Manchester Phoenix coach Tony Hand names GB Olympic qualifiers squad
Manchester Phoenix and Great Britain coach Tony Hand MBE has named a preliminary 32-man squad for next month's Winter Olympic qualifying tournament in Riga.
The squad will hold a two-day training camp in Manchester on 21 and 22 January before Hand (pictured) trims the party to 22 players.
Team GB will also take on an Import Select side made up of overseas players from the Elite League and English Premier League in a warm-up game on 5 February in Sheffield.
Hand, who became the first British player to be drafted to the NHL when he was taken 252nd overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 1986, will then pit his side against Latvia, France and Kazakhstan in a round-robin tournament for a place at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
"The camp will give us a great start in our preparations for Riga. It will not only give us chance to work on tactics, but will also be a great bonding exercise for the squad," Hand said.
"By naming a 32-man squad, it gives me chance to look at a number of players who weren't in the final squad last time. This is also a great exercise for team morale."
Great Britain are just one step away from taking on ice hockey superpowers such as Canada, Russia, Sweden and the United States after overcoming Japan, South Korea and Romania in a pre-qualification tournament in November.
The squad includes five players from the English Premier League, including top scorer David Longstaff (Guildford Flames), Leigh Jamieson (Milton Keynes Lightning), Joe Greener (Basingstoke Bison), Greg Owen (Basingstoke Bison) and Aaron Nell (Swindon Wildcats).
There is also a place for Rod Sarich of Elite League outfit Sheffield Steelers. The Canadian-born defenceman qualified to play for GB last year after receiving a British passport but missed the pre-qualification tournament through injury.
Overseas-based players include Robert Dowd of Swedish club Troja-Ljunby and Ben O'Connor of Kazakh side Arlan Kokshetau, who scored the crucial game winner against South Korea in November.
Great Britain preliminary squad:
Netminders: Ben Bowns (Hull Stingrays), Stephen Murphy (Belfast Giants), Geoff Woolhouse (Sheffield Steelers).
Defence: Russ Cowley (Coventry Blaze), Stevie Lee (Nottingham Panthers), Danny Meyers (Sheffield Steelers), Ben O'Connor (Arlan Kokshetau), David Phillips (Belfast Giants), Kevin Phillips (Braehead Clan), Mark Richardson (Cardiff Devils), Rod Sarich (Sheffield Steelers), Mark Thomas (Sheffield Steelers), Jonathan Weaver (Nottingham Panthers).
Forwards: David Clarke (Nottingham Panthers), Ben Davies (Cardiff Devils), Matty Davies (Hull Stingrays), Robert Dowd (Troja- Ljungby), Robert Farmer (Braehead Clan), Mark Garside (Belfast Giants), Joe Greener (Basingstoke Bison), Jason Hewitt (Sheffield Steelers), Phil Hill (Cardiff Devils), Leigh Jamieson (Milton Keynes Lightning), Robert Lachowicz (Nottingham Panthers), David Longstaff (Guildford Flames), Matthew Myers (Nottingham Panthers), Aaron Nell (Swindon Wildcats), Greg Owen (Basingstoke Bison), Craig Peacock (Belfast Giants), Jonathan Phillips (Sheffield Steelers), Colin Shields (Belfast Giants), Ashley Tait (Sheffield Steelers).
By Andy Jowett