An overtime winner from Ben Davies sealed a remarkable comeback for Russell’s team, overturning a 3-0 deficit to send opponents France back to the second tier for the first time since 2007.
Davies’s skilful, back-handed goal, timed at 62.03, marked another landmark moment for Russell’s team, eclipsing last year’s achievement in Hungary when they won gold to become the first British line-up to be promoted to the top tier since 1994.
“This is a massive moment for the team and a massive moment in British ice hockey,” said head coach Russell. “At 3-0 we did not panic. I looked at the guys in the timeout and I knew which team was winning this game. They knew they could still do it.
“What they have just achieved is the biggest thing in their career. They drew strength from what they did in Hungary a year ago.
“They had the belief that they could win this game and I am so proud of every single one of them.”
After a goalless first period GB’s hopes of remaining in the top tier for a second successive year looked slim when they found themselves 3-0 down after France plundered three goals inside four minutes.
But they got themselves a lifeline when a smart pass from defenceman Ben O’Connor found Sheffield Steelers’ team-mate Robert Dowd free in front of net, from where he showed neat skill to backhand the puck into the net at 34.59.
Just over three minutes later Mike Hammond grabbed his fourth goal of the tournament when he was first to react and pounce on a rebound.
GB levelled through Robert Farmer, but the truly magical moment arrived in 3-on-3 overtime courtesy of captain Jonathan Phillips who, after winning a foot race and then outmuscling France’s Florian Chakiachvili, laid on a perfect pass for Davies to fire home his historic game-winning goal.