A week which started with a 7-1 defeat to world No 2-ranked Russia in Riga, has been steadily transformed by a series of impressive displays against some of the world’s best players.
Their stature among the world’s elite was significantly enhanced on Wednesday night when they stunned Group A rivals Belarus with a 4-3 victory, coming on the back of one-goal defeats to Slovakia and Denmark, the latter earning a point when they lost out 3-2 in overtime.
It was the first regulation win for GB at this level since 1962 and, having enjoyed a rest day, they are back at it this afternoon against 11-time winners Sweden.
Ranked fourth in the world, Sweden always enter this event as one of the favourites but they face-off against GB knowing anything less than three points will see them eliminated, their quarter-final hopes taking a further knock last night as they suffered a third defeat in four games when losing 4-2 to the Czech Republic.
With four nations going through from each group to the quarter-final knockout stages, there is plenty at stake at the Olympic Sports Centre (face-off 2.15pm UK time) with GB keen to produce further surprises.
The group phase is scheduled to end on Tuesday but, given the tournament’s penchant for surprise results this year and GB’s seemingly endless capacity to shock, who is to say that the perennial underdogs won’t be lining up as a quarter-finalist.
To borrow the motto of GB’s promotion campaign in Budapest three years ago, ‘Dare to Dream.’
“We’ve come this far already and we’ve already racked up four points, so why not?” said Sheffield Steelers’ forward Dowd when asked whether GB could secure a top-four finish.
“If we keep playing the way we have been, keeping teams out the middle like we have been, defending like dogs like we have been, then we fancy our chances of being in with a shout in any game.
“We’ve beaten Belarus and taken Denmark to overtime and all of those teams that we’ve run close or beaten, have themselves beaten some of the best nations in the world over here.
“We’re a confident group and we believe we can make life very difficult for Sweden. They are one of the powerhouse nations, but they won’t be happy with how it has gone so far for them and they will be out to prove a point.”
Victory over Belarus was probably the best birthday present Dowd could have asked for as he turned 33 on Wednesday.
But, given the game’s late finish time, he had to settle for just the one celebratory drink when they got back to the team hotel around midnight for their post-match dinner.
“It was definitely a fun birthday,” added Dowd, who so far has three assists to his name. “Obviously it was nice to get that win under our belts because we felt we had been getting better and better with every game, so it was nice to be rewarded.
“Understandably, everyone was very happy and it was an ecstatic room afterwards, we were over the moon.
“But I don’t think we over-celebrated it because we felt it had been coming, we knew ourselves that we really deserved it.”
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