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Swindlehurst keen to hit back after Olympic woe



Paul Swindlehurst

Paul Swindlehurst

William Cherry/Presseye

Paul Swindlehurst

It's hard to find a silver lining after the heartbreak of seeing a Winter Olympic dream come to an end, but for Belfast Giants defenceman Paul Swindlehurst, it's all that he and his Great Britain team-mates can do.

With their 4-1 loss to Hungary in Nottingham on Sunday, GB's hopes of reaching the final qualifying stages for Beijing 2022 went up in smoke, leaving the team licking their wounds after having high expectations going into the weekend.

GB, who also had Giants forward Ben Lake, head coach Adam Keefe - as assistant to Pete Russell - and equipment manager Jason 'Taff' Ellery among their ranks, were expected to progress to the next stage, but their loss to the Hungarians in a winner-takes-all tie ensured their wait for a first Olympic appearance since 1948 goes on.

"We're disappointed. The week we had, not to win and miss out on those final qualifiers, it's upsetting. It's disappointing," said defenceman Swindlehurst.

"We're going to hang our heads for a while. We need to move on now that it's happened. We're just disappointed really.

"I think we played well. A bit of puck luck went (Hungary's) way. We had some good chances but their goalie stood on his head and we didn't capitalise on our chances, made a few errors."

There's no rest for the players, however. Swindlehurst and Lake both returned to Belfast yesterday following the conclusion of the tournament and ahead of the resumption of the Elite League season with the Giants.

The Giants are currently playing catch-up in the title race and sit seven points behind leaders the Sheffield Steelers having played two games fewer, with only 14 matches left to make up the deficit.

However, Swindlehurst admits that, even though the results didn't go their way, it was nice to get away from the everyday grind of the Giants, and that could help them going down the stretch in the Elite League.

"This was a nice little break. It would have been even nicer if we'd won and gone on to the next qualifiers, but it's always nice to come away with GB," said the Blackrod native.

"Now it's back to club level and hopefully pick up some wins towards the end of the season. It would be really good if we could go on a run for the title here."

As for GB, they will meet up again in April for a string of warm-up games ahead of their second appearance in the top tier of the World Championships in Switzerland the following month, knowing a good showing there would dispel the disappointment of their Olympic hopes coming to a premature end.

"This will light a fire under us. The disappointment of this tournament will drive us on to the World Championships in May," added Swindlehurst. "Hopefully we'll realise what we can do and how far we can really go. We're going to hold our heads high and keep going here as a team."

• Tonight sees the Belfast Giants recognise 10 years of service from Great Britain international Mark Garside with his testimonial game at 7pm.

Former players such as Colin Shields, Graeme Walton and Shane Johnson as well as the current Giants team, plus coaches Keefe, Jeff Mason and Rob Stewart and Belfast Giants TV commentator Simon Kitchen, will be competing in the exhibition game at the SSE Arena.

Belfast Telegraph