Great Britain relegated from the top level of ice hockey's World Championship

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Great Britain relegated from the top level of ice hockey’s World Championship after heart-breaking defeat by Austria

Great Britain’s three-year stay at the highest level of ice hockey’s World Championships came to a heart-breaking end on Monday night with a 5-3 defeat by Austria in what was effectively a relegation decider.

Britain looked like they would again upset the odds and remain among the best ice hockey nations in the world when they twice led by two goals against an Austrian team who had taken points off both the United States and Czech Republic in this year’s tournament.

But GB were made to pay for wasting four golden opportunities at 2-0 up when the greater experience of Austria told in the final period to end Pete Russell’s side’s fairy-tale run at the highest level.

When the dust settles GB will be proud of their efforts in Kosice in 2019, Riga last year and now in Tampere, Finland and with the progress they made before finally running out of steam with the winning post again in sight.

And GB, who were hit by injuries this year and were missing their best player throughout the tournament in Liam Kirk, unearthed a new star in 21-year-old Cade Neilson, who was their player of the match last night with a goal and two assists.

Britain looked like they would be celebrating again when Nottingham’s Matthew Myers put them ahead on the power play and then Sheffield’s Robert Dowd added a second early in the second period.

It was then that Myers, Scott Conway, Evan Mosey and Ben Lake all had gilt-edged chances to put the game out of Austria’s reach but they were all denied by the outstanding Austrian goalminder.

But, with Josh Batch serving GB’s first penalty of the match, Ali Wukovits gave Austria a lifeline when he found a way past Ben Bowns in the British goal.

Neilson, son of GB assistant coach Corey, again looked to have sparked a British party with a well-taken third and looks to have a big future in the game.

But Dominic Heinrich narrowed the deficit with a well-struck goal and then, agonisingly for GB, Austria equalised with a marker that deflected in off GB’s Josh Batch.

Britain had to win in regulation time to stay up and gambled on all-out attack leaving gaps at the back for Austria to exploit with a winner and then an empty net goal.

‘We’ve been on the other end of this and we know how it feels,’ said GB captain Jonathan Phillips, who was making a record-breaking 111th appearance for his country.

‘But to twice be two goals up and lose means we are pretty gutted right now. The experience we’ve gained is huge and this level is so hard to get into so this will sting all summer. I’m lost for words but we will fight hard to get back in.’

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