"We really want to get back to the A-Pool and be in a position to get to the Qualification Tournament."
Czech Republic coach Jiri Briza has spoken of the positive feeling amongst his team as they prepare for the 2016 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships B-Pool, set to get underway in Tomakomai, Japan, on 28 November.
The Czech Republic recently won the Four Nations tournament at home in Ostrava against Japan and Slovakia, two of the teams they will play at the end of the month.
Briza said this has given the team the confidence boost they need ahead of Tomakomai 2016, a crucial Championships which will see the top three teams progress to the Qualification Tournament for the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
“Now we are in a really good mood,” Briza said. “We played in the Four Nations tournament and there is a good feeling in the team. The players are excited to get to Japan and get back what we lost in Buffalo so it’s going to be pretty good.”
Getting back what they lost in Buffalo refers to his team’s relegation to the B-pool in 2015, after they lost to Germany at the Worlds A-pool.
Briza believes that where they went wrong was to focus too much on other teams. They will not make the same mistake again.
“Our goal is just to focus on ourselves and our team and our performance,” he said. “Because that’s where we struggled in the past. When we [lost to Germany at the A-pool Worlds] we actually beat them during the season, many times, 5-0, 7-0 and we just didn’t show the same performance in Buffalo and that’s why we went down.
“We have to focus on ourselves and we did it during the Four Nations tournament and that’s why we won. If we can now do the same in Japan, it really doesn’t matter if we play against Japan or Slovakia.”
The Czech Republic have also spent the intervening years developing their pool of players. Whilst none of a new crop will be on the roster in Tomakomai, Briza sees this as insurance for the future.
They have re-worked their pathways, partnering more with local clubs and giving potential players the chance to skate alongside the national team at training camps. A few of these players also played in Ostrava.
For now, the aim is to win gold at Tomakomai 2016 and give themselves the chance to qualify for PyeongChang 2018.
“I have to say that at the tournament we are the best team on paper,” Briza said. “But the Japan team are the home nation and we will be travelling some days and the time zone can affect the performance.
“When it comes to the performance on the ice, we expect the highest and best result for our team in this tournament. We really want to get back to the A-Pool and be in a position to get to the Qualification Tournament.”
Then, says Briza, they can work on bringing in the new players.
“We don’t want them to be on the sidelines. We want them to be on the national team so they can be part of it and can see what it’s all about and how much they have to work on themselves to be at that level.”
The 2016 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships B-Pool will run until 3 December.
Teams from Slovakia, Great Britain, Czech Republic and hosts Japan will go for gold. The top three teams will also progress to the Qualification Tournament for the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.