Team Great Britain sealed the gold medal and promotion to Division 1 Group A for the first time in over 20 years after defeating Japan 4-0 in Belfast on Saturday. The team ended the tournament with five wins from five games to confirm their promotion to international hockey’s second tier for the first time since relegation in 1994.
Team GB defeated Croatia (4-2), Estonia (5-1), Lithuania (5-2) and the Netherlands (14-0) to set up a gold medal decider against the Japanese who had also won every game up to that point. The game against Japan, who were top seeds in the group, was expected to be a tight contest, with many predicting the game to be decided by a single goal. Team GB, however, had other ideas and put in a dominating display which saw them build a 4-0 lead by the end of the second period.
Having killed two penalties during the first period, Team GB capitalized when given a 5-on-3 advantage towards the end of the period. Ben O’Connor and Robert Farmer combined to set up Robert Dowd who had parked himself in the slot. His one-timer fizzed past Fukufuji in the Japan goal to give the home side a crucial lead.
The second period saw Team GB score a further three goals, the first of which came again thanks to the Power Play unit. Brendan Brooks, stationed in front of the net, deflected a Robert Dowd shot past Fukufuji at the 24:37 mark. Japan then had a goal by Takagi ruled out by the officials. Following a scramble around the Team GB net, the puck was knocked in but the officials ruled that the net had been displaced before the puck had crossed the line. Japan clearly felt hard done by, and their mood wasn’t improved when Team GB grabbed a third goal shortly after. Colin Shields sent the puck on net from the point and Matt Myers was on hand to deflect the puck which somehow found its way beyond Fukufuji and over the line. The fourth goal came after a great bit of passing. Dave Phillips sent a long pass to Evan Mosey He waited for the perfect moment to send the puck over to Myers who made no mistake in grabbing his second of the game.
The third period was a mere formality, and the Team GB defense did their bit to ensure that goalie Ben Bowns could claim his second shutout in as many games.
Team GB forward Russ Cowley was playing his last professional game and it is no doubt the perfect way to end a career which has spanned sixteen seasons and no fewer than 900 games. After the game, he told Ice Hockey UK “I’ve had so many successes as a player, this ranks up there with the best nights of my career. Tonight is the icing the cake, it was our best performance of the week by far and to win here with a big home crowd was special.”