloyd and Kevin Saurette, along with rugby players John Cooney and Nick Williams... if my research is correct, should the Giants win the trophy (or plate is maybe more accurate) this weekend then they'd be the first Northern Irish club to win a European trophy since Ulster Rugby in 1999. No pressure then...

 

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