Oh my goodness, today was a rollercoaster of emotions. There’s no denying that Team Great Britain was really coming together as a unit – communication has been getting progressively stronger the more we play, and our defensive game has been absolutely on point. We went into our games with confidence, and it definitely showed. The three games that our teams played today were some excellent hockey. There’s just no other way to put it. The men and ladies were both able to take home a win, which was an exceptional confidence boost, but let’s take a closer look at the games.
First Game: Men’s Team Europe (AKA Team Slovakia) Vs. Team Great Britain
The first period of the game was all about coverage. Team Great Britain really showed their strength when it comes to picking a man on the other team and covering them. They weren’t letting these guys get away with anything. This was also the first instance of the day where we got to witness the excellent penalty kill line in effect. Andrew Jegg took a two-minute penalty for roughing early on, but Europe failed to capitalize on the power play because Team Great Britain played a strong defense. The boys came out for a ‘W’ and they weren’t leaving until they got it. Before too long Landen Burkley was able to score with an assist from Travis Parkin. Shortly after, Europe would answer back to bring the score to an even 1-1. With four and a half minutes left in the period, Ben Asselstine took a two-minute penalty for tripping, but God bless Bryan Blancher, he was standing on his head and wasn’t letting anything past him, even though Europe spent their whole power play trying to take their chance.
Parkin wasn’t having anything to do with a tie score, so virtually right as the period started, he scored with a beautiful assist from Iain Downes and Craig Wood. A little later in the period, Europe took a penalty, during which Dan Ruddach was able to score with some help from Troy Minor, followed up immediately by a goal from newcomer, Rich Wigmore. The boys were absolutely on fire during this period and it was a hell of a thing to watch. Unfortunately, things started to look a little dower when Ben Asselstine took a 5-minute penalty, and in accordance with the tournament’s rules, was ejected from the game for going over his allotted penalty minutes. Say what you will about the call, but this was enough to put a damper on any team. If that weren’t enough, the team found themselves at the wrong end of a 5 on 3 just moments later. However, when we say that the team’s penalty kill line was on point, we mean it. Team Europe was unable to make it count during their advantage, and the game would move into the third period with a score of 4-1.
Team Great Britain absolutely dominated in the third period. The ball was in Europe’s end the entire time. Early in the period, Iain Downes scored a beauty goal with some assistance from Cory Wick. Right after, Matt Delisle landed a shot in the 5-hole thanks to a nice set up from Gordy Clemas and Derek Hann. Parkin wanted to make sure he got one more shot in before the end of the game, and Downes was right there to help when he needed it. Just like that the boys of Team Great Britain had taken their first victory of the tournament.
Canada also took on Team Russia today, a game that they would win in a shutout with a score of 3-0.
Things were looking up for Team Great Britain, and we were hoping the girls could carry this energy through their game as well.
Second Game: Team Great Britain Vs. Team USA
Speaking to the girls heading into this game it was clear that they were all feeling a little more confident. Their game had steadily improved up to this point and we were pretty sure they could get a win here. Almost right away in the first period, Carly Parker managed to score a goal with an assist from Brianne Warner who was on fire this game. In our last wrap up we talked about how Sammy McIntosh was really starting to make a name for herself, and she continued that trend in this game. All around, the girls were looking a lot more confident on the floor and in their shots. With six minutes left in the period, Danielle Lapierre took a penalty, which seemed to start a fire in the rest of the girls. The girls were starting to show some aggression late in the period, and this contributed to Team USA being unable to capitalize on their power play. Conversely, USA took a penalty in the last minute of the period, and Carly Parker scored another beauty goal to bring the score to 2-0.
The theme of the day is defense. Team Great Britain has it in strides, and these girls were happy to show it off. Victoria Asselstine, Brianne Warner and Jen Povey were all there to get their bodies in front of the ball to keep it away from their goalie. It was exciting to watch to say the least. The aggression kept going throughout the second, and both teams took a few more penalties, but neither team were able to use that to their advantage. Sammy McIntosh showed off some fancy stickwork before scoring another goal at the five-minute mark though, and at this point, it seemed pretty clear who the victor of the game was going to be. Still, never count your chickens until they’ve hatched. Team Great Britain has made some unlikely comebacks in the past, so the girls knew to keep their head on a swivel heading into the third.
The third period was much the same as the second. The defense was strong, and the girls were on their game. With about eight minutes left in the period, Lynzey Valianes tipped the ball in after a huge assist from Jen Povey. The girls stormed the floor hungry for a win, and they did it. There’s no denying that they were playing like a unit out there today, and it was the best game we’ve seen out of them yet.
The ladies Team Canada also took on Team Czech Republic today and won handily with a shutout score of 6-0. Later, the ladies Russian team took on Team Canada and managed to eke out an impressive win with a score of 4-3 in a shootout.
Third Game: Men’s Team Great Britain Vs. Team Czech Republic.
This was it. This was the game we had waited all year to play. After a devastating loss in last year’s tournament, the players of Team Great Britain were champing at the bit to get their next shot at taking down Team Czech Republic.
We cannot stress enough just how strong Team Great Britain’s defense was during this game. Team Czech Republic scored a lucky goal early on, but the boys weren’t letting anything else in. The players were constantly blocking shots with their bodies with the intention of intercepting and were doing absolutely everything they could to keep the ball away from their goalie, Bram Leggat, who was moving faster than I’ve maybe ever seen a goalie move. On top of this, the penalty kill line was absolutely killing it (no pun intended) during this game. The only problem with that is that the penalty kill line had to come out a few too many times and would fire right into a power play immediately after. Iain Downes took a shot to the head out of a face-off and had to be pulled off the floor to get patched up, but like a hero, he returned moments later and was back on the floor. The ball was all over the place, but by the time the buzzer sounded, the scoreboard was still sitting at 1-0. The boys were determined to get that win.
As the second period stretched on, still no one had scored a goal. Not for lack of trying, both Team Czech Republic and Team Great Britain were taking their shots, but this was a hard game. Downes was showing off some incredible stick work and was proving that a little stick to the head wasn’t going to slow him down, but at the end of the period, the score was still sitting at a firm 1-0 for Team Czech Republic.
You could cut the tension with a knife at the start of the third period. Everyone around us was cheering, but all we could focus on was the game. With eleven minutes left in the period, Derek Hann took a penalty, after which we saw some amazing moves out of Leggat. The guy was practically spinning around to catch balls out of the air. It was impressive. Unfortunately, the Czech team did manage to get one past him to bring the score to 2-0. When the chips were starting to look down, the team pulled Bram to bring another player out and the game was starting to mirror the Team Great Britain vs. Team Czech game from the 2017 World Ball Hockey Federation (WBHF) Championship. Unfortunately, a player from Team Czech broke away and scored on the open net. With just two minutes left, we were about to walk away with our tails between our legs, but then Connor Lyttle scored with an assist from Andrew Jegg and Cory Wick. Then right after, Downes scored with another assist from Andrew Jegg. At this point we really thought this game was starting to look like last year’s match and thought that we might be able to tie it up this time. I’m sorry to have to report that that’s not the way this game went. With just a few seconds left in the game, tempers ran hot, and a brawl broke out near Team Czech Republic’s net (feel free to check our Instagram page or the stream right HERE for footage), but we weren’t able to score another goal to close the gap. The game ended with a score of 3-2 in favor of Czech Republic.
No one in the world would be able to blame the boys of Team Great Britain for feeling dejected after that game. What I saw in the hotel lobby afterwards though, was some of the best coping that I’d ever seen. Truly it was a testament to the players on the team that they were able to take it in stride so quickly and start to focus on the upcoming games. Plus, we learned later in the night that the rules of the tournament have undergone another change, so the Great Britain Men’s Team will have another opportunity at the gold when they take on Team Europe again tomorrow. If they play they way they did during the last two periods of their game against Czech Republic today, then it’ll be an exciting game to watch.