Is there a GB Goalie Crises?

The news that Belfast netminder Stephen Murphy will be out for a significant amount of time has left a headache not only for his head coach but for his former head coach Tony Hand as well. As coach of the British national side Hand had selected Murphy for next months final Olympic qualifying tournament in Riga. But with the Scot well established as Team GB’s number 1 it does leave a whole.

The obvious replacement is the Hull Stingrays’ Ben Bowns. Bowns has been in the national team set up for a number of years but has always been the understudy to Murphy. Aged just 21 Bowns is now in his first season as an EIHL starting goalie perhaps not ideal to be facing international heavy weights such as Latvia and Kazakhstan. However the highly rated Bowns has acquitted himself well in the EIHL and performed highly at every level. Bowns is also the future for the national team but needs some experience. That experience is hard to come by but what better way than in games that no one expects Team GB to do particularly well in. The consequences of finishing bottom of the qualification group are null whereas if this were a World Championship match up Team GB would be risking a disastrous relegation should the decision go wrong.

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Mike Will

Bowns clearly has the ability but the fact he his starting in the EIHL each week also puts him ahead of his rivals for the spot. Every EIHL team carries a British goalie as backup. Most however do not get many starts but Geoff Woolhouse has seen more action than most with Nottingham this season and has also been with national team in the past. There is also Mike Will from the Braehead Clan who has been a starter on occasions. However due to their lack of games neither Will or Woolhouse can be said to be as prepared to face international snipers as the young Bowns.

There is another option. Lurking somewhere in the dusty cupboards of IHUK must the phone number for Stevie Lyle. The Cardiff native was the back bone of the national team for over a decade since bursting on to the seen as a 16 year old. But now 33 Lyle has stepped down from the EIHL to play in the second tier EPL with Basingstoke. Despite Basingstoke having the best defensive record in the EPL and his performances leading the Bison to the top end of the table starting Lyle would be a mistake.

The step up between the EPL and virtually the Olympic games in huge. Whilst Lyle has faced plenty of rubber it is not exactly what you called quality when compared with the international scene. Bowns has had that with the Hull Stingrays.

Tony Hand and Doug Christiansen will have to make this tough decision.  Team GB has enjoyed a clear number one in the goalie department for many years with Hanson, Lyle and Murphy forming a succession of very good performers. But now that Murphy is injured there is a gap that highlights the lack of depth in the national team. Hand needs to take the risk that many EIHL sides will not and play the young goalie. Bowns after all has virtually been groomed this moment and why can he not prove more people wrong by backstopping the national team.

Neil Tucker

Neil has written on ice hockey for many websites concentrating on British ice hockey mostly. Neil also covers ice hockey in other countries and organises his Blueliner Hockey Tour. A graduate of the Manchester Metropolitan University Neil turned his hand to hockey writing in 2009. As well as contributing on Blueliner Hockey Neil has contributed to Get Real Hockey and Slapshot Magasine.

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