ONCE again Great Britain pushed hosts Slovenia all the way, and once again they came up agonisingly short - losing out 3-2 in Sunday night’s World Championship opener in Ljubljana.
Two years ago at the same venue, the visitors lost out 4-3 in overtime and, although no extra period was needed in the latest Division One clash between the two rivals, it wasn’t until late that the hosts secured the goal that gave them a vital three points in their quest to return to the world’s top division.
Ziga Jeglic put Slovenia ahead in the fourth minute before Sheffield Steelers’ Colin Shields levelled just under three minutes later.
At 12.35, David Rodman restored the hosts’ lead but Britain – missing head coach Tony Hand for their opening game – rallied again, with Belfast Giants’ Craig Peacock restoring parity early in the second period.
That’s how it remained until just under four minutes from the end of regulation, Tomaz Razingar the man on target to help deny Great Britain at least the one point which overtime would have given them.
Assistant coach, Doug Christiansen - forced into action as acting head coach due to Hand’s EPL play-off commitments with Manchester Phoenix – said afterwards that although GB had more than held their own against their more fancied hosts, more work was needed if they were to enjoy any kind of success in the former Yugoslav republic, particularly with a hectic schedule of five games in seven days.
“I thought we competed hard and battled well,” said Christiansen. “But we made a couple of mistakes and we will have to improve going forward.
“I thought Stephen Murphy was fantastic and the line of Colin Shields, Robert Dowd and Craig Peacock was a threat all night.
“I saw enough in this game to know we can compete at this tournament, but we know we have to get better.”
Another tough match awaits the British players on Monday afternoon when they hit the ice first to face Austria, favourites along with the hosts to gain themselves an instant return to the top division.