Great Britain Under-20 men's coach Tim Lewis believes his side can reach the latter stages of the European Championship B Division, and edge towards a place in the top-flight.
Lewis’ young team start their campaign in Oberwart, Austria on Wednesday, having won three of their five international warm-up games.
With his roster in a state of flux, the Essex Pirates coach admits there are deficiencies which he has had to address. But he is setting high standards and targeting an improvement on last year’s disappointing 13th place finish.
"I expect us to compete in the top 12 of the competition and to come through the first group stage,” he said. “I think we're in the tougher of the draw, and it will bring challenges on the way. We need to come together really quickly, but the whole Great Britain programme has come a long way in a short period of time.
"Everyone's learning, and there's still a lot of things to iron out. But we're in only our fifth year, and it relation to other countries we're a young programme.”
Britain open up against Denmark before taking on hosts Austria and newly relegated Belgium on Friday and Sunday respectively in the group stages. And Lewis is ready for some tough games.
"Denmark were late getting together, and although we've beaten them already, they're not to be taken lightly,” he said. “They're a hard working, skilled European team who can cause us problems. It's their first time in the under-20 programme, and they played well against us in the first three quarters, but they ran out of steam.
"Belgium are a pretty decent side across the board. They're an experienced team who are just down from Division A, with a number of players who have played in the A Division. Their players are all at pro clubs in Belgium who are playing and being coached seven days a week. I expect a tough challenge against a team who play an up-tempo game."
Lewis knows that Austria will provide tough opposition: "They've chosen to be hosts, and they're looking to get into the A Division. They have two very good players in Moritz Lanegger and Rasid Mahalbasic, and they've had a good preparation against some strong teams having lost by 20 against Sweden before beating a weakened Swedish side by 13."
Nigel Van Oostrum
Raheem May Thompson
Head Coach: Tim Lewis
Asst. Coach: Jimmie Guymon