Ice Hockey - British coach Hand positive ahead of worlds

Great Britain ice hockey coach Tony Hand is determined to accentuate the positives of his team's failure to qualify for next year's Winter Olympics in Sochi.

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Tony Hand (Imago)

Hand knows the odds were stacked against his inexperienced team and believes reaching such an advanced stage of qualifying gives hope for the future, as he prepares his squad for next month's IIHF World Championships in Hungary.

"The guys did magnificently to get as far as they did and that was a huge boost for us," he said.

"It’s like asking Scotland to go and win a tournament against Brazil, Spain and Argentina in football but the point is we need to learn from that tournament.

"We were up against some quality teams and I thought we acquitted ourselves well. We can take a lot of experience from that tournament but we don’t want to stand still.

"It’s still a learning curve for me as a coach as well as the players so I think we can take a lot of pride in getting to that level but realistically it was a tough group.

"The players and the country should have a lot of pride. We nearly went to the final stage and we were up against world class teams in Latvia, France and Kazakhstan, who are probably a level above those we normally play.

"I would rather be in a situation where we’re trying to qualify than never having the chance. Overall it was a good campaign.”

Hand has named a provisional 40-strong squad for Hungary, where his team will take on the hosts, Kazakhstan, Italy, Japan and South Korea in the group stages of a tournament aimed at teams outside the world's top 16.

"We were up against the big boys on the world stage during Olympic qualification and I think we’ve learnt what we need to do as a team and country going forward," he said.

"It will certainly be no formality in Hungary – there are four or five quality teams there.

"Hopefully we can learn from the Olympic qualification tournament. We’ve had some preparation in Japan and Latvia and now we have the World Championships. We should be confident going in there as we are probably better prepared now than we have been previously.

"It’s going to be tough because we’re up against Kazakhstan, who beat us convincingly in Latvia, and you have other able countries but we have to go there in optimistic mood.

"The key for me is it would be nice to win a medal. If we could finish in the top three that would be a fantastic achievement."

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