Team Great Britain last week headed out to Tomakomai, Japan for the 2016 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey Championships – Pool B, and was up against in their group the Czech Republic, hosts Japan and Slovakia. Prior to the championships taking place Great Britain were all confident of bringing back hopefully a medal of whatever colour. They also went into the tournament with a brand new head coach in the form of Peterborough Phantoms man Ian Offers, as he undertook the new role.
Tuesday 29th of November saw Team GB opening the tournament up against the Czech Republic and had a nightmare start against the Czechs going down hard 12-0 on Matchday 1. As a whole it was far from a lack of effort by the GB side, but the quickness and beautiful passing that their opponents showed it made it extremely different to stop and break down. A brace of goals by Zdenek Krupicka and Michal Geier in the first period put the Czechs in a commanding position and pretty much took the game away from the Brits after one period.
In the second period it saw the Czechs moving further in front, when a quick release by Geier saw him completing his hat-trick for 5-0 and in truth was an impressive team display by their opposition. The quickness of the Czech side had GB in all-sorts of trouble throughout, and a pass out from the side of the net by Zdenek Safranek allowed Pavel Dolezal to sweep home past the helpless Rob Gaze for a sixth.
Two quick goals by Safranek and then by Zdenek Krupicka saw the latter firing in his hat trick goal for an 8-0 game before Michal Grier then cut through the British defence towards the end of the period to score the Czech’s 9th goal. Despite being out shot 33-4 in the game, it didn’t see Team GB heads dropping and in the final period when a rampant Czech Republic side scored three goals.
Strikes by Grier again for his fifth of the game were soon followed by Krupicka who scored his fourth goal and then David Palat rounded off the big win near the end with the twelve. It was a disappointing result for Ian Offer’s side, but they hoped to improve against Japan the next day so there was no time to mull over it.
The game with hosts Japan was played in the evening and gave Team GB some extra time to prepare for their next opponents. That said things didn’t go to plan in the opening six minutes of the game, after they found themselves 3-0 down after Japanese Captain Satoru Sudo put the home side ahead with just under three minutes of play gone two strikes by forward Masaharu Kumagai gave the home side the advantage.
A better period saw Japan restricted to just one goal in the second period, with that man again Kumagai scoring his hat trick goal to make it a 4-0 after 30 minutes of play. In the third it saw GB unable to keep the Japanese down for much longer and saw two more goals hitting the GB net with Kumagai scoring his fifth of the game and was almost like a one-man scoring machine.
Great Britain went into their last group game against Slovakia knowing that they could land an early blow ahead of their Bronze medal game against the same opposition a couple days later. Ian Warner had a half chance for GB, after some neat build up saw the British forward coming down the left side and managed get a shot off on Miroslav Pastucha but the goalie made the save. Gary Farmer then broke free of the defence minutes later, only to be denied by the goalie again.
Slovakia then scored in the final minute of the opening period through Milos Vecerek, after Slovakian Captain Peter Stit played a little pass back behind the nets for Vecerek, who was given the easy task of putting the puck into the unguarded net after he caught the defence and goalie out by some quick thinking.
Rob Gaze made some good stops to keep the game at 1-0 and needed the help of his forwards to help prevent him from having to make these important saves. The game from then on was pretty even and saw at the start of the second Bryan Hackworth being introduced to the game with the Sheffield Steelkings goalie replacing Rob Gaze for the rest of the game.
Great Britain found themselves unable to find an equaliser and saw them scoreless in their group game, but they would have a chance for revenge against the Slovakian’s in the Bronze Medal game.
Two days after the sides met in their tight group game, this around around it saw Slovakia being much more stronger than the previous game encounter. The Slovaks got a lucky bounce their way for the opening goal when a pass by Slavomir Ferencik towards the front of net was put on target by Ales Raus, with Rob Gaze making the save and having the rebound tapped home by Miroslav Stasak for the lead.
Erik Fojtik then doubled the Slovakian’s lead on the powerplay in last minute of play in the first, when a lovely weighted pass by Marian Ligda saw him playing far side for the incoming Fojtik to stick handle into position and put it over the already committed keeper for 2-0.
British player Jon LeGalloudec then suffered an bad injury, when he lost his edge on his sledge and crashed hard into the boards and was forced to see the referee stop the game and leave the game as a process. Marian Ligda then made it three on a delayed penalty call against Darren Brown and that saw a fourth being added by Martin Joppa.
In the final period it Britain’s medal chances all but gone now as Martin Joppa scored his second goal of the game to make it 5-0 for Slovakia. One thing that you saw in every game in the tournament and was evident, was that the GB players gave everything they could to win in every game having been shutout in all their games to date saw them finally rewarded with a goal.
It came from a clearance in the Slovakian zone that saw Matt Clarkson gaining control of the puck and then having the Kingston Kestrels man released a ripper of a shot that beat Eduard Lepacek for a 5-1 game. With the last few seconds of the contest ticking down, it brought the curtain down not just on the tournament but also for GB forward Gary Farmer, who retired from International Sledge Hockey after 15 years in the sport and will be a huge miss for the British line-up.