Great Britain signed off from the World Championships with defeat to an excellent Switzerland, but will leave Latvia with many new admirers.
Sure, the Swiss outclassed GB at times during what was always going to be a very difficult end to the competition in the 6-3 victory for them. But what an impression this team has made in Riga.
More points on the board than in Slovakia two years ago. More goaltending master classes from Ben Bowns to remind us what a talent we have in that area. And the emergence of Liam Kirk – a genuine world class player.
As for this game, it was effectively a dead rubber with the four quarter finalists confirmed already, including the Swiss. The aim was merely to end the competition on some kind of high.
Bowns was tested in the early stages, but Switzerland got the lead when Gregory Hofmann, one of Kirk’s rivals in the goalscoring charts, snuck one in at Bowns’ near post.
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GB responded straight away when Kirk leapt on a turnover and fired one in off the goalie’s far post to level things almost immediately.
The Swiss edged ahead with just over three to go in the first, when Romain Loeffel’s shot from the blue line bounced over Mark Richardson’s leg and past Bowns.
The Brits caused them problems, but the Swiss enjoyed spells of pressure that really tested the defensive lines at times.
However Kirk showed his tournament wasn’t done yet when he put away a rebound from Richardson’s shot that put him on seven goals and outright lead in goalscoring again.
The second half of the middle frame proved to be the defining spell of the game as Santeri Alatalo’s goal needed a couple of deflections to find their way to make it 3-2.
Then Christoph Bertschy added another immediately after the restart before getting his second and Switzerland’s fifth shortly after to really open up the lead.
Nico Hischier was on target to make it 6-2 and seemingly out of sight for GB with one more period to play.
Jackson Whistle got some game time in the third period as the campaign wound down and while Switzerland had done what they needed to do, GB hoped to at least get something on the board again.
Brendan Connolly duly obliged to get his first goal of the tournament in the final minutes, with Kirk getting the assist.
It was a fitting end with a strong third period display as GB signed off from the world stage for a year, proving they can compete at this level and will do again next year in Finland.