Great Britain 1-4 Hungary
NOTTINGHAM, Eng. -- Great Britain's Olympic dream came to a premature end as they were beaten 4-1 by Hungary at the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham on Sunday night.
Needing to beat their opponents to take their place in August's final qualifying tournament for Beijing 2022, two second period goals were enough to see the visitors over the line and instead continue their Olympic qualifying dream at the expense of Pete Russell's men.
It was Csanad Erdely who got the game-winner 11:17 into the second period, the Hungary ace firing in from point-blank range on GB netminder Ben Bowns to back up Bence Stipsicz's powerplay opener to secure the win.
Tournament top scorer János Hári and István Sofron added on in the final frame for Hungary - who were boosted by a big display from netminder Miklós Rajna - just to compound GB's misery after Matthew Myers' powerplay response for GB had made it 2-1 early in the third, which sparked hopes that there could be another dramatic comeback on the cards like in 2018.
But it wasn't to be, with GB not able to find that crucial tying goal, although they certainly weren't helped on the whole by a 1-for-5 powerplay.
Russell's side will have to dust themselves off and return to their clubs for the remainder of the Elite League season before reconvening in April for the build-up to their second season in the top tier of the World Championships in Switzerland.
It was a first period where both sides needed perfect kill units as they both took penalties, GB the first to play out time shorthanded as Scott Conway headed off for cross-checking.
Giants forward Ben Lake was able to draw an interference call from Zsombor Garát, and Nikandrosz Galanisz sat for holding for Hungary, however GB couldn't make them pay as their powerplay was held scoreless in the opening period.
Both netminders had to be busy too, Bowns making an excellent stop down low to deny Kristóf Papp after a defensive zone giveaway, while at the other end Rajna made a fantastic reaction save to prevent Mike Hammond from opening the scoring.
But when Ben Davies took a high sticking call at the tail end of the first period, it was with the extra man that Hungary took the lead just 32 seconds into the middle frame, Stipsicz hammering one through traffic and past Bowns for 1-0.
Both sides killed off penalties, Gergö Nagy (tripping) for Hungary and Lake (interference) for the hosts, before Conway rang one off the crossbar on an odd-man rush as GB pressed for the equaliser in the second period.
Just as soon as it looked like the hosts might draw themselves level, they suddenly found themselves two down as nobody tracked the line of Erdely to the crease, and when Sofron threw the puck to the blue paint, his linemate was there to supply the point-blank finish for Hungary to make it 2-0 at 11:17.
It was a mystery how GB weren't at least on the board heading into the second intermission, though, as they threw the kitchen sink at Hungary in the dying stages of the second period and somehow drew a blank, Luke Ferrara coming closest as he found the hosts' second post of the period from the angle.
Having not scored all of the second period, it took GB just 57 seconds to strike in the third. With Scott Macaulay in the box for holding, Myers was there to bank a rebound off Rajna and in for the powerplay marker that made it 2-1.
After pulling it back to a one-goal game, GB then needed Bowns to come up with another big stop when Sofron connected with Nagy again, the goalie stretching to make the big block at the crease, but it wouldn't take long for the GB backstop to be beaten again.
It was dangerman Hári who did the damage, the Hungarian ace stripping Dallas Ehrhardt of the puck behind the net and effecting the wraparound on Bowns to restore the two-goal lead for the visitors, making it 3-1 at 5:11.
Sofron could then count himself lucky to still be in the game when he left his feet to hit Travis Ehrhardt, taking a charging call in the process, but GB couldn't find their way back into the game during the powerplay, despite Davy Phillips' shot being deflected onto his own post by Garát.
And that allowed Sofron to make the result secure with exactly 8:00 left, the winger, who perhaps shouldn't have even been on the ice, skating through the offensive zone and outlasting Bowns to supply the finish for the 4-1 scoreline.