International Ice Hockey Federation

GB punishes Poland

GB punishes Poland

O’Connor scores winner after stick to his face

Published 25.04.2018 19:54 GMT+2 | Author Martin Merk
GB punishes Poland
The British players celebrate after their win against Poland. Photo: Laszlo Mudra
Great Britain found back to winning ways and beat Poland 5-3 in a hard-fought game at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A.

For the British underdogs it’s the second win in three games. They were outshot by Poland 39-34 in a game in which both teams temporarily held the lead until Ben O’Connor scored the game-winning goal at 6:40 of the third period – just 14 seconds after he was hit by a stick in his face, causing a 5-on-3 power play for the British. It was an eventful 50th national team game for him.

“I’ll take it any day. You have to do it to win and everybody did it today, blocking shots, doing the little things, you got to take a stick to the face if this gets us the game-winning goal and we hung on from there,” O’Connor said.

“In the second period we got away from our game plan. I think we dominated the first and in the second period we tried to go a bit more individual and it didn’t work. We turned over the pucks on the bluelines and they’re a good team. They were killing us. We took silly penalties. In the third we went back to all we’re good at, getting the pucks deep, going to work, finishing the hits and you know what, it showed. Coming back from 3-2 down is a good character win in a tournament like this.”

It was the first official game between the two teams since 2014 when both played one tier below in the Division I Group B. Poland won the group after four games and lost its last but for them meaningless game to Great Britain 4-2. Three years later the British went up and are now in the Division I Group A too and have performed well so far. They announced a physical, north-south game with Poland and were right.

A goal after three minutes opened the scoring for Great Britain when Mark Richardson sent the puck to the crease and Brett Perlini deflected it.

“The first period we started pretty strong then Poland came back, we took some bad angles. In the third period we went back to like we played in the third period. I think overall we deserved it today. I was really impressed about the team today,” Team GB head coach Peter Russell said.

At 12:21 Poland managed to tie the score. During their first power play it just took the white-and-red team 16 seconds to put the puck into the net. Pawel Dronia scored with a slapshot from the left face-off circle.

With 83 seconds left Colin Shields scored Great Britain’s first power-play marker. Brett Perlini and Robert Farmer did their puck work behind the net and brought the it back to Shields whose goal regained the lead for Great Britain. But the Poles found the answer again early in the second period. Damian Kapica found the net empty on the right side after a horizontal pass from Bartlomiej Pociecha and made it a 2-2 tie.

Around the midway mark Poland was eventually rewarded for their improved game. Krzysztof Zapala entered the British zone and sent the puck past defenceman Mark Richardson and goaltender Ben Bowns to give Poland its first lead in the game. The Poles had even more good chances but Bowns kept his team in the game including a saved penalty shot from Kapica late in the second period.

Although Poland had more chances in the first minutes of the third frame it was the British who scored and made it a tied game again. Robert Farmer passed to Brendan Brooks before the blueline, who broke into the British zone, deked Polish defenceman Jakub Wanacki and beat Poland’s goaltender John Murray for the 3-3 marker.

One-and-a-half minutes later the British had the big chance to turn the game. Bartlomiej Neupauer was already in the penalty box when his teammate Krystian Dziubinski hit Ben O’Connor’s head with the end of his stick to get an unnecessary penalty call. Team GB head coach Peter Russell took his time-out for the 42 seconds the British would play 5-on-3.

It just took them 14 seconds to score. Of all players it was O’Connor himself, who scored it with a long shot from behind the left face-off circle. The 4-3 marker was sweet revenge for the hit but the game was still far from being over. But the British defended well and eventually Jonathan Phillips scored into the empty net for the 5-3 goal to seal his team the win.

“A hockey game takes three periods and you cannot just play parts of it and that’s what we did. GB started off really well and they took it to us in the last ten minutes when it was urgency for us. You have to give them credit, they deserved to win and we got what we deserved,” Poland’s head coach Ted Nolan said.

Poland will play host Hungary tomorrow evening while Great Britain will have a day off before its game against Italy on Friday. With their 2-1 record after three games the dream of promotion is alive.

 

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