Home » Great Britain battles bravely but unable to stun Canada in World Championship opener

Great Britain battles bravely but unable to stun Canada in World Championship opener

Lake had an assist on Liam Kirk’s opening powerplay goal while netminder Whistle, a little surprisingly starting ahead of long-time number one Ben Bowns, dazzled with 30 saves against a genuinely star-studded Canadian roster.

While in previous years the North Americans have sent across watered-down squads to the World Championships – which runs during the NHL’s Stanley Cup Play-Offs and is seen as lesser than the Olympics – this year’s roster consists entirely of NHL players.

And it needed their star man, Chicago Blackhawks forward Connor Bedard, to drag Canada over the line as last year’s first overall NHL Draft pick scored twice, with the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Michael Bunting and Tampa Bay Lightning’s Brandon Hagel also on the scoresheet.

Unsurprisingly, it was Kirk, the only British-trained player to ever be drafted in the NHL, who drove most of the offense for Great Britain at the O2 Arena as he netted the first goal of the game and then set up Ben O’Connor for a consolation goal in a third period Pete Russell’s men would actually win.

But the damage was done in the second period after a first frame that ended tied at 1-1 as Bedard grabbed his double after Hagel had given Canada the lead to take the game beyond GB and secure the three points for André Tourigny’s men, who will be one of the favourites to win the tournament.

Kirk had given GB the lead when he scored with their first shot of the game at 7:47, Lake finding Evan Mosey who set up the winger for the powerplay finish with Dylan Cozens punished for high sticking, but Bunting tied it up exactly 30 seconds later when he fired past an unsighted Whistle.

Hagel would score the go-ahead goal at 5:45 of the second period when he managed to bat in a bouncing puck at the crease and then superstar Bedard took over, scoring the game-winner at 31:39 and adding another at 35:29 for insurance.

But head coach Russell will be thrilled at the application of his players that saw them add a consolation goal at 8:49 in the final period, Kirk beating out an icing call into the offensive zone and finding O’Connor skating in at the blue line, and the defenceman produced a wonderful finish, beating Joel Hofer – 13 saves – on the backhand.

GB even managed to get Whistle out for the extra skater late in the game as they tried to produce a remarkable and stunning comeback, but an interference call on O’Connor forced them onto the late penalty kill and allowed Canada to see it out convincingly.

GB’s tournament continues with another heavyweight clash on Sunday when they take on Finland (11.20am UK time), another team that boasts three NHL players on its roster and a wealth of experience in Europe’s top Leagues.

They will know that bigger tests lie in wait in their bid to avoid relegation from the top tier, though, with clashes against the likes of Denmark, Norway and Austria later in the tournament more likely to decide their status for next year than these opening pair of games.