CAPTAIN Jonathan Phillips admitted his Great Britain team was “devastated” after losing out on a World Championships gold medal on the final day of the tournament for the second year running.
Last year in Eindhoven, GB needed a single point from their final game against Lithuania. They lost 3-2 in regulation, allowing Korea to gain promotion to the second tier.
In Zagreb 12 months on, the mission was the same - a single point was required, this time Ukraine were standing in their way, knowing a regulation win for them would put them back in with a chance of the gold medal themselves, despite losing the previous day to Lithuania - a team GB had hammered 8-0 48 hours earlier.
Once again, as in the Netherlands, it was to prove a heartbreaking occasion for Pete Russell’s team, two third period goals seeing Ukraine cancel out Phillips’s 22nd-minute opener - the third game in succession the captain had opened the scoring for his team.
“I’m really struggling put into words how I feel,” said Sheffield Steelers’ forward Phillips after the 2-1 loss.
“We are just devastated to come so close for a second time.
“The guys gave it everything we had but we could just not get over the line - it was our goal from day one to win a gold medal.
“We played well today for the majority of the game and we out-skated them but, maybe in that last period we sat back a little too much.”
GB had deserved to take a 1-0 lead into the third, having been the better team in the opening 40 minutes.
Ashley Tait had two great chances on the doorstep inside the first 30 seconds, but was twice denied by netminder Eduard Zakharchenko.
Although they outshot Ukraine 15-3 in the first period, Russell’s team had to wait until early in the second session to take the lead when, as he did against Lithuania and Estonia, Phillips scored his team’s first goal of the game, tipping in a shot from Josh Batch at 21.54.
A goalless second period saw Rotherham-born netminder Ben Bowns called upon to make a couple of smart saves but, just over four minutes into the final period, Ukraine got the equaliser they had been pushing hard for when Dmytro Chernyshenko struck at 44:25.
Russell Cowley was denied from close range by Zakharchenko from close range.
It proved to be a crucial save when, at 56.04, Olexander Pobyedonostsev scored the goal which saw GB go behind for the first time in the tournament all week.
We are just devastated to come so close for a second time.GB and Sheffield Steelers’ captain, Jonaathan Phillips
Despite their best efforts, there proved to be no way back, with Russell and his players forced to settle for second-best yet again.
Lithuania’s 2-1 defeat on penalty shots to hosts Croatia in the closing game of the tournament, was enough to earn them bronze, while confirming Division 1B gold for Ukraine.
Croatia finished fourth and Estonia fifth, meaning winless Romania were relegated back to Division 2A.
Head coach Russell described his team’s defeat as a “horrible feeling.”
He added: “I am just stunned.
“It is like last year all over again and I just can’t put it into words.
“We gave it everything we had and we were fantastic all week - but we just couldn’t get over the line. It’s a horrible feeling.”