Before Game 12 five teams were tied at six points. Thanks to the 4-3 win against Italy, Great Britain is now in pole position with nine points and one step away from earning promotion to the elite nation first time in 25 years! None of the six nations at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A had to wait for so long, and it isn’t exactly expected considering that Team GB was just promoted to the second tier of international ice hockey one year ago!
“I don’t know what’s going on to be honest. Maybe we keep dreaming and one more comes and we can do the impossible,” said Team GB head coach Peter Russell before announcing in true British fashion that the boys will first have a beer and then get some rest.
“It was an ugly performance but sometimes you have to get that. We were blocking shot, didn’t give up on rebounds. If you work hard, opportunities come and we got the opportunities again.”
Yes, it wasn’t a beauty of a win. However, the British play isn’t characterized on technical finesse either but by a hard-working team. They used their opportunity and their luck, including a goal scored from between the red and blue line, and defended bravely as Italy outshot Great Britain 33-17.
After the victory the mathematical probability of gaining promotion is 89 per cent. One point in the game against Hungary will be enough for the British to secure first place and promotion. And even in case of a regulation-time loss there are scenarios that see GB among the top-two teams that earn promotion.
“It was a tight game, they had a lot of chances in the third. We kept fighting and I was fortunate enough to get the game-winner and go-ahead goal and we hung on from there,” said Perlini, who scored the game-winner in the last period. “It’s a pretty cool feeling that we’re in this position but we knew if we win today we will have a good spot and if we win tomorrow it will be a special feeling next year.”
Despite being the underdog playing against a team that came down from the top division, Great Britain didn’t make any attempts of hiding in this game and outshot Italy 5-4 in a cautious opening frame that ended with a tie at two. Stephen Lee levelled the puck for a long and high pass to the opposing blue line where Brett Perlini took it to open the scoring for Great Britain at 7:01 but 22 seconds later teams were back at square one.
The British managed to interfere Ivan Deluca on his breakaway but then he passed back from behind the net and Alex Lambacher scored.
Great Britain reacted promptly. Robert Dowd found the gap in Andreas Bernard’s net after a horizontal pass from the other side from Brendan Brooks but again it wasn’t enough as Thomas Larkin tied it again with a hammer of a shot from the blue line at 13:30.
“Sacrifice, blocking shots, go to the net, sticking to the game plan,” Perlini said are the attributes that made Team GB the winner tonight. “And we were confident about ourselves. We believe in ourselves. We knew we can get the job done and we did.”
About tomorrow’s last game against host Hungary he said: “It’s going to be a tough game with the home crowd. We have to go back with what made us successful and hopefully we can get the win. It’s going to be a high-energy building, the last game. We’re just going to give it everything.”
The second period started with a power play for Italy. Going into the intermission, Paul Swindlehurst punched Diego Kostner into his face. Kostner took the punch without starting a fight and Swindlehurst got a penalty for roughing.
Luckily for the British they defended well and didn’t allow a single shot. Ten seconds after the penalty was over Ben O’Connor tried it with a shot from behind the blue line and surprised Bernard with the 3-2 goal. For Bernard the game was over as he was replaced by Marco de Filippo Roia.
Now Italy started to become stronger and to keep Team GB goaltender Ben Bowns busier with a firework of 16 shots (GB had seven shots on goal) in the second period but there were no more goals until the next intermission.
“We’re a great team. Every team in this tournament is strong. If you want to win you have to buy in for full 60 minutes,” said Bowns, which was an issue in the only loss, to Kazakhstan, and has worked much better today. Now he’s looking forward to the last game against host Hungary.
“We knew if we win we will play for promotion and if we lose for relegation. We never experienced this before. Tomorrow is going to be amazing. The crowd is awesome here. We’re used to it back home so it shouldn’t affect us but it should be fun. They’re looking for promotion as well. We had to win today and have to win tomorrow.”
Giulio Scandella eventually gave Italy the sought-after third goal early in the third period. Before the blue line he found the gap in the British defence and after a long pass from Peter Hochkofler skated away to beat de Filippo Roia for the 3-3 marker.
The goal seemed to stop the Italian firepower and when Perlini pushed his way through the Italian defence he scored his second goal of the night to regain the lead for Team GB at 8:44. Now Italy had to put everything on offence to tie the game and improve its position going into the decision day but the British battled bravely and won the game 4-3.
“We came back three times. We were all over for the last part of the third period and throughout most of the game but they defended very well in front of the net, it was difficult to get a second shot and they had good goaltending,” Italy head coach Clayton Beddoes said.
Now Italy needs to beat Slovenia, preferably in regulation time, and hope for favourable results in the other games to still earn promotion.
“If we win we still have the chance to be top-two. Forget about tonight and think about tomorrow,” Beddoes said.
Behind Great Britain with nine points also Italy, Kazakhstan, Slovenia and Hungary – all with six points – have a chance to get promoted. Only Poland with three points cannot go up anymore and is first and foremost battling for survival.
Article source: http://wmia2018.iihf.hockey/en/news/ita-gbr/