Great Britain beat Italy 5-3 at the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham to win promotion to the 2024 World Championship in Czechia.
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In a pulsating game, GB took the lead four times as Brett Perlini and Cade Neilson scored twice, while Mike Hammond was also on target as Pete Russell’s side made an immediate return to the top flight.
It was an extra special night for Jonathan Phillips won his 116th cap on his final appearance for Great Britain to bring down the curtain on an outstanding 21-year career for the national side.
GB and Italy level after first period
Britain lost Matthew Myers to injury in the opening stages, but the forward returned to the ice before the end of the period.
Bowns made a good save down low to stop Ivan Deluca’s effort before Hammond threaded a pass to the backdoor for Perlini to give GB the lead on the powerplay (5:40).
Italy drew level – also with a man advantage – when Thomas Larkin’s shot deflected past Bowns (11:21).
Neilson, Hammond and Perlini keep GB in-front
Robert Dowd won the puck on the boards and fed Neilson who shaped to pass but instead went through the five-hole to put GB ahead again (20:59).
Alex Petan netted from the right circle to make it two-all (24:34), before Ollie Betteridge kept the puck in on the blueline and set-up Hammond who pulled a sweet backhand move for GB’s third (28:43).
Italy scored their third equaliser as Daniel Glira finished-off a quick breakout (34:29)
GB scored on a delayed penalty as Ben O’Connor led the move on the blueline before Liam Kirk and Mike Hammond exchanged passes to set-up Perlini for his second of the night (35:57).
Neilson scores second to seal promotion
Sam Jones pinged a shot off the pipes early in period three and moments later, Bowns made an outstanding close-range to deny Petan.
GB sealed the victory when Neilson slotted the puck into an empty net after Italy lifted Justin Fazio for the extra skater (57:50).
Russell: Awesome group of guys
Head Coach, Peter Russell, said: “These are a great group of guys and they show that year after year.
“We had to dig deep so many times tonight and we found a way each time when we were pegged back.
“These guys gave it their all and threw everything on the line – and it was awesome to do it in-front of so many people.
“The crowd have been unbelievable all week and they really played their part tonight in seeing us over the line.”