Kirk nets as Russia takes win in Worlds opener

Liam Kirk scored his first senior international goal (PHOTO: Dean Woolley)

Great Britain 1 Russia 7

Liam Kirk scored his first international goal as Great Britain were sunk 7-1 by Russia in the opening game of their World Championship campaign in Riga.

GB were always the underdogs coming into this one and the prospect of opening the tournament against a team like Russia was a daunting one.

Regardless, just being back in this tournament was the most exciting thing for Pete Russell’s team and while the man himself wasn’t there, having more than competent assistants in Elite League winning coaches Adam Keefe and Corey Neilson meant the team were in safe hands.

This was a Russia team who left it late to defeat Czech Republic in Friday’s opening game and were already off and running in terms of this competition.

GB competed well in the opening stages, although Jackson Whistle, given the nod to start over Ben Bowns, was tested by the Russians offence.

It took them just under six minutes to open the scoring when Anton Burdasov finished into the roof of the net to give them the lead.

Co-coach Corey Neilson watches on from the bench (PHOTO: Dean Woolley)

It started a porous spell for the Brits as Russia found an extra gear and continued their relentless assault on the GB net.

A quick move saw the Russians exploit the space inside the blue line where Dmitri Voronkov played a slick pass to Mikhail Grigorenko, sending the puck past Whistle to double the lead.

Burdasov got his second with a shot from the face off circle after being set up by Andrei Kuzmenko then a minute or so later, Sergei Tolchinsky was put through by Alexander Barabanov to slot it past GB’s goalie.

Britain’s heads were left spinning as Russia seemed to be in ruthless mode, executing anything that went near the crease, but soon started to get a foothold in the game.

A couple of penalty kills seemed to give GB a little bit of confidence and made them realise they could make them work for it.

The big moment came with over a minute to go in the opening period when great work from Robert Dowd set up Kirk, who scored with a wrist shot to get the Brits on the board.

Jackson Whistle won man of the match for GB and impressed between the pipes (PHOTO: Dean Woolley)

The second period was a much closer affair and although Tolchinsky hit the bar with a shot, GB managed to keep the Russians at bay, apart from Pavel Karnaukhov’s backhand effort to extend the lead to 5-1 halfway through the middle frame.

Once again, Whistle was called into action to deny Igor Ozhiganov just as it looked like they would move further ahead with their lead.

The stats were as one sided as the game, but there were plenty of positives for Keefe and Neilson to take into the final period, even if scoring chances were few and far between.

However, it was the Russians who found the net with Kuzmenko taking on Burdasov’s pass and sending his shot into the top shelf to make it 6-1 with 10 minutes to go.

Anton Slepyshev flicked the puck into the net for a seventh, which was initially missed by the officials, needing the video technology to confirm that it had gone in.

A sobering day at the office for GB, if not a reminder of the quality that awaits them at this level and Slovakia meeting them for breakfast in the morning.

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