AFTER the dismay of their poor performance against Denmark the previous day, Great Britain restored some much-needed pride in the World Championships against the USA.
The 9-0 loss to the 12th seeds on Tuesday clearly stunned a GB side who had earmarked that encounter as one of their seven games in which they stood a chance of taking at least a point from on their return to the top tier of the world game for the first time in 25 years.
But, despite suffering a fourth straight loss in Slovakia 24 hours later, Pete Russell’s team came off the ice on Wednesday afternoon to a standing ovation having given the star-studded USA team something of a minor scare in a 6-3 defeat.
Tied 1-1 at the end of the first there will have been plenty of GB fans among the 500-plus gathered in Kosice’s Steel Arena briefly daring to dream of an almighty upset.
And still, after 40 minutes, the tournament underdogs remained in the game at just 4-2 down, their hopes eventually being shattered after the Americans extended their lead to four with just over 10 minutes remaining.
“That performance was what we’re all about, we were fantastic,” said head coach Russell. “We gave one of the best teams in the world a great game and it was a performance we should be very proud of.
“Some people wrote us off after the Denmark but we showed what we can do tonight.”
Goaltender Ben Bowns - pulled midway through the defeat to Denmark - was called upon early to make a save from Dylan Larkin but as the period developed, GB gave as good as they got, only being outshot 19-13 and, crucially, level at the break after Mike Hammond struck at 15.08 to cancel out James van Riemsdyk’s 13th-minute opener.
The USA proved much more dominant in the second period but had to wait until just before the halfway point before regaining the lead through Clayton Keller.
New York Rangers’ winger Chris Kreider made it 3-1 just over two minutes later at 31.20 and, when Alex Debrincat made it 4-1 at 37.54 GB must have feared the worst.
But, unlike the previous day when they contributed heavily to their own downfall, GB hit back to halve the deficit when Brett Perlini fired low past Thatcher Demko with just six seconds of the period remaining.
An early third-period strike put paid to any hopes of a GB comeback, with Chicago Blackhawks’ star Patrick Kane’s close-range effort at 41.00 then being added to by Derek Ryan’s backhand shot at 49.10.
The USA dominated the third overall, putting in 21 shots on Bowns’s goal, but GB were to deservedly get on the board once more when Guildford Flames’ Ben Davies broke away and found space to score with a brilliant top-shelf finish at 56.28.
There was still time for Bowns to pull off a world-class save to deny Jack Hughes, the 18-year-old tipped by many to be the first overall pick in this year’s NHL draft.