Great Britain U18 opened their World Championship (Division 2A) tournament with a 5-2 defeat against top seeds Lithuania.
Goals by Dominik Bogdziul, Mark Kaleinikovas and Paulius Macijaukas put Lithuania 3-0 ahead before the halfway mark, but Edward Knaggs reduced the deficit to two after 35 minutes.
British joy was shortlived though as Lithuania came straight back within a minute and restored their three-goal lead – Laisvydas Kudrevicius tapping in from close range.
Sam Duggan pinged the crossbar in the opening moments of the final period as GB looked to force their way back into the game, but it took until the final three minutes to find a goal with Cole Shudra scoring after a goalmouth scramble.
GB continued to press, but the Lithuanians had the final say with Lukas Zukauskas bagging an empty-netter.
Assistant Coach Simon Leach said: “It’s always tough when you lose the first game of a tournament. We knew going in how important this game was and wanted to get off to a good start, particularly going against the top seeds.
“Losing the goal so early put us on the back foot, but we regrouped and outchanced them and outshot them overall.
“However we weren’t clinical enough and at the other end we were punished for our mistakes by a Lithuania goal.
“We said to the players afterwards that little errors can make big differences at this level of hockey. Sometimes we fell short and didn’t stick to our strengths and we paid the full price.”
Key moments around the midpoint of the game saw a GB goal chalked off, another not awarded and a Lithuania goal given in controversial circumstances.
“Yes, things like that can change games,” said Leach. “But overall we’re disappointed as a group – we know we can do better in our own game and not worry about things we can’t control.
“It’s about how we as a team react to this loss, we don’t have time to sit and feel sorry – the game has gone, we move on.
“We play the early game tomorrow so we can’t dwell on this game, it’s all eyes on Croatia starting with our morning skate.
“The coaches will also look at the video of tonight to see where we can change and improve. We have confidence in the players, we come back tomorrow it’s a new day and we fight on.”
Great Britain play Croatia in the first game on Tuesday – face-off is 11.30am UK time. The game is being streamed live on the IIHF website – please click here to view.
(Image permission: Benedikt Kubatzki)