Winning start for GB
by Andy Potts|29 APR 2023
Robert Dowd fires home Great Britain's second goal in its opening World Championship Division IA game against Korea in Nottingham.
photo: Karl Denham
Host nation Great Britain kicked off its Division IA promotion campaign with a comfortable victory over Korea. Liam Kirk, in his first competitive international since his goal haul at the 2021 World Championship in Riga, had a goal and an assist. Ben Lake, Robert Dowd and Cade Neilson were also on target in a 4-0 win.

In keeping with Saturday’s general theme, we saw an early goal. In the second minute of the game, Britain’s second line unlocked the Korean defence. Josh Waller’s backhand feed across the face of Matt Dalton’s net was weighted perfectly for Lake to convert.

"That was the ideal start for us," said Dowd. "Coming into a big tournament like this, with promotion at stake, it can be a bit nervy. To get an early goal settled everybody down."

However, that did not immediately translate into a commanding British performance. Korea had to kill a penalty shortly after falling behind, but subsequently came back to ask some questions of Ben Bowns. It’s no surprise to see a Korean team skate well and move the puck fast, but expecting a challenge isn’t the same as dealing with it. Britain was left flat-footed at times, and there were dangerous raids by Jin Hui Ahn, Sanghoon Shin and Jungwoo Jeon as the Koreans threatened to generate some momentum.

Some in the lively home crowd may have started to worry a little, especially after seeing how Poland and Italy quickly put their games beyond the opposition. But with 15 minutes gone, an electric counterattack from GB beat the Koreans at their own game. Evan Mosey sent Waller charging into the O-zone, where he peeled right and dropped the puck for Dowd to drive into the centre and surprise Dalton with an early shot for 2-0.

Dowd is one of the British players to feature in all three top division campaigns. "This was a bit slower tonight, compared with the top division," he said. "It's great having that bit of experience from the top group, playing at that speed. It helps us to really take it to these teams."

Dalton, who was on the receiving end of much of this in the Korean net, agreed. "They're a good team," he said. "They had a lot of experience in the top division in the last few years and you can see that." 

It took all of 13 seconds for Britain to extend its lead in the second period. Kirk, expected by many to be the driving force for the British offence here, made his first big contribution of the game to slice through the Korean defence before setting up Neilson on the slot.

Neilson was more interested in the team performance, though. "We had one thing in mind, we came out with exactly that and I felt like we dominated tonight," he said.

"The biggest thing in a tournament like this is starting strong, and we did that. We had a great game today and we're pretty confident in our ability."

Suddenly Kirk was everywhere: a surge down the right and a neat turn produced a cross-ice feed, but his colleagues were not on the same wavelength; later in the same shift Dalton had to move smartly to shut the door on a wraparound attempt. Britain was buzzing, and Korea’s counterpunches lost a little of their menace.

Early in the third Kirk scored Britain’s fourth goal. The Coyotes prospect paid no attention to Ingyo Oh’s efforts to jump out of the box and catch him, calmly striding in off the boards to laser a wrist shot down a narrow lane between the covering defender and the far post.

That concluded the scoring, with Bowns stopping 17 shots at the other end to record a shut-out as GB made a solid start to its home tournament. While the Brits are looking for promotion, an inexperienced Korean roster has more modest ambitions in Nottingham.

"We'll do the best we can," Dalton said. "It would be nice to stay up here, but we know we've got our hands full. We've got a lot of transition on this roster after the last couple of years, so that's a challenge. But we've got to do our best."

Before Saturday's game, both teams paid tribute to Minho Cho. The centre, who represented his country in 11 World Championships, as well as the PyeongChang Olympics, died of lung cancer in June 2022. He was just 35 years old.
Korea vs Great Britain - 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A