Great Britain is holding out for one of their biggest ice hockey victories EVER as they advance against Belarus in the World Cup, with Liam Kirk scoring twice to help them upset the odds against the favorites.
- Britain’s ice hockey stars won a famous 4-3 victory against Belarus
- Liam Kirk scored two goals in Riga against a team full of world-class talent
- Mike Hammond had put the team 4-1 and they seemed to be sailing on
- A quality Belarusian team fought back through Geoff Platt and Shane Prince
- But GB held its own and now focused on a game against Sweden on Friday
Great Britain achieved one of the best results in their ice hockey history when they held on for a thrilling 4-3 World Championship victory over Belarus in Riga.
Rapidly developing into a player of the highest caliber, Liam Kirk was excellent with two more goals as GB upset the odds of holding on to a near-holding Belarusian squad full of world-class players.
It appeared that GB, who entered the game with one point from the first three games of this Latvian tournament, was rolling out to a historic victory when Mike Hammond gave them a 4-1 lead in the third period.
Great Britain famously won the World Championships by beating Belarus
Mike Hammond was an integral part of GB’s game as he put them ahead 4-1 against the favorites
But Belarus showed their class as they fight back to a single goal deficit by goals from two of the Canadian dual-national players who have laid their international futures in Belarus in Geoff Platt and Shane Prince.
While Belarus then threw everything to Ben Bowns, GB’s brilliant netminder, with a nail-biting finish, GB stuck to what may be their best result since a very different British team won the Olympic gold medal in 1936.
And at the center of that stood 21-year-old Kirk, who is now tied to the top of the World Championship goalscoring charts with four strokes in four games to lead his squad to a very credible fifth place in the Group A table.
Belarus has some of the best ice hockey players and they were expected to beat GB
The contrast between these parties was perfectly illustrated by their experience. Belarus boasted more than 500 NHL and 5,000 KHL appearances between them, but none of the GB players have ever appeared in any of the top leagues in North America or Europe.
That certainly seems to end after this tournament, with Kirk destined to rise to one of the best leagues in Europe, at least in his quest to make it to the NHL.
Kirk, the first England-born and trained player drafted by an NHL club in Arizona Coyotes, had scored two goals in GB’s first three games and now he opened the score as GB more than held its own against a much higher ranked team.
It was also a controlled finish, past Plymouth-born goalkeeper Danny Taylor, who qualified for Belarus this year through his stint at Dinamo Minsk after his life in Canada.
Liam Kirk scored twice to ensure a successful day for Great Britain, one of their best ever
Belarus forced itself back through an equalizer from Vladislav Kodola. But with Bowns, another player seemingly destined to move to the higher echelons of the game and excel at goal once again, Great Britain quickly returned to the front foot.
GB felt they had taken the lead through Ben O’Connor but were turned down by a premature whistle from the referee, much to the frustration of GB co-coach Corey Neilson, who was leading the side with Adam Keefe in the absence of head coach Pete Russell for personal reasons.
But GB was not to be denied and Welshman Ben Davies, the hero of the sudden death victory over France two years ago in Slovakia who kept them in the top division, found a way past Taylor after good work from Matthew Myers.
And Britain was in dreamland when Yorkshireman Kirk found the net again with a brilliant wrist shot past Taylor to give his side a two goal lead on the second break.
Belarus fought back when Shane Prince turned it into a nerve-racking final, but Great Britain held on for the win
The team cheered after the game and are now looking forward to another tough game against Sweden
It turned four as Hammond extended GB’s lead, but Belarus got hope when Platt and Prince made their way past Bowns in quick succession. It was not quite enough.
“It feels fantastic,” said GB forward Davies afterwards. “We all bought in to do what we had to do to get this victory. We were disappointed to lose to Denmark in extra time, but this makes up for it.
“It was just a great performance through the line-up. Bowns got back on his head and we’re so excited about this. We’re just trying to do the right thing and will keep testing ourselves. ‘
The journey continues on Friday against an even stronger side in Sweden, but GB improves in every game and few would bet against them, giving the Swedes, who have only had one win after their first three games, a run for their money.