Mark Garside scores GBs first goal. Picture: Dean Woolley
GB grabs win with quick-fire salvo
A three-goal blitz at the start of the third period lifted Great Britain to a convincing 5-1 victory over Estonia. The host moves to two wins from two games.
Liam Stewart grabbed his first ever senior World Championship goal to lift Great Britain from a sticky situation against a plucky Estonian team in Belfast. The 22-year-old struck in the 42nd minute to reinstate his country’s two-goal advantage and settle home nerves after a sluggish display in the second period allowed Estonia to get back into the game.
The significance of Stewart’s marker could be measured by the volume of the ovation it provoked from a crowd that was increasingly frustrated with its team’s inability to break down a dogged opponent. As he potted the rebound from a Stephen Lee effort, a great roar went up and a sense of relief flooded through much of the arena.
"Of course it felt good to get my first goal, but it felt better to get another win," Stewart said after the game. "We didn't come out too hot in that second period but in the third we just tried to forget about it and move on."
Moments later it was game over: Dave Clarke added a fourth, lifting another Lee shot over the goalie to claim his second of the tournament. Then, just 26 seconds later, Evan Mosey added a fifth through the five-hole to make it 5-1.
"We had a quiet chat after the second period," admitted GB's head coach Pete Russell. "We are all about hard work and being direct and we didn't do that. That's two nights in a row it's happened and hopefully that's the last time now."
Estonia, although defeated, still had good cause to lament the way it was caught cold at the start of the third period when the outcome was far from certain. But Riho Embrich was more interested in looking to the next series of games than reflecting on two losses in the opening match-ups.
"We will keep battling until the end in this group," he said. "There are still a lot of games to come and we know we can get better."
The host nation got off to a good start with a fifth-minute goal from Mark Garside. A wayward clearance from behind the Estonian net went straight to Clarke, and he was quick to fire the puck at the net where Garside, a Belfast Giants favourite, was waiting to beat Villem-Henrik Koitmaa.
Britain continued to control the game, racking up a 22-4 lead on the shot count as Estonia struggled to make an impact. But dominance did not deliver goals; Mark Richardson came close, only for his shot to be pushed onto the post by Koitmaa, but it wasn’t until the last minute of play in the opening stanza that Dave Phillips doubled the home lead. The D-man took up a central position on the blue line and flipped a wrister into the net while Colin Shields screened Estonia’s goalie.
That seemed to set the stage for a comfortable win, especially with no sign of the penalty trouble that sometimes hobbled GB’s opening-day performance. But speaking before the game, head coach Russell warned that Estonia had given his team trouble in recent years, most notably taking last season’s meeting in Zagreb to overtime.
Here, the middle stanza saw three power play chances help Estonia to gain some traction on offence for the first time in the tournament. Midway through the game, the Baltic team converted one of those opportunities when captain Lauri Lahesalu shot into a crowded slot and Roman Andrejev got the touch that beat Stephen Murphy in the British net. Suddenly, the game was live but during the second intermission Russell found the way to reawaken his team and join Japan and Lithuania on six points from two games while leaving Estonia still awaiting its first taste of victory.