Team GB 4 – 0 Japan
Team GB have taken the gold medal with a 4-0 win over previously undefeated Japan, securing promotion to Division 1A at the IIHF World Championships in Belfast.
The tournament was being hosted in Belfast for the first time and in the UK for the first time in 25 years, with three local Belfast Giants in Pete Russell’s side - Colin Shields, Stephen Murphy and Mark Garside - plus Jason 'Taff' Ellery in the backroom staff.
In a tight opening period, it took until just over two minutes before the first break for either team to manage a goal.
But it was GB that forged ahead, with Robert Dowd scoring what was the 100th goal of the tournament past Yutaka Fukufuji in Japan’s net.
Japan ended the period on the penalty kill with not one but two players in the box, but GB couldn’t find a way to capitalise and took their narrow one-goal lead into the second period.
Those middle periods have been somewhat shakier for the GB side and that was something they had been looking to address.
They certainly did that.
Holding Japan at bay, they fired in three goals without reply – the first coming from Brendan Brooks on the powerplay less than five minutes after the restart.
Japan did think they had clawed a goal back about four minutes later, but with GB’s net off its moorings, a referee’s review saw the claim waved off.
There was no doubting GB’s third goal, even if its scorer Matthew Myers didn’t immediately realise he had tipped in from assists by Colin Shields and Davy Phillips.
And he added a second from an Evan Mosey assist just about two minutes before the final break, pushing GB into the 4-0 lead.
Despite GB still pushing for more goals, and Japan fighting to get back in the game, the third period remained scoreless and GB held out for the shutout win.
The packed SSE Arena – including notable guests Rod Stewart and Rachel Hunter supporting son Liam Stewart – stood to cheer the host team throughout the final two minutes of play before erupting at the final buzzer.
The delighted GB team celebrated their gold medal win on the ice, with captain Jonathan Phillips leading his team in lifting the trophy and Ben Bowns named Man of the Match.
There was also another honour for Giants forward Colin Shields, after he broke the GB goal-scoring record in Friday’s game against the Netherlands, as he was named Forward of the Tournament.
GB have longed for promotion to the next division, coming tantalisingly close as silver medallists the last two times of asking.
After the game, Shields spoke of his pride in winning gold at home in Belfast in front of thousands of Giants and GB fans.
Coach Pete Russell added that his team had earned their success, having worked hard for it and capped off the tournament with a dominant performance.