Great Britain 4 Romania 3 - Sheffield Steelers’ Brendan Connolly nets game-winner in Olympic qualifying opener

Brendan Connolly nets what turned out to be the game-winning goal against Romania in Nottingham. Picture: Dean Woolley.
Brendan Connolly nets what turned out to be the game-winning goal against Romania in Nottingham. Picture: Dean Woolley.
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GREAT BRITAIN got their Winter Olympic qualification bid underway in positive fashion, but were given an opening night scare by Romania.

Ranked as favourites going into the tournament, Pete Russell’s team were good value for their win but are likely to face even tougher tests after today’s rest day when they finish the Group J tournament with two games in as many days.

GB's players celebrate Matthew Myers' second-period strike. Picture: Dean Woolley.

GB's players celebrate Matthew Myers' second-period strike. Picture: Dean Woolley.

The hosts are next in action tomorrow night when they take on Estonia, who began their campaign with a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Hungary.

GB and Hungary then face-off in the final game of the competition on Sunday night, with many expecting that to be a winner-takes-all encounter to secure passage into the final round of qualification for Beijing 2022 in late August.

“I was pleased to win the first game against what a very good team,” said head coach Russell.

“They are one division below the top flight now and improving all the time. We played with pace and good tempo. We tried a few things that didn’t come off, but overall it was a good performance.”

They are one division below the top flight now and improving all the time. We played with pace and good tempo. We tried a few things that didn’t come off, but overall it was a good performance.

GB head coach, Pete Russell.

It was Romania who struck the first blow at the National Ice Centre last night, however, Vitali Kirichenko putting them in front at 14.21.

It was a lead that would last just 50 seconds, though, with GB defenceman Dallas Ehrhardt striking a swift reply when his effort went in off the post.

Ehrhardt was involved again just over two minutes later, part of a move that culminated in Robert Farmer firing past Patrik Polc at 17.16 when he was first to react to a rebound. But Romania refused to lie down and pulled themselves level just before the halfway mark through Daniel Tranca.

As was the case in the first period, however, the hosts were quick to hit back, going ahead for a second time on the night thanks to a Matthew Myers strike at 32.20.

Then it was the turn of Sheffield Steelers’ forward Brendan Connolly to show why he was handed a debut by head coach Russell, doubling the home team’s advantage just 30 seconds later off a feed from behind the net by Ben Lake.

That was how it remained into the final five minutes of the game, when the hosts were made to sweat for their regulation win after Alpar Sallo made it a one-goal game again at 56.41. But Russell’s players saw the game out.