IIHF World Championships: GB beat Poland in overtime
The hosts had let a two-goal lead slip in the final period, then seen Poland force the sudden-death period after levelling with only 48 seconds left.
But they dug deep and, given a powerplay chance, made it count as Lake converted a pass from Nathanael Halbert to keep the bid to regain their place among ice hockey’s global elite on track.
Both sides had started their campaigns with clean sheets, as the Poles blanked Lithuania 7-0 in the opening game of the weekend, before the hosts held Korea (4-0) off the scoreboard.
And GB held a notable edge in the head-to-head since returning from the international wilderness in 1989, winning 10 of 13 previous meetings by an aggregate of 44-34.
But there was usually only one-goal between the sides (eight times), with the other five meetings producing two-goal margins, and this latest encounter began to a backdrop of noisy chanting from both sets of fans.
Less than two minutes were on the clock when the hosts opened the scoring as Rob Lachowicz pounced on a loose puck in mid ice and gained the zone on the right, before sliding a backhand pass inside for 40-year-old Jonathan Phillips to deflect into the roof of John Murray’s net on his backhand.
And Josh Waller was denied by American-born Murray from Lake’s pass, before being called for a high-sticking minor behind the net.
Poland’s powerplay unit moved the puck smoothly, but GB protected goalie Ben Bowns well as the penalty was successfully killed off and Liam Kirk then got a look at the other end, only for Murray to block him at close range.
But the Poles got back on terms just past the midway mark of the first period as Dominik Pas was picked out between the hashmarks and lifted the puck over the glove hand of Bowns into the top corner.
It was already clear that GB were in a much tougher battle than had been the case against Korea, with Bowns denying Pas a second when he found more space, before Pawel Dronia was called for tripping to hand the hosts their first man advantage of the night.
Brett Perlini was foiled in close by Murray as GB camped in the offensive zone for a large chunk of the two minutes, with Kirk seeing a wristshot held as the penalty expired.
Kamil Gorny’s blast from the left circle was deflected away by Bowns, as GB were almost caught out on a line change, but Mike Hammond then forced Murray to hold onto his effort in the final minute as the hosts dominated the shot count 18-6.
Ollie Betteridge had the first on-target attempt in the middle session, with Murray kicking his wristshot into the corner, while Sam Ruopp’s blast from the blue line, from Waller’s pass, was also turned aside.
But GB regained the lead in the 24th minute when Robert Dowd centred from the left for Cade Neilson to whip a lovely first-time shot into the top corner from between the hashmarks.
Bowns denied Dronia a quick reply with a glove save, before GB were back buzzing around Murray’s cage, with Davey Phillips and Waller going close on the same shift.
Josh Tetlow got back well to thwart Bartosz Fraszko – who was also denied by Bowns – after a misplaced pass for Sam Jones on the blue line, as chants of ‘GB’ and ‘Polska’ continued to ring around the rink.
But play was then held up after a nasty hit on Ben O’Connor, right in front of the GB bench, by Pas, with the officials reviewing the incident on video before deciding to issue a 5+game penalty for boarding.
Dowd had a shot kicked out early in the powerplay and Kirk saw another deflected just over as GB set themselves up in the offensive zone, with the impressive Halbert doing well to keep the puck in at the blue line to build more pressure.
Kirk then fired between the skates of Murray to make it 3-1, but the Polish goalie kept out Johnny Curran’s one-time as GB pushed for more with the extra man.
Having held out without further damage, Poland then went on the powerplay themselves when Neilson was called for interference having knocked a rival player’s stick out of his hands.
Bowns held firm during an almighty scramble in his crease, after Kamil Walega had hit the crossbar, which the officials confirmed after another video review.
And dogged defensive work by Phillips, Matt Myers, Tetlow and Mark Richardson kept Poland at bay to ensure the hosts would take their two-goal cushion into the break.
GB were back on the penalty kill early in the third period after David Phillips was called for delay of game, having sent the puck over the plexi in his won defensive zone when making a clearance.
Bowns flashed his glove hand to hold onto Fraszko’s one-time from Wronka’s behind-the-net feed, but having just returned to full strength, GB lost O’Connor on a hooking call.
Marcin Kolusz saw a full-blooded drive blocked by the chest of Bowns, who lost his helmet in the aftermath and made sure to take his time to get his breath back, with Richardson sending a couple of hard clears around the glass to buy more time for the hosts.
But after Bowns had kicked out a shot from Alan Lyszczarczyk, Poland cut the gap to one when Zygmunt got two bites of the cherry in close and backhanded the puck into the net by the post.
Pete Russell shuffled his line combinations as GB sought to protect their lead, with Kirk denied by Murray after being found by David Phillips and then going close again following a maintenance break.
But Bowns had to glove a sharp-angled effort from Zygmunt over the glass with just over six minutes to play, before also holding firm at his right post to block Lyszczarczyk, only for Walega to tie things up with a close-range finish after Bartosz Ciura had thrown the puck hopefully on net from the left wing.
GB were wobbling as Poland sensed their chance, but a high-sticking call against Grzegorz Pasiut, who caught Richardson behind Bowns net, gifted the hosts a late powerplay chance.
And it looked like they had won it with 90 seconds left when Hammond’s first-time shot from the left hit the far post and Perlini forced the puck home.
But the Poles refused to accept defeat and after withdrawing Murray for an extra skater saw a shot from the point by Fraszko hit the glove hand of Bowns and loop into the net, with the goal awarded after a video review.
That meant five minutes of 3-on-3 overtime, with Zygmunt forcing Bowns into a pad save in the opening seconds, before Kirk almost went alone through the heart of the Polish trio, but was thwarted at the last.
Bowns then kicked out a Walega wristshot, before Halbert forced Murray into action and was tripped by the goalie, handing GB a powerplay chance.
And they made it count as Kirk found Halbert in an advanced position and he dropped the puck back for Lake to find the net.
After a rest day, GB return on Tuesday evening to face Lithuania, who lost their second match 3-2 to Romania in Sunday’s early game.
GB 5 POLAND 4 (OT)
1-0 J Phillips (Lachowicz) 1.57
1-1 Pas (Walega, Zygmunt) 10.06
Penalties: Waller (GB) hi-st 3.30; Dronia (P) trip 13.07.
2-1 Neilson (Dowd) 23.36
3-1 Kirk (Neilson) PP 33.07
Penalties: Pas (P) boarding (5+game) 31.54; Neilson (GB) intrf 36.46.
3-2 Zygmunt (Walega, Jeziorski) PP 45.25
3-3 Walega (Ciura) 54.23
4-3 Perlini (Hammond, Mosey) PP 58.30
4-4 Fraszko 59.12
Penalties: D Phillips (GB) delay 41.31; O’Connor (GB) hook 43.42; Pasiut (P) hi-st 57.20.
5-4 Lake (Halbert, Kirk) PP 62.35
Penalties: Murray (P) trip 62.14.
Shots on goal: Ben Bowns (GB, 62.35) 6-5-14-2=27-4; John Murray (P, 62.35) 18-14-6-2=42-4.