GB’s Number 1
2016 is going to be a big year for the national team. The world championships in Croatia are a chance to right the disappointment of last seasons last game loss that meant the GB team missed out on promotion and there is the Olympic qualifiers in Italy next October.
On Wednesday night the two top Brit goalies in the league met as Belfast hosted Cardiff. Belfast’s Stephen Murphy was the established number 1 (or should it be 40 in hockey?) but missed out on the world championships last season after injury ended his season. That spot was filled by the youngster on block Ben Bowns.
Murphy is the established starter. He brings to the spot the experience of 19 years at the senior level and from the UK, US, Sweden and Norway in addition to his international career. He has also been very successful winning league, cup and playoff titles as well MVP awards. However he is aged 35 now and has had 2 seasons blighted by injury.
Bowns is in many ways the upstart. Aged 24 his experienced is a lot more limited and only to the UK but 24 is still young for a top nettie. Bowns has not yet had the success on the ice but last year did win the Challenge Cup and back in 2009 won the ENL North title with the Sheffield Spartans at just 18. Internationally though Bowns can no longer be described as a rookie having been the number 1 for two world championship campaigns.
Both have strong credentials but we live in the present and that means that current form should count most for Pete Russell come 17th April in Zagreb. This season Murphy has the better GAA at 2.58 to 2.68 but Bowns has the better save percentage at 0.914 to 0.903. Murphy comes in with 22 to 21 wins but Bowns has not lost a game in OT which may be important at the international level. In games between the Devils and the Giants it was 2 wins to the Giants and 1 to Cardiff but the Devils had outscored the Giants 12-11*.
Peter Russell in naming his starting line up for the match against Croatia in Zagreb on 17th April will have a headache. Both goalies are in form and both are ranked in the top 4 of active EIHL goalies. If head to heads count then Wednesday’s 2-0 win for the Giants may be decisive but then again the Giants have got to play in Cardiff twice more and the Giants have only 1 win away from home against the top 3 in the table. What is great though is that Dave Simms comment that a team will not win the league title with a British goal is well and truly dead with 2 challenging for the title and one having already won it.
*correct before games on 23rd December