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Great Britain Ice Hockey: Another Miracle On Ice

ESNY looks at a story that fails to show up on many fans’ radar, but for Great Britain Ice Hockey, this will rank up with one of the greatest upsets ever.

Everyone over the age of 40 that follows the game of hockey knows where they were on Feb. 22, 1980. That was the night that Mike Eruzione took that simple wrist shot that stunned the hockey world; the “Miracle On Ice.”

On this day, in the United Kingdom, the name Robert Farmer will be their version of Eruzione.

Farmer, a 26-year-old forward from Nottingham, playing for his hometown Nottingham Panthers in the British Elite Ice Hockey League. He scored with just 15.4 seconds remaining in regulation against the host club Hungary, getting the point they needed to give Great Britain the victory in the World Hockey Championships – Division 1 Group A.  The victory allowed Italy, as well as, themselves the opportunity to play in next years tournament against the best teams in the world.

For the team comprised of professionals from the 10 team Elite League, it will be the first time since 1994 when they did register a victory in that year’s tournament, getting outscored 44-7 in the process.

Great Britain was seeded sixth out of six prior to the tournament, as a result of moving up to Division 1, Group A after winning the 2017 Group B tournament as the hosts in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  Their five-game round-robin format started with a 3-1 victory over Slovenia.  Next came Kazakhstan, and the former Soviet Republic, a former member of the Top 16 teams in the world, spanked the Brits by a 6-1 margin.  A 5-3 victory over Poland, who finished last in this year’s tournament and will be relegated to Group B, moved Great Britain to a 2-1 record.  Two days later, a 4-3 triumph over Italy, provided the drama that ensued Saturday.

Hungary, the host nation, would make it to the big tournament next season if they pulled off the victory, and would move up with Kazakhstan.  A point by Great Britain would send themselves and Italy to next year’s dance.  After two periods of play, the hosts had a two-goal advantage.  When Robert Dowd, a forward who plays for the Sheffield Steelers, got the first goal of the game for Britain with under 10 minutes remaining in the contest, hope looked like a possibility for the visitors.  However, Janos Hori of Hungary was awarded a penalty shot three minutes later but, was stopped by British netminder Ben Bowns of the Cardiff Devils, the champions of the Elite League this season.

In the last minute of regulation, with Great Britain needing to get to extra time, in order to win the tournament, took Bowns off for an extra skater. After a timeout, Farmer got the puck past Hungarian goaltender Adam Vay, to give Great Britain the miraculous finish it needed to win the gold medal. But for good measure, the game went to a shootout where Farmer and Ben O’Connor tallied, and Bowns stood tall to give the visitors the victory.

Great Britain Head Coach Peter Russell, dared his players to dream, and to his delight, they did just that.

“I just cannot believe it”, said Russell to Sky Sports following the match.  “We did not give up and showed true British spirit to pull that one out of the bag.  Our team work-rate was immense every single night, and they dug deep to provide GB with one of our greatest-ever moments.

On a personal opinion, I have attended nearly 10 games in the UK over the past 15 years.  Not only are the fans loud and passionate, but they truly know and understand the game as good, if not better than fans in North America and the rest of Europe.  I will be interested to see how the British fans will be received in Slovakia next season. Will they show the same passions as the Russians, Swedes, Finns, Canadians, and Americans?  Only time will tell.

As for the final tournament of the IIHF World Championships, the scene turns to Copenhagen and Hering, Denmark, where 16 teams will take to the ice in two eight-team groups. The first night of the tournament will feature Team USA taking on Canada.  For fans of the New York Islanders, they will see six of their players in action, with Anders Lee, being the latest addition to the USA roster.

Next season, Great Britain and Italy will be joining the fray.  Who will not be there?

Check out the 2018 IIHF World Championship website to see the progress of the event.

Was an Islanders Blogger for many years. Started Eyes On Isles (can not accept responsibility for it now...), and started Isles Talk, before passing it on. For the last 5 years, I have been a host on Sports Talk 1240 on WGBB 1240 AM on Long Island. While my primary focus is of the NY Islanders, I love talking Hockey in general (including the Sheffield Steelers in England), as well as dabble in a little baseball (Mets and Long Island Ducks), and support the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, and Everton in the EPL.