Great Britain U18s opened their IIHF Division 2A tournament with a 5-2 defeat by top seeds Lithuania today.
GB got off to the worst possible start as they went behind after just 16 seconds – Lithuania won the opening faceoff and got the puck deep into the British zone. A pass out in front found Dominik Bogdziul to force the puck in from close range.
Britain actually doubled the Lithuania shot total in the first period but found themselves 2-0 down as Mark Kaleinikovas took advantage of a turnover in the GB zone to pot the rebound after Ethan James had saved the initial shot.
The second period began brightly for GB and they had the puck in the net in the 26th minute. After a scramble in front of the Lithuania goal, the puck was forced over the line, but the referee waved it off for players in the crease.
Less than a minute later, a similar situation in front of Ethan James’ net with players from both sides right in the blue paint, saw the puck come loose in the slot and fired into the net by Paulius Macijauskas – that goal was awarded despite the GB players’ and coaches protest.
More controversy moments later, Cole Shudra was through on a breakaway and deked the goalie and slid the puck past him. However neither the goal judge or referee were able to say it had crossed the line, and GB still trailled 0-3.
Five minutes from the end of the period Britain had an extended powerplay after two Lithuania penalties in quick succession. Working the puck around, defenceman Edward Knaggs let fly from the right face off circle past Elvinas Karla in the Lithuania net and GB on the board. Sam Duggan and Kyle Smith picked up the assists.
British joy was shortlived though as Lithuania came straight back within a minute and restored their three goal lead – Kudrevicius with a tap in from close range. GB were behind 4-1 at the second break.
Sam Duggan pinged the crossbar in the opening moments of period three as GB looked to force their way back into the game. The piled on 15 shots on the final frame but couldn’t make their chances count until the closing stages when coach Martin Grubb pulled Ethan James with just over four minutes remaining.
The GB pressure forced Lithuania into conceding a penalty so 6-on-5 became a 6-on-4 and with the numerical advantage Cole Shudra scored after a scramble in front of net timed at 57.21. The goal was officially awarded to Bradley Betteridge.
Into the final two minutes, James was again pulled, and once again GB pressed the Lithuanians until the puck broke loose and Zukauskas scored on the empty net.
Matthew Headlead was named GB player of the game.
The second game of the tournament is on Tuesday against Croatia, face off 1.30pm local time (11.30am UK time).
Supporters in the UK can watch the game live on the IIHF website for free – http://www.iihf.com/competition/549/live-stream/
Pictures by Benedikt Kubatzki