Sheffield Steelers' O'Connor marks landmark game in style for Great Britain

AS a way to mark such a milestone occasion for himself as a GB international, Ben O'Connor certainly did it in style.

PILEDRIVER: Ben O'Connor (partly hidden) smashes in GB's fourth and game-winning goal against Poland. Picture: Dean Woolley.

The Sheffield Steelers' defenceman won his 50th cap for Great Britain when they lined up against Poland in their third match of an absorbing World Championships in Budapest.

And the 29-year-old chose the best possible way to celebrate his significant achievement by scoring the game-winning goal for an eventual 5-3 win which has enhanced his country's chances of playing Division 1A hockey, at least, next year. Maybe, just maybe, even higher.

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Brendan Brooks dragged GB level with a wonderful solo effort in the 45th minute before O'Connor struck the go-ahead goal just under two minutes later. Captain Jonathan Phillips - O'Connor's Steelers' team-mate - then had a simple, empty-net tap-in with just 31 seconds remaining to secure a vital three points for GB.

What was already a special occasion for O'Connor, was made all the more sweeter, the Steelers' defenceman admitted afterwards.

"That was a special way to crown my 50th cap to get the game-winning goal and the man-of-the-match award," said O'Connor. "I am so proud to pull on the GB jersey and to do it with your best friends is very special indeed."

Earlier, Brett Perlini had put GB ahead, only for his effort to be cancelled out by Pawel Dronia's powerplay strike in the 13th minute. Colin Shields then restored his team's lead with a precision finish in-off the post at 18.37 before Poland owned the second session, drawing level for a second time through Damian Kapica at 23.31 and then getting their noses in front with Krzysztof Zapala's searing strike just before the halfway mark.

MILESTONE: Sheffield Steelers' Ben O'Connor marked his 50th cap in style. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Crucially, Rotherham-born netminder Ben Bowns then produced two big saves - the first from Krystian Dziubinski, the second from a Dronia penalty shot - to keep the deficit at one goal going into the final 20 minutes.

After a few home truths were spoken during the break, as revealed by O'Connor afterwards, it was a period which saw GB turn the game around to seal a deserved second victory of the week.

"We had to dig deep and find a way, so this was a gutsy performance," added O'Connor. "Words were said in the dressing room at the second interval as we know we weren't good enough. But we battled to the end and I think we deservedly came out on top."

JOB COMPLETE: Jonathan Phillips taps home GB's fifth goal in the last minute against Poland. Picture: Dean Woolley.
MILESTONE: Sheffield Steelers' Ben O'Connor marked his 50th cap in style. Picture: Dean Woolley.
JOB COMPLETE: Jonathan Phillips taps home GB's fifth goal in the last minute against Poland. Picture: Dean Woolley.