Connect with us

Team GB

IIHF World Championship: Team Great Britain must take confidence from Canada loss

Liam Kirk fired Pete Russell’s team into a stunning, albeit short-lived, lead within seven minutes of puck drop.

Logan Neilson, Team GB (Image: Dean Woolley)

Minutes into their return to the IIHF World Championship, Team Great Britain planted a seed of doubt in a Canada squad containing Connor Bedard, Owen Power, and Pierre-Luc Dubois — such was the quality of their display in Prague.

Liam Kirk fired Pete Russell’s team into a stunning, albeit short-lived, lead within seven minutes of puck drop, cutting inside from the right circle and arcing a shot into the net.

It was the second time in a matter of minutes that Kirk had beaten Canada netminder Joel Hofer, with his first attempt was washed away by the officials for a crease violation.

While Canada equalised through Pittsburgh Penguins forward Michael Bunting on the next shift, the Brits closed out the first period with the score tied at one apiece and kept pace with Canada until the closing minutes of the second period.

Team GB rattled the tournament favourites with a dominant powerplay showing midway through the second frame, with Kirk and Robert Dowd splitting five chances to restore parity after Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brandon Hagel shot Canada ahead.

From there, the Canadians showed their class — Chicago Blackhawks phenom Connor Bedard predictably added his name to the scoresheet with a brace before Ben O’Connor counterpunched to make it 4-2 — but Team GB should take confidence from their performance.

With Finland up next, here are three takeaways from Great Britain’s loss to Canada.

Liam Kirk is really, really good at hockey

Kirk’s ability was never in doubt to anyone outside the state of Arizona, but it’s always worth repeating the point at this time of year.

The former seventh round pick produced a tour de force performance on Team GB’s second-line. combining expertly with Brett Perlini — who was announced as the Cardiff Devils’ latest signing hours before the game — and Johnny Curran.

Liam Kirk, Team GB (Image: Dean Woolley)

Liam Kirk, Team GB (Image: Dean Woolley)

Kirk opened the scoring with a fierce shot from the edge of the circle, making the most of the extra space available on the powerplay.

His earlier strike (which was disallowed for goalie interference) was even more impressive, with the Maltby native bodying an NHL’er off the puck before firing it into the cage from distance.

Kirk also provided a primary assist to Ben O’Connor, who activated from the blueline to break between two defencemen and chip a backhanded effort over the shoulder of Hofer.

It’s no secret that Team GB’s survival hopes hinge on Kirk’s ability to put the puck in the back of the net — his play against Canada bodes well for when the must-win game(s) roll around.

Jackson Whistle is ready for World Championship action

Russell handed Jackson Whistle the start and the Belfast Giants shot-stopper made the most of it, making 24 saves on 28 shots.

The 28-year-old made a handful of highlight reel saves against an all-star roster boasting 6,688 games of NHL experience and looked composed while doing it.

Jackson Whistle, Team GB (Image: Dean Woolley)

Jackson Whistle, Team GB (Image: Dean Woolley)

Whistle is expected to split netminding responsibilities with Ben Bowns throughout this tournament — the Kelowna-born goalie made the perfect start.

Team GB showed impressive discipline against Canada

When faced with elite-level opposition, Team GB’s inability to stay out of the penalty box has often been their downfall.

But that simply wasn’t the case against Canada, with Russell’s side perfect through four penalty kills — the first of which caused by a failed coach’s challenge.

Team GB’s best chance of staying in the top flight is keep all of their skaters on the ice; they made the perfect start against Canada.

Looking Ahead: Team GB at the IIHF World Championship

The bottom line is that Team GB’s real competition is not against juggernauts like Canada or Finland (who they face next).

Austria and Norway are their rivals in the fight to survive another season in the top flight and their opening round performance should fill Russell with confidence.

Last time they faced Canada, Team GB lost 8-0.

Today, they left the ice having matched a roster of NHL’ers stride for stride the majority of the way.

“This is our fourth year in the top flight and every year we’re gaining more confidence in our ability and the fact that we belong here,” O’Connor told reporters in Prague. “We’re not an easy team to play against and that was a good start against the best team in the world. There’s a lot to build from.”


Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Team GB