Sheffield Steelers birthday boy Alex Graham on target but GB Under-20s suffer against Japan

SHEFFIELD STEELERS’ forward Alex Graham scored on his 17th birthday but it couldn’t prevent an opening day defeat for Great Britain Under-20s at the World Championships in Lithuania.

ON TARGET: Sheffield Steelers' teenage forward Alex Graham scored a late consolation goal for GB Under-20s against Japan. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Martin Grubb’s team went down 6-3 to Japan at the Division 2A tournament in Vilnius, in a game which saw Graham’s Steelers’ team-mates – defenceman Jordan Griffin and goaltender Will Kerlin – also take part.

Leeds Chiefs’ forward Ethan Hehir and Sheffield Steeldogs’ defenceman Reece Cohrane were also in the starting line-up.

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Graham struck his memorable goal with just over a minute remaining, by which time the damage had been done with head coach left to rue a rush of penalties that gave Japan a significant advantage.

“It is a big disappointment to lose, especially as we were punished for our own mistakes by a very good Japan team,” said Grubb, whose team continue their campaign today against hosts Lithuania (5pm UK time).

“You cannot win a game when you give up so many soft goals.

“We need to learn and learn fast to give ourselves the best chance of bouncing back tomorrow. We have the ability to do so.”

Japan got themselves 2-0 ahead by the halfway point before GB replied through Austin Mitchell-King at 30.16, although the two-goal cushion was soon restored when Hanzawa struck on the power play at 35.37.

Jordan Buesa netted at 46.53, but Japan stretched their lead with further power play goals from Teruto Nakajima and Teppei Ueno, as well as an even strength from Riku Ishida.

Graham’s top-corner finish came at 58.46 – adding to his assist on Buesa’s goal – but it was no more than a consolation.