Swiss captain Raphael Diaz is already looking forward to the knock-out action on Thursday. "The team feels good," he said. "When you look back to the games we played, we lost two games against two really good team. Other than that, we worked hard and we deserved our wins. But now the group is over and the fun stuff starts."
For GB, despite another loss, there were more encouraging signs. Liam Kirk scored two more goals, moving to seven for the tournament and holding top spot in the goal-scoring race for this championship. It also ticked a satisfying box for the Brits as they registered a goal in each of their seven games here in Riga. In Slovakia in 2019, they were shut out three times and endured a run of 151:32 without a goal.
"We're disappointed with the result today, but we're definitely happy with the full tournament," Kirk said. "For other teams' coaches to say that [we're the hardest working team] just shows how much we care about playing, and playing the right way. We're not the most skilled team or the fastest team, but we have the most heart, the most desire and passion."
Hofmann struck first, collecting Enzo Corvi’s feed, getting the puck out of his skates and putting his wrister under Ben Bowns’ glove. But almost immediately Corvi’s error presented Kirk with the puck and he advanced to fire home from the left-hand dot, showing off the early release that has proved such a potent weapon in this tournament.
"I know [Kirk] scored many goals and is a good player, he has shown it today," said Hofmann. "I didn’t expect that we will battle for the scoring title but I’m focusing on our team and our skills. We’re a team that has played very well at this tournament and everybody has confidence and can score and we will see how far we can get."
The Swiss regained the lead late in the frame with a Romain Loeffel one-timer from blue line. It wasn’t the cleanest shot, but there was big traffic in front of Bowns and the fluttering puck evaded everyone to give Loeffel his third of the championship.
Back home in Switzerland, the media had billed this early start in Riga the ‘English breakfast’, and Kirk’s healthy appetite for goals saw Britain tie the game with a power-play marker early in the second. This was a poacher’s effort, rifling home rebound through a crowded crease after Mark Richardson’s shot was beaten away.
After that, though, the Swiss got cooking and the British defence found things too hot in the latter half of the middle frame. Two long shifts in the British zone resulted in a penalty on Ben Lake and the most prolific power play at this championship struck again when Santeri Alatalo saw his shot bounce into the net off a defenceman’s skate. Straight from the face-off, Switzerland regained possession and Tristan Scherwey surged down the left before delivering a saucer pass that dropped perfectly for Christoph Bertschy to deflect it past Bowns.
Bertschy added a fifth with a downward tip to redirect a Raphael Diaz shot before Nico Hischier notched the sixth on 37:45 to put the game beyond doubt.
Swiss head coach Fischer spoke before the game of the need for his team to approach its final group stage action in the right way. And he was content with the way his players responded throughout the opening round.
"We have worked hard from the first second," he said. "We are satisfied with the preliminary round. We easily won the games we were supposed to win."
Both teams changed their goalie for the third period. Jackson Whistle replaced Bowns, who faced 41 shots in two more busy periods for GB, while Melvin Nyffeler took over from Reto Berra to add to his earlier appearance replacing Leonardo Genoni during the 0-7 loss to Sweden.
Nyffeler allowed three goals in that 30-minute cameo and he was beaten again in this game as Brendan Connolly converted the rebound from another dangerous effort by Kirk. That assist took Kirk to 9 (7+2) points for the tournament and, in a single campaign, lifts him to seventh in Britain’s all-time World Championship scoring chart. Whistle, meanwhile, made 12 saves in the third period to keep the Swiss at bay.
Kirk, who played in Slovakia two years ago without scoring, now sees his name alongside the top scorers in this tournament - a big leap forward for the 21-year-old. "I'm sure I'll look at that once we're out of here, but for me the mindset was just to play the right way," he said. "Play hard, play fast. I've enjoyed the experience and that’s the main thing, you have to play for fun, that’s why we all play sports. I've got to give credit to my line mates, my team mates, they all battled hard and made unbelievable plays. I was just fortunate to be on the end of the puck at the right time and it kept going in."
Great Britain's top three players from the tournament were goaltender Bowns, leading scorer Kirk and defenceman Mark Richardson.