Team GB Take GOLD MEDAL
So far it had not been for the want of trying – especially after two successful silver medals for the squad in the previous two championships – tournament Head Coach Pete Russell got the team to believe in themselves. To play as a team, growing in confidence with every outing as a Team GB squad player.
Following the highly successful tournament, held in the SSE Arena Belfast in April 2017 Team GB triumphed in Division 1B with an unbeaten record. The only team in the group to achieve such a record. In a thrilling final game at the SSE Arena last Saturday, Russell’s men lifted the gold award with a 4-0 win against Japan. Team GB’s comprehensive triumph in the tournament earned them promotion to Division 1A for the 2017/8 season where they will face Poland, Kazakhstan and Hunga
Pete Russell Team GB Head Coah marshalling his troops
Russell, following on from his duties as Head Coach of Milton Keynes Lightning, won the Play Off Championship and lifted the EPL Cup for the first time in the club’s history.
After the match Coach Russell and his team’s gold medal finish he stated, “This is the biggest moment of my career and it is a fantastic feeling. To do it on home ice in front of so many fantastic supporters really is amazing. Those boys deserve it. They were so focused all week. Nothing fazed them. I’m so proud of everyone of them and they deserve the promotion”
“The backing of the British fans was phenomenal, as always. And it was fantastic to see and hear quite a few MK Lightning supporters in the Arena wearing our jerseys and hoodies and waving an MKL flag – we couldn’t have asked for better backing!”
From game one in the Division 1B of the World Championships against Croatia, Captain Robert Dowd got the team going, and they never looked back winning with growing confidence 4-2. Then they faced Estonia where the Belfast Giants’ Mark Garside got the opening goal in a 5-1 comfortable victory over the Estonians.
In game three Team GB faced Lithuania. Belfast’s Colin Shield got the GB squad rolling with his opening powerplay score. They won 5-2 at the final whistle. Colin Shields did it again with another powerplay goal opening the scoring in a whopping victory over the Netherlands 14-0. The Giants’ goal minder Stephan Murphy got a shutout in the game.
Behind right Team GB Coaches Tom Watkins Corey Neilson
As thought before the start of the Championships, Japan versus Team GB would be a nail biting finish. Would Team GB take gold after two, previous successful runner-up medal finishes. Great Britain ensured that its World Championship heartache would go on no longer. A crushing 4-0 victory over Japan earned gold for the host nation and secured promotion to Division IA after four seasons.
“This time, there was no mistake. It feels like we’ve got an identity again,” quoted jubilant head coach Russell. “We played a bit different from the way GB played in the past, we were pretty aggressive, and we didn’t sit back. Our identity now is as a proactive team.
“We’ve earned the right to play at the next level, now we need to stay there. But this is a young team and we have a lot of players who are here for a long time to come.”
Aided by a couple of early GB penalties, Japan took the early initiative and home hearts were in mouths as a shot dinged off Ben Bowns’ post. But the Japanese suffered a big blow midway through the opening stanza when Hiroki Ueno limped out of the game after taking a hit in front of the benches.
The breakthrough came late in the first period as Japan ran into penalty trouble of its own. GB earned a 5-on-3 advantage and Robert Dowd cashed in with the opening goal.
Dowd was involved again as the host nation doubled its lead on another power play in the 25th minute. His shot from the top of the circle took a touch from Brendan Brooks and went through the five-hole.
Japan thought it had a lifeline in the 28th minute when Kenta Takagi put the puck in the net, only for the on-ice officials to call no goal because the net was off its moorings. Following the no goal call, Japan trailed by three as Colin Shields, one of the heroes of the tournament for GB, fired in a shot from the point and Matt Myers threw up a huge screen to redirect the puck beyond Japan’s netminder Fukufuji. The Belfast crowd, which included Rod Stewart – in town to watch his son Liam – went wild.
Shields, who also won the forward of the tournament prize, is one of those who had missed out in the past two years. He attributed this victory to solid teamwork. “We learned from our mistakes of the last two years and this year we really came together,”
Ben Bowns (30) faces Liam Stewart (18) in practise
- Colin Shields Team GB Joint Top Scorer withAndy French
Shields continued, “Tonight was our best game, we played a full 60 minutes. Everybody made a contribution, all four lines, and all the defence. Ben Bowns achieved a shutout. It was a team effort from top to bottom and we can be really proud of the job we’ve done here.”
Matt Myers grabbed his second of the night, finishing off an odd-man rush after a superb David Phillips pass sent Evan Mosey off to the races. With a 4-0 lead, the home crowd started the party 20 minutes ahead of schedule.
Myers commented after the game, “We knew that Japan was a good team, full of goals, and they are flying machines. We knew it was going to be tough but once we got that first one we just kept rolling and finished the job.”
Team GB’s confidence was justified. Japan struggled to get its pacey offence into the game. They managed just 10 shots on goal through 40 minutes, an astonishing turnaround from the devastating attacking play Takahito Suzuki’s team had produced in its first four games. The loss of Ueno clearly hurt the Japanese, but the home defence deserves credit for the way it denied the opposition the chance to turn over the puck as freely as it had in previous games.
Ben Bowns, the Cardiff Devils goalie made 20 saves for a well-deserved shutout. “I thought we were unbelievable defensively,” Bowns was quoted as sayinh. “We’ve been great all week but tonight we went to another level. To play a team like Japan and only allow two shots in the first period is just incredible. For me it was a fairly easy night because we all played so well.”
Robert Dowd and Colin Shields both ended up with eight points each from four goals and four assists, just behind tournament leader Obara Dalsuke who netted five goals plus five assists.
Another outstanding GB forward was Evan Mosey who also finished on eight points from three goals plus five assists. Colin Shields’ goal output in the Championship broke GB’s all time International goal tally – that of of ‘Tony Hand – with Shields’ four goals bringing his all time record to that of forty-one goals.
Coach Russell will have to put his summer holidays on hold this year as there is little chance to rest and reflect on his and his team’s achievements. He now has the task of building an MK Lightning side to compete in the top tier of the sport in the UK. This will be as part of the Elite League playing teams including the famous Nottingham Panthers, Belfast Giants, Cardiff Devils along with the rest of the Elite League teams.
Elite Teams are going to have take notice! Coach Russell has the bit between his teeth…
Written by wayne Hardman
Images mainly by Alan McNice