GB impress as they suffer at hands of hosts Latvia

GREAT Britain’s hopes of qualifying for their first Winter Olympics since 1948 suffered a setback on the opening day of qualifying when they went down 6-2 to hosts Latvia.

IN HARM'S WAY: Sheffield Steelers and GB captain Jonathan Phillips prepares to put a block in on a shot from Latvia's Oskars Bartulis in Thursday's night's opening game. Picture: Katie Chadburn.

A promising first period saw former Sheffield Steelers’ forward Robert Dowd cancel out Gints Meija’s third minute opener with an equalising goal at 3.58.

But, with Ben O’Connor in the penalty box on an interference call, Miks Indrasis ensured the favourites to reach Sochi 2014 went in ahead at the end of the first period with a powerplay goal at 14.43.

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Tony Hand’s team started to take a few more penalties in the second period and it was while Colin Shields was sitting for a slashing call that Oskars Bartulis doubled the home side’s lead with a second powerplay strike of the night at 29.50.

Stevie Lyle – preferred in net to Hull Stingrays’ uncapped netminder Ben Bowns – was by far the more busier of the two goaltenders and was powerless to prevent an early goal in the third period which killed off any fading hopes GB had of making a comeback, Ronalds Kenins pouncing at 43.41.

It became 5-1 when Georgijs Pujacs slotted home at 53.07, although the tournament underdogs struck back when presented with a 5-on-3 powerplay which allowed Belfast Giants’ Craig Peacock to find a way past Edgars Masalskis in the Latvian net at 57.47.

The tiring British team ran into further penalty trouble in the closing moments, however, and, with Matthew Myers and Robert Farmer serving penalties, conceded a sixth goal through Lauris Darzins with 18 seconds remaining.

Afterwards, head coach Hand, said: “I thought the guys showed up and gave everything.

“Obviously we lost a few powerplay goals to the 11th best team in the world, although I felt a couple of the penalties were a bit soft.

“The guys have done well, but we need to get the energy levels up again in time for the France game tomorrow.

“I thought we made some mistakes that wouldn’t have been capitalised on if we’d been in a ‘Pool B’ event, but they were very clinical in front of net.”

The British team have a quick turnaround ahead of their next game, facing France – who lost their opening game 3-2 to Kazakhstan – at around 1.30pm UK time on Friday.

Their final game is against Kazakhstan on Sunday at 11am UK time.