GREAT BRITAIN won a new legion of admirers in Kosice when they went down fighting to Germany 3-1 on their return to the top tier of the world game.
Pete Russell's team were back among World Championships elite for the first time since 1994 and, based on yesterday's performance against a team ranked 14 places above them in the world rankings, they intend to stick around.
For 40 minutes, GB held their own against a Germany side containing Edmonton Oilers' star Leon Draisaitl, whose third period strike gave his team the comfort they needed to see the game out for a 3-1 win.
Many expected GB to prove cannon fodder for the higher-ranked teams in Slovakia and while there will be tougher tests to come - including Sunday's meeting with No 1 seeds Canada - they certainly looked like they belonged after two successive gold-medal winning campaigns had brought them this far.
Sheffield Steelers' defenceman Davey Phillips said the disappointment in the GB dressing room was proof of how far the team had come.
"I thought we gave it a great go tonight but came up a little short," said Phillips. "We matched the eighth best team in the world for much of the game, but just let them get away at the end.
"We actually all feel disappointed which shows how far we have come in recent years. If a few chances had gone our way - and we had some great chances today - who knows what might have happened."
In a positive start, chances came and went at both ends, Ben Davies and Ben O'Connor both having decent looks, while Ben Bowns had to be alert to make a double-stop in the GB goal. The clearerst chance of the period fell to Evan Mosey late on, a nice feed from Ben Lake behind the net finding the Cardiff Devils forward on his own in front, only to be denied by Mathias Niderberger.
It was the same story in the second perdio, with former Sheffield Steelers' forward Liam Kirk twice having opportunities. But the deadlock was broken in the final minute of the second when, following a scrable in front of Bowns's net, Moritz Seider was able to fire home through a crowd before GB could get out to close the angle at 39.21.
But while many would have assumed there was to be no way back for GB, kike so many times in the recent past they proved that theory wrong. Good forechecking behind the Germany goal forced Draidsaitl into a giveaway to Mike Hammond who fired through Niderbergers legs at 43:36.
A point would have been the least GB deserved on the night, but those hopes were dashed when Yasin Ehliz's strike at 50.39 was followed by Draisaitl's bullet of a shot shortly after.
GB assistant coach Adam Keefe said his players had given themselves plenty to build on with another six games coming their way in the next 10 days, with favourites Canada no doubt keen to bounce back from their own opening round setback which saw them go down 3-1 to Finland on Friday.
“We play with great heart and we played a tough game tonight," said Keefe. “There are a lot of positives to take from it and we can hold our heads up. We have to cut out mistakes, especially at this level, as you get punished, but this is something to build on.”