GB looking to bow out on high note in Latvia

ASHLEY TAIT said Great Britain wanted to end their failed Winter Olympics qualification bid on a winning note despite their dreams of reaching Sochi 2014 being ended in Latvia.

Following a 6-2 defeat at the hands of the hosts on Thursday, Tony Hand’s team went into Friday’s clash with France needing a win to keep their faint hopes alive. But, despite a late fightback, they went down 4-2 and exited the competition.

Sunday sees GB finish their campaign against Kazakhstan, who went down 3-2 to Latvia, who will now take on France to determine who qualifies for the main event in Russia next year.

Sheffield Steelers forward Tait, the most capped player in the GB squad, said while there was obvious disappointment following defeat to France, the players were keen to end the event on a high.

“We’re a little bit dejected about how it’s gone, but I honestly think we have given a good account of ourselves out here,” said Tait.

“Being realistic, we knew we were playing teams ranked a lot higher than ourselves and it was always going to be a big ask.

“We’re playing for pride on Sunday and we want to come away with a win and do ourselves and the fans justice.”

A failure to qualify for next year’s main event is no disgrace for the British team. Not only were they the lowest-ranked team but, as is usually the case for the national squad, they will have had far less time together preparing for the event than any of their counterparts – a situation which needs to change if they are be serious about becoming a permanent fixture in the world’s top tier.

In both losses, special teams proved key, with the three power play goals conceded in each game making the crucial difference.

As was the case against Latvia, Britain enjoyed a good first period against France, and went close to scoring through Tait, Robert Lachowicz and David Clarke. But they went into the first break 1-0 down after a 10th-minute power play strike by Laurent Meunier.

What were effectively two power play goals came in the second period, Pierre Bellemare scoring on a delayed penalty call at 27.19 before the impressive Damien Fleury pounced with France on the man advantage at 34.48.

An early British goal was needed in the third, and it duly arrived after Craig Peacock’s persitence paid off when he poked home on the power play at 43.54.

The deficit was cut to one at 51.36 when Lachowicz fired home, but the momentum was lost two minutes later when a mistake by netminder Stevie Lyle allowed Charles Bertrand to fire home and seal the win.

“It’s quite difficult to adapt because it’s a completely different level to what we are used to playing domestically,” added Tait. “It would have been better if, as part of our preparations, we had had chance to play against a team of similar quality.

“It would be nice to try and get some more training camps in ahead of the World Championships in April. But I think that’s going to be difficult to squeeze anything in because we have so many club fixtures left.”

Tait also felt that some of the costly penalty calls handed out to GB were soft.

“It’s a different standard of refereeing to what we have back home,” he added. “It takes a while to work out what you can and can’t do.

“When you break it down, if it wasn’t for the power play goals we conceded in both games, they would have been a lot closer. My penalty against France was ill-discipline on my part, and you could say that about a few of the calls.

“But we didn’t seem to be getting any breaks or any calls going our way in both games.

“And when you go two or more goals down against teams of this quality, it’s extremely difficult to get back in the game – although we were so close to doing that against France.”