ICE HOCKEY: Great Britain skaters hit new heights in sport

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Japan 1

Great Britain 2

ON Remembrance Sunday, the Great Britain ice hockey team did its nation and its sport proud.

In a match of agonising tension in Japan, Tony Hand’s warriors held on to a 2-1 lead to go through to the final qualifying round for the 2014 Winter Olympics, along with the likes of Italy and Austria.

It is the best result is GB’s history since their famous Olympic Games gold medal in Germany, three years before World War Two.

It means GB will compete at an astonishingly and unforseen level, on February 7-9.

The aim is to qualify for The 2014 Winter Olympics, in Sochi, Russia, later that month.

GB scored two goals in 30 seconds to take a two-goal first-period lead.

Belfast Giants’ left wing Craig Peacock, 24, and 23-year-old Ben O’Connor, son of Steelers General Manager, who plays for Arlan Kokshetau in Kazakhstan did the damage.

It was O’Connor’s third goal of the tournament, coming at 10:29.

After a scoreless second period, Japan pulled a goal back through Shuhei Kuji (44:01) and at 59:00 Japan’s netminder was pulled but GB stayed resolute.

Head coach, Tony Hand, said: “This is a huge moment in the history of British ice hockey.

“I am so, so, proud of every one of these guys and so should everyone back home.

“We have proved we can compete at this level and now we want to prove we can compete at a higher level.

“Every single guy played their heart out and we did this with talent and determination.

“No-one should under-estimate how much this means to British ice hockey. It is massive.

“We are one step away from Sochi 2014 and now get to test ourselves against some of the world’s best hockey nations.”

Sheffield Steelers’ Canadian winger Tylor Michel tweeted a congratulatory message to team-mates Jason Hewitt, Mark Thomas and Ashley Tait, cheekily posting: “Well done boys! Pracky (practice) on tues! Enjoy your rest #12hrflight.”

Ex-Steeler Tom Squires added: “Well done to TeamGB fantastic result.”

Another ex-Sheffield player Marc Twait said it was a “Great achievement my Old Team Mates. Coaches & Staff U deserve all the accolades u get when back in Britain. The whole Hockey Family are Proud of Tony Hand & the Boys on there Stirling Effort in Japan”

Saturday morning had seen Britain inflict a 3-0 victory over Romania.

It was a milestone day for Sheffield captain Jonathan Phillips (50th cap) and former Steelers winger David Longstaff (100.)

Longstaff scored two assists. Their goals came from Leigh Jamieson, O’Connor and Rob Dowd.