Pointless but GB prove their growing strength at IIHF World Championships among elite company
ADAM KEEFE insists Great Britain are proving their growing strength on the international stage after going down 2-1 to Slovakia at the World Championships in Riga.
Coupled with Saturday’s opening 7-1 defeat at the hands of world No 2-ranked Russia, it means GB go into their clash with Denmark tomorrow still searching for their first points of the tournament.
But they can count themselves unfortunate not to take anything from yesterday’s game against opponents who beat them 7-1 two years ago.
GB, coached by Keefe and fellow assistant Corey Neilson in the absence of head coach Pete Russell, got off to the worst possible start when slipping 1-0 behind through Marek Hrivik’s strike with just 25 seconds on the board.
Liam Kirk levelled when scoring his second goal in as many games at 22.03, but that joy was short-lived when Slovakia swiftly restored their lead through Robert Lantosi.
Heavily outshot 43-14 on the night, GB still created some clear chances, with Kirk, Brendan Connolly and Matthew Myers all going close, but they couldn’t find a way past Julius Hudacek in the Slovakian goal a second time.
“This was a terrific performance and we have come off the ice disappointed we did not get more out of the game,” said Keefe. “That shows how far we have come. We took Slovakia close and if a few bounces had gone our way it could’ve been a different story.
“We want to keep building as the tournament goes on and that performance is clear evidence we are getting stronger.”
GB went into Saturday’s Group A opener against Russia expecting a tough examination of their top tier credentials and they were not disappointed.
After a promising opening, the game was effectively taken away from them with barely 10 minutes on the clock when they conceded four goals in five minutes.
GB gave themselves a lifeline before the break, though, when good work by Sheffield Steelers’ Connolly fed team-mate Robert Dowd, who in turn set-up Kirk to fire through Ivan Bocharov.
The lead was extended just after the half hour mark by Pavel Karnaukhov, but GB were creating chances, with Ben O’Connor, Mike Hammond, Dowd and Robert Lachowicz all going close.
Two goals in four minutes – from Andrei Uzmenko and Anton Slepyshev – ensured there was to be no way back for their dogged opponents.
Afterwards, Neilson said there were plenty of positives to take from the heavy defeat.
“We played a really great side and congratulations to Russia on their victory,” he said. “ The coaching staff were very impressed with our compete level and you can’t forget we played the second best team in the world.
“The key thing is we stuck at it and didn’t let our heads drop. We have positives to take out of the game for sure.”
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