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One year after being relegated due to using an ineligible player, Great Britain’s U20 national team won the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group A in the Estonian capital of Tallinn to get back to Division I.

The British did so by posting an undefeated record and getting tight wins in the key games against followers Lithuania and Korea.

Great Britain opened the event with a 4-2 victory against the Netherlands thanks to three third-period goals before facing second-seeded Lithuania. The Lithuanians started off well with a 2-0 first-period lead but the British fought back and outshot their opponents. A shorthanded goal while playing 3-on-5 in the second period was followed by four more goals in the last frame to edge the Lithuanians 5-4.

After a 5-2 victory over Romania the British faced Korea, which was seeded last but turned out to be a pleasant surprise at this tournament. The Koreans got the lead in the game twice but the British battled and reached a 4-4 tie after regulation time thanks to a Bobby Chamberlain hat trick before succeeding in the shootout with two markers from Jordan Cownie.

The shootout win against Korea already led to the tournament win for Great Britain, which also won the last game against host Estonia 3-1.

“It’s a great achievement, this is a good bunch of people and it was the people power that got us through. It was probably our worst performance of the week (against Korea) but we found a way to win,” Great Britain head coach Peter Russell said after the deciding victory against Korea.

“It may have been nerves, they knew what was up for grabs, but two people came through and made something happen for us in the shootout. (Goalkeeper) Adam Goss and Jordan Cownie are two of the oldest and our big game players and they came up big when it mattered. But it’s a team effort – everyone has played their part. The coaching, management and support staff have all played their part. We challenged the players to climb their Everest and they’ve done it. I couldn’t be any happier for them.”

Lithuania had to settle with silver like last year. They had a 3-1 record after the first four days and needed just one more point to earn a second-place finish, which they exactly got in an overtime loss to the Netherlands.

Recently-promoted Korea surprised with a bronze-medal finish. It was a good start in the national team program for the coaching duo of Jim Paek and Richard Park, the two Korean-born former NHL players who will also lead the men’s national team en route to the 2018 Olympics on home ice in PyeongChang. They may also have seen potential candidates for the future among the university and high-school players including Sangwon Kim and Seung Ho Lee, who notched five points apiece.

While the Koreans escaped from the battle against relegation early in the tournament, three teams were involved on the last day. The Netherlands managed to improve from sixth to fourth place thanks to their overtime win against Lithuania leaving Estonia and Romania behind with four points apiece. The Romanians, who lost the head-to-head game against host Estonia 4-2, will have to play one tier below in Division II Group B next year while Estonia, which averaged almost 1,000 fans at its games, will stay in the group.

GB U20 Team

 

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Growing up in Canada I was a huge hockey fan, but it wasn't until the 1972 summit series and the 1976 Canada Cup that I became a big fan of international hockey. The best players in world all playing on a sheet of ice. 
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