Puck Plays – GB Joy in Japan – By Dan Perry-Plant

Great Britain Ice Hockey team sealed a place in the Olympic final qualification group last weekend.

This is the biggest result in GB’s history since their famous 1936 Olympic Games gold medal in Germany.

GB started the tournament with a penalty shot loss against Korea, who proved to be a pacey and hardworking team, which more than made up for their lesser skills. The game ended 4-4 in regulation time, with GB’s goals coming from Craig Peacock, David Longstaff, Ben O’Connor and Colin Shields in a game GB lead by 2 goals twice.

There was no score in overtime, so the game went to best of three penalty shots, GB failed to find the net on their first two attempts and Korea took full advantage to sneak the points.

The next test was a grudge match against favourites Romania, who were looking to take their first win of the tournament, but GB planned to throw a spanner in the works and they did, as Leigh Jamieson scored just 3.17 in the first period.Colin Shields then doubled the advantage at 18.32 to wrap up the first period.

The second period was goalless as GB tightened up the defence against the Romania onslaughts. The game was sealed as winger Robert Dowd scored with eight minutes remaining in the game to complete the famous victory. Goalkeeper Stephen Murphy celebrated a 17 shot shut out as the team celebrated their first victory.

The results on Saturday set up a winner takes all grudge match between hosts Japan and GB, meaning that if GB won in regulation time they would be through to the final round of qualification.

The game started well for Great Britain as they scored twice in the first period for the second night running.  Craig Peacock scored a powerplay goal at 9.59 to take the lead. Ben O’Connor scored just 30 seconds later to double the advantage.

The second period again proved to be a quiet affair with  no goals scored. The third period started with GB knowing that holding on for a final 20 minutes would signal their greatest achievement in modern day hockey, and confirm their place in the final qualification group. Japan though took the initiative and scored four minutes in to the final period to make the game 1-2 in GB’s advantage.

The last 15 minutes of the game made for tense viewing as GB and Japan vied for the advantage in a close run affair, but GB managed to hold on and take the full points, booking themselves a trip to Riga, Latvia.

The four-team tournament takes place from 7th-10th February 2013. GB are currently ranked 21st in the world and will be the lowest seed in their group which includes Latvia ranked 11th in the world, France 14th and Kazakhstan 17th.

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