Winter sports

‘I know a lot of shots are coming my way’

Great Britain are relishing the chance to face Russia in their World Championship opener in Riga on Saturday, says netminder Ben Bowns.

Russia – ranked second in the world – won the bronze medal in the last tournament to take place in 2019.

“Russia are a formidable side and will have a lot of possession. They are fantastic on the puck and super-skilled,” said 30-year-old Bowns.

“I know a lot of shots are coming my way but that’s the way I like it.”

He added: “I would prefer it to be like that than a game where I face 12 shots and it might only be one shot every few minutes.

“I love to be in the game and keeping active. I feel I am at my strongest then.”

GB have been on a meteoric rise to the sport’s top level with back-to-back promotions in 2017 and 2018 and are now ranked 19th in the world.

“We know what it is like now to play at this level and are relishing the opportunity to show what we can do,” he said.

Netminder Bowns is bracing himself for an onslaught when Great Britain meet Russia in their World Championship opener

Their first top-level appearance in 25 years in Slovakia two years ago finished with great drama as Britain turned around a three-goal deficit to beat France 4-3 in overtime and avoid an immediate return to the second tier.

There is no relegation this year as the pandemic caused all divisions below the top flight to be cancelled, but that does not stop GB putting pressure on themselves to succeed.

“We want to keep getting better so we want to improve on what we did in Kosice two years ago,” continued Bowns.

Bowns faced 261 shots in seven games in 2019, the highest number of any netminder in the 16-team tournament.

One of them was a highlight-reel save in the game against the United States to deny Jack Hughes, who went on to become the number one pick in the NHL draft a few months later.

Bowns’ performances earned him a contact at Graz in the top flight of the Austrian league where – after an impressive start – he suffered a knee injury that medics first feared could keep him out for a year.

But he was back in action in the new year and ended the season in the UK. The pandemic meant the 2020-21 Elite League season was cancelled, although four teams – Coventry Blaze, Manchester Storm, Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers – competed in the five-week Elite Series.

Bowns signed for the Panthers and, along with fellow GB netminder Jackson Whistle, led his side to victory in two games in the three-match series final with Sheffield.

“I enjoyed my experience in Austria despite the injury. My numbers were pretty good and I felt I gave a good account of myself over there,” he said.

“It was fantastic to come back and win in Nottingham. It had been a tough, long season, so to win some silverware at the end of it was very special.”

GB’s Group A fixtures

All start times are BST

Saturday 22 May – Great Britain v Russia – 14:15

Sunday 23 May – Great Britain v Slovakia – 10:15

Tuesday 25 May – Great Britain v Denmark – 14:15

Wednesday 26 May – Belarus v Great Britain – 18:15

Friday 28 May – Sweden v Great Britain – 14:15

Saturday 29 May – Czech Republic v Great Britain – 10:15

Tuesday 1 June – Switzerland v Great Britain – 10:15

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