Great Britain assistant coach Adam Keefe admits they missed a glorious opportunity to stay in the World Championships for another season but insists they are not going to sit around and feel sorry for themselves after their relegation from the top tier.
GB led going into the third period against Latvia and by two goals going into the final frame of their must-win last game against Austria in Tampere but lost both to finish bottom of Group B and drop out of the top tier for the first time since 2019.
That means they will play their international hockey in Division 1A next season but, despite the agonising finish, Keefe — who is also head coach of the Belfast Giants — was proud of how the relative minnows performed against teams much their superior in the world rankings.
“We’re very proud of what the guys did and they should be very proud, too. To come in here against some of the teams we faced and keep it competitive in most of the games was very pleasing,” he said.
“Our goal was to stay up and unfortunately we didn’t achieve that, but this group is really driven now to get back there.
“There’s a belief in our group now that we belong at this level, which is important. We’re not happy to be in Division 1A, we want to be in the top tier. The players believe we belong there, and we do. We’ve proven that the last three years.”
With GB matters over, Keefe quickly switches back to his Giants hat for today’s Champions Hockey League draw to see who they will face in Europe’s premier club competition next season.
The Giants earned their place in the CHL by winning last season’s Elite League and could come up against some of Europe’s elite clubs, with the head coach eager to be tested.
“I think our roster this season will rise to that challenge and embrace it and I’m excited to see who we get,” added Keefe, who led the Giants in the CHL in 2019.
“There are some match-ups I’d like to get but it’s out of our hands, so I’m not going to speculate. We’re at the mercy of the draw.”