Great Britain ice hockey promoted to IIHF World Championships elite

Great Britain celebrate after securing the gold against Hungary (photo credit: Dean Woolley)
Great Britain celebrate after securing the gold against Hungary (photo credit: Dean Woolley)

Great Britain Ice Hockey secured an historic promotion to join up with World hockey's elite after a 2-2 regulation time result against Hungary.

They would go onto secure all points available after a victory on penalty shots, but the job was already done at the end of 60 minutes.

Pete Russell's side needed a single point to secure promotion to the top level for the first time since 1994, and looked set to miss out when they went 2-0 down in the third period.

However, Sheffield Steelers' Robert Dowd struck with 50:55 on the clock to half the deficit.

Then, with just 16 seconds remaining, Nottingham Panthers' Robert Farmer was in the right place to score as his shot found a gap and left the Hungarian crowd stunned.

A last-gasp chance for the hosts was denied by Cardiff Devils' netminder Ben Bowns, which sparked wild celebrations from the team in white and blue, despite overtime still to come.

Bowns would prove to be the hero in the shootout as he saved four of the five shots from the Hungarian side.

The result means that Great Britain could face the likes of USA, Canada and Sweden in the 2019 tournament held in Slovakia, who qualified as hosts.

Speaking to IHUK media, Head Coach Russell said: "We dared to dream and we did it. I just cannot believe it.

"This team is very special and what we have pulled off is absolutely unbelievable.

"We did not give up and showed true British spirit to pull that one out of the bag.

"I am so proud of every single one of them and we will now play the best teams in the world next year.

"Our team work rate was immense every single night and they dug need to provide GB with one of our greatest-ever moments.”

Analysis

Tom Carnduff discusses Great Britain's victory...

For Great Britain to be stepping into the László Papp Budapest Sports Arena in Budapest needing just a point to secure promotion would have been a dream seven days ago, let alone winning gold and promotion.

The achievement can be seen as nothing short of miraculous, given how this side were written off by many before the tournament had even started.

Yet, here they are, champions of Division 1A and heading to the World Championships next year, where they'll rub shoulders with the finest players and best teams on the international scene.

A hefty defeat to the fancied Kazakhstan side should have sent GB crashing back down to Earth following their opening day victory over Slovenia.

Instead, they would go onto win their remaining three games and come out of an incredibly open group with a gold medal.

This was a group with a Slovenia side who featured at the recent Winter Olympics, beating the United States, and a Kazakh side who possess KHL and other top league talent.

Considered a 'minority sport' in this country, the fact that they will now be testing themselves against the very best just highlights the underdog status of this team going into the tournament.

Hopefully it'll be a catalyst to help the sport develop further, creating a legacy that Britain can build upon for further appearances at this level.

Two silver medals in the lower division proved to be a huge learning curve for both the coaching staff and squad, and consecutive golds show the belief within the group, and the belief surrounding this group of players.

What will they achieve in Slovakia next year? Who knows - but they'll go with an even bigger underdog tag than the one they wear now.

In all honesty, they can go and enjoy it more than anything, and try to cause a few more upsets along the way.


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