RIGA – France’s power play took advantage of early British miscues, scoring three goals on the man advantage to defeat Great Britain and keep its Olympic hopes alive with a 4-2 victory. Despite a late rally, Great Britain was unable to get a win in its second straight game and will not qualify for Sochi.
"I thought the guys played well tonight, we shored up some of the defensive mistakes that were made in the first game yesterday," said Team France head coach Dave Henderson.
Down 3-0 and having been outshot 20-8 in the opening two periods, Great Britain finally lit the lamp in the third with a power-play goal from Craig Peacock, who picked up a loose puck beside the net and jammed it in to cut France’s lead to two. Then with eight minutes left Matthew Myers took the puck behind the net and made a centering pass to Robert Lachowicz, cutting France’s lead to 3-2.
But a mistake by British goaltender Stevie Lyle at 6:14 gave back the two-goal lead to France. Attempting to play the puck behind his net, Lyle wasn’t able to get it away in time and gave it up to Brian Henderson, who found Charles Bertrand with a pass in front. Bertrand scored on the open net and his team went up 4-2.
"We had a very good second period but took things a little too easy in the third, and we got what we wanted for the win so now we just have to wait and see what happens in the next game," said French captain Laurent Meunier.
The game turned in France’s favour in the second period, as the French forwards dominated possession and kept the British hemmed in inside their own zone. With an extra attacker on the ice thanks to an imminent Great Britain penalty call, Sacha Treille dished the puck off to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare for the one time score to put France up 2-0.
Frustrations boiled over for the Brits following the goal, as Colin Shields was called for a slash that was committed well behind the play. On the power play Damien Fleury scored his team’s third goal with a slap shot near the top of the circle that sailed beyond Lyle’s glove and into the net.
Both teams got off to an undisciplined start to the game, but it was Great Britain that fell into a 1-0 hole when Rodney Sarich was whistled for hooking. On the ensuing power play France’s Yorick Treille got the puck into the British zone and passed it out to captain Laurent Meunier coming down the ice. Meunier fired a slap shot from the right circle that blew past Lyle for the 1-0 lead.
At the other end of the ice French goaltender Fabrice Lhenry made a great play late in the period, denying forward Mark Gardside’s one timer chance in front of the net to preserve the French lead.
"We battled hard, but took some soft penalties early on which set us back against a team with France's skill and power," said British head coach Tony Hand. "But from what I've seen in the last two games has been very encouraging and I hope we can carry it over and improve ahead of the World Championship (Division I Group A) in April."
France will now await the result of tonight’s matchup between Group E leaders Latvia and Kazakhstan, and will play against the Latvians on Sunday with a possible Olympic berth on the line. Great Britain will close out its tournament with a final game against the Kazakhs.
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