Every year at the World Championship, the British fans choose one of their games to be “fancy dress day” and show up in costumes. This year, that game was today against the USA, giving hockey fans around the world a chance to see it for the first time in the top division. The British fans were more than pleased with the effort they saw from their team today, falling by a very respectable 6-3 score.
“We had a good mindset today and we managed to play some good hockey and score some goals,” said British forward Robert Farmer. “We have a lot of character. We knew we had a bad day yesterday but we showed good spirit today. It took a lot of hard work to get here, and we're excited.”
It was business as usual for British netminder Ben Bowns, who stopped 59 of 65 shots, increasing his tournament-leading saves count to 144. By the end of the game, the fans were chanting his name and the American players were tapping their sticks on the ice. At the other end of the rink, Thatcher Demko stopped 23 of 26 British shots and was also credited with an assist.
Patrick Kane led the American offence with a goal and two assists, but he was also the last American player to touch the puck on the first two British goals.
“We made a couple of mistakes, a couple of turnovers on my part that ended up in the back of our net, so I have to be better in that regard,” said Kane. “They had a better first period than we did but we had good pushback in the last two periods.”
After yesterday’s disaster against Denmark, the British team played a much better game at both ends of the rink against the Americans. They were more disciplined in their own zone, boxing out the dangerous American forwards and limiting their chances on rebounds, and were better on offence, testing Demko with some good shots and tenaciously fighting for rebounds.
It was the Americans, though, that opened the scoring. With Mike Hammond in the penalty box for holding, Kane sent a hot shot to the net that Bowns got a glove on, but the rebound came to James van Riemsdyk in front, who put it in at 12:17.
Hammond would make amends for his sin, though. Three minutes later, Dave Phillips caused a turnover along the boards and sent a long shot towards the net. Hammond deflected the shot on Demko, then got his own rebound and buried it.
Despite 18 shots on goal, the Americans were unable to regain the lead before the end of the first period. With 5:23 to go, Bowns robbed Alex Debrincat on a breakaway after a turnover at the blueline. Then with less than two minutes remaining, Jack Hughes nearly scored his first of the tournament, but his backhander went off the post and was covered.
“It's important to play games like these where you have to prepare and know you have to compete,” said U.S. defenceman Noah Hanifin, who had two assists in the game. “Our compete level wasn't very high in the first and they came out hard. They worked hard, and it showed. It was a tied game after the first period. We can't take it easy.”
The Brits came out hard again to start the second period, but gradually the Americans started taking over and they would outshoot GB a whopping 26-9 in the middle frame.
They thought they’d taken the lead in the 27th minute on a long, high shot by Kane, but after a challenge, replays showed the puck had been directed into the net by a high stick. But just over two minutes later, with Hammond again in the penalty box, Clayton Keller scored on a breakaway to make it 2-1 USA.
Goals by Chris Kreider and Debrincat widened the lead to 4-1 before Britain got one back in the dying seconds of the second period when Brett Perlini hopped on a loose puck in the slot and fired it home.
In the third period, goals by Kane and Derek Ryan made it 6-2 before Ben Davies rounded out the scoring with Britain’s third goal of the game, ripping a shot under the crossbar with 3:32 remaining.
For good measure, Bowns put one more stamp on the game against the snake-bitten Hughes with 1:09 to play, absolutely robbing the 18-year-and-one-day-old with the glove. That earned the British goalie two more standing ovations – one immediately after the save and one when he was announced the team's player of the game.
“Their goalie played really well. Sometimes you learn from these games,” said Kane, who was there to shake Bowns' hand after being named the U.S. team's best player. “We'll take the win and be happy with it and try to get better moving forward.”
Both teams are off tomorrow. The British return to action on Friday against Finland still in search of their first points, while the Americans play next in the early game on Saturday against Denmark having won three in a row.