Steelers World Championship Diary – Just 3 Games to go …

Your Boys Serving Their Country

With our Steelers trio away at the World Championships, we will be keeping you up to date with their progress, thanks to the latest member of our media team Emily Laycock (photos Dean Woolley)

Still searching for win number one

Gamedays three and four have been and gone at the 2024 IIHF World Championship for Great Britain, and with them have come some incredible team performances, but Pete Russell’s side are still in search of their first point as they prepare for gameday five against hosts Czechia this evening.

It was an improved performance from the team dressed in red, white and blue on Wednesday evening as they faced Switzerland, despite falling to a 3-0 defeat. Robert Dowd and Cole Shudra were part of the 22-player squad whilst Sam Jones was rested, taking a seat in the stands to watch the game.

Jackson Whistle stood tall in between the pipes for Great Britain, limiting Switzerland to only three goals, but the offence couldn’t capitalise upon chances at the other end of the ice as they failed to register a goal, leaving the Swiss to take the points.

Sheffield Steelers forward Cole Shudra commented: “I thought we bounced back in a positive way against Switzerland after a bad performance against Finland; we showed more compete and battle defensively, and started to create more chances offensively. 

“I thought we were unlucky not to get a couple of goals and make it a closer game.”

Despite not taking a point from the game, there were positives to take from the performance and time to put things right before gameday four. Thursday was a rest day for Great Britain in Prague with only Sam Jones, and the others rested from the Swiss game, icing in the morning.

The evening consisted of rest and recovery, and entertaining hockey as Austria stunned Finland by scoring the game-winning goal with one second of the third period to go. The Austrians battled from two-goals down to create history, beating the Finns for the first time.

Some may say the pressure was on Great Britain as they woke up on gameday four ready to face Denmark after Austria’s performance the previous night, but it was a cool, calm and collected side that entered the O2 Arena.

The Danes had hit the ice four times in the tournament, recording only one win. They were victorious over Austria (5-1), but defeated by Canada (5-1), Norway (2-0) and hosts Czechia (7-4). This year they are protected from relegation as they are set to co-host the 2025 World Championship with Sweden next year.

Great Britain had failed to register a win yet, but with a fully fit 25-player roster to choose from, positivity was in the air. Captain Robert Dowd and Cole Shudra were named in the 22-player squad with Sam Jones rested.

Speaking on making his World Championship debut during this tournament, Shudra said: “It’s been a very good experience for me so far. I’ve felt confident that I can play at this level and I’m just trying to soak in as much of the experience as I can to improve my game as much as I can and grow as a person and player.

“It is a huge honour to represent GB at this level and I have loved every minute of it.”

A performance to be proud of from GB saw them narrowly beaten by the Danes at the World Championship. Former Sheffield Steelers forward Liam Kirk opened the scoring with a wraparound goal at 5:23, but Russell’s side couldn’t maintain the lead for long as Mikkel Aagaard brought the score level just over a minute later.

Denmark then took the lead on the powerplay at 8:25, but Great Britain were quick to react with Cade Neilson scoring the equaliser at 10:34.

The Danes were back ahead as the second period restarted, but a battling 20-minutes of hockey from Great Britain saw Nathaneal Halbert fire another equalising shot into the back of the net in front of a crowd of 16,277.

Chances created in the third period couldn’t be capitalised upon by GB as they looked to try and take the lead again, but Whistle came in clutch at the other end of the ice with huge saves to keep them in the game with time still to push on for a game-winning goal.

When Evan Mosey took a tripping penalty with less than 10-minutes of the game to go, the Danes took full advantage of the powerplay opportunity and made it 4-3.

Even with an emptied net in favour of an extra skater and a late powerplay chance, Great Britain couldn’t find another equalising goal with the game finished in regulation time.

The Brits outshot the 11th best team in the world by 31 goals to 28 and put on a performance described by Head Coach Pete Russell as “one of the best performances” under his tenure.

Shudra said: “We had a lot of belief going into the Denmark game, and I think we played our best game so far in all areas of the ice. We played for each other and battled hard all the way to the end. I thought we deserved to win as we were the better team, but that’s hockey and sometimes it just doesn’t go your way in the end.

“We build from it and get better for the last three games.”

Great Britain are back in action this evening with lots of positives to take from gameday four into their meeting with the hosts, Czechia.

The hosts are ranked fifth in the world and come into the game at the top of Group A with 12 points from five matches and so it will be another tough test for Great Britain at the O2 Arena.

Sam Jones is healthy and in contention to return to the line-up this evening alongside Manchester Storm captain Cam Critchlow who has missed the last two games.

Switzerland preview 

After two rest days, Great Britain are back in action this evening for their third game of the 2024 World Championship with a match-up against Switzerland at the O2 Arena in Prague in which they will look to retrieve their first point of the tournament.

Despite a performance to be proud of against the world ranked number one side Canada on gameday one, Pete Russell’s side were defeated 4-2. Great Britain captain Robert Dowd said: “The Canada game was a great performance which I thought with a couple bounces, we may of snuck a point.”

It was a huge achievement for the underdogs to limit the Canadians to four goals as the last meeting between the sides in 2019 saw Canada victorious by eight goals with a shutout secured as Great Britain failed to get on the scoresheet.

The tough start to the tournament didn’t end there though with the second game of the Championship arguably more challenging than the first as Great Britain met the world number two ranked side Finland just 24 hours later.

“In the Finland game, you could see the tired legs creep in in the second period,” said Dowd.

However, the 8-0 defeat hasn’t tempered with the spirits of this Great Britain side with the captain going on to say: “We want to use every game to get better as the tournament goes on,” and tonight is the perfect opportunity for that.

Head coach Pete Russell has a fully fit 25-man roster to choose from with our three Sheffield boys, Robert Dowd, Cole Shudra and Sam Jones, hoping to have earned a spot on the 22-player gameday roster.

The Swiss have played three games of the 2024 World Championship so far and have recorded three wins after beating Norway by five goals to two, Austria six goals to five, and a securing a penalty shootout victory over hosts Czechia.

They are a side full of quality with a threatening attack and solid defence, with six players icing in the NHL.

Whilst Great Britain have not won a game over Switzerland since the 1953 World Championship, Dowd is confident in his team’s ability saying: “We’re really looking forward to tonight’s game. With a couple of days rest, I think the boys will put in a good performance.”

Following tonight’s game, Great Britain will have another rest day before taking on Denmark on Friday and hosts Czechia on Saturday.

Tough Start for GB

The IIHF 2024 World Championship is underway in Prague, Czechia with three of our Steelers boys representing Great Britain on the world’s biggest stage.

Promoted back to the top division for 2024 having won gold in Nottingham last year, Great Britain face off against Switzerland, Czech, Denmark, Norway, Austria, the world’s number one ranked side Canada, and the world’s number two ranked side Finland.

Cole Shudra, Sam Jones and Robert Dowd were all named in Pete Russell’s 25-player squad for the Championship after a two-week training camp in Nottingham that saw the Brits secure back-to-back victories over Poland, followed by a warm-up international game against Kazakhstan as part of their training camp in Slany.

It is a debut World Championship for Cole Shudra who received his first three international caps during the Olympic Qualifiers in Cardiff in February when Great Britain secured three victories and booked their place in the final qualification round with games to played in Denmark in August.

The 25-year-old forward said: “Cardiff was great for me. It was a bit of an introduction to the team, the guys and how Pete likes to run the team. I think it was the perfect kind of warm-up for me to get going.”

It was a smooth introduction to the GB team for the young player made so by the familiar faces of Sam Jones and Robert Dowd around camp.

Jones plays in his third top-tier World Championship this year with Dowd captain of the squad for the first time at this level. The Billingham-born forward received the honours of wearing the ‘C’ for the first time during the Olympic Qualifiers, taking over from former Great Britain and Sheffield Steelers teammate Jonathan Phillips following his retirement from international hockey.

It has been a career year for Dowd already as he led the Steelers to three trophies in his first year of captaincy, and he will look for success for a final time this season with the Great Britain squad as they seek survival in the top flight.

The first full day in Prague was media day for Great Britain with headshots and goal celebrations filmed by the IIHF, followed by their first on-ice practice ahead of the highly anticipated meeting between themselves and Canada.

Shudra said: “I think chemistry is a big part of the game and we’ve all gelled really well the past couple of weeks.

I think we’ve nailed down our systems and it’ll be exciting to see how we do.”

Another training session on Friday followed by the tournament’s opening ceremony and Great Britain were ready for their first game of the 2024 World Championship.

Gameday one in Prague saw all three Sheffield stars named in the 22-player roster as the Brits prepared to take on the world number one, Canada. It was an unbelievable performance from the underdogs with former Sheffield Steelers forward Liam Kirk opening the scoring as Great Britain took the lead at 7:47. 

The Canadians fought back and levelled the score to make it 1-1 at the first intermission in front of a crowd of 16,935 at the O2 Arena, but only five minutes into the second period, they were taking the lead.

Last year’s number one NHL Draft Pick Connor Bedard impressed on his World Championship debut with two goals earning his side a 4-1 lead heading into the third and final period.

A stoic Great Britain defence with Jackson Whistle in between the pipes denied the NHL stars another goal with another former Steeler, Ben O’Connor, providing the action at the other end of the ice as he scored a highlight reel goal to make it 4-2.

Speaking after the game, he said: “They’re the number one team in the world for a reason. We watch them on TV everyday in the NHL highlights and I thought we did ourselves proud.

“We took it to them at parts. We had them hemmed in. We were moving the puck well and on the powerplay we were zipping it around and were unlucky not to score.

“Again, it’s just all positives to take into the next game and the rest of the tournament. For large parts of that game, we were absolutely perfect.”

O’Connor recalled head coach Pete Russell saying: “It’s probably one of the best team performances he’s seen in a GB uniform in 10 years,” and they were ready to do it all over again just 24 hours later.

It was immediately into another tough test for the Brits as gameday two was a meeting with the world number two ranked side Finland – both sides were coming into the game after defeats in their opening games.

It was a positive first half for GB as they restricted their opposition to only one goal in the first period, but Finland proved why they’re number two in the second and third periods as they pushed a further seven goals past Ben Bowns in net and took the victory leaving the Brits goalless.

Sam Jones, Cole Shudra and Robert Dowd were again wearing the red, white and blue of Great Britain with the captain saying afterwards: “These first few games were never going to win or lose us the tournament.

“Yesterday’s performance [against Canada] was excellent and today you could see we were a little fatigued in our legs.In the second period they took advantage of that.

“They are an elite league, they’re the second best in the world and if you give them an inch they’re going to take it.”

Two games in two days then gave Pete Russell’s side a well-earned two days of rest with gameday three coming on Wednesday when they return to action against Switzerland.