The equation is simple for Great Britain: they must defeat Austria in regulation today in their final World Championships Group B game to secure their place in next season’s tournament after a hugely controversial 4-3 loss to Latvia in their penultimate tie on Sunday.
Despite the defeat, however, Belfast Giants winger Lewis Hook believes they can go into that game against the Austrians with no shortage of confidence after pushing the play-off chasers all the way in Tampere, Finland.
Pete Russell’s side had led 3-1 thanks to Brett Perlini’s opener before Cade Neilson and Hook both scored their first GB goals either side of Oskars Batna’s strike early in the second.
But after Janis Jaks and Rihards Bukarts (powerplay) tied it up, a bizarre and extremely rare clipping penalty against GB captain Jonathan Phillips put Latvia on the powerplay again where Andris Dzerins tipped in the game winner with 6:49 remaining.
It’s a brutal blow for GB, but it may be a blessing in disguise as it eliminates all doubt heading into today’s final game. With GB bottom of Group B on one point and Austria on four, nothing less than a regulation win - worth three points - will keep Russell’s men in the top division for a fourth consecutive tournament.
And Hook insists there is a determination within the locker room given how they played against the Latvians that they can get the job done.
“It’s a huge game for us, it’s live or die. But getting two powerplay goals (against Latvia) is hugely motivating for us,” said Hook.
“We played a good game, or for the most part we did, we just ran into penalty trouble in the third.
“We’ve got to go in full of confidence. We played well today and I think if we can match that then we’ll get the result.”
GB had been 2-0 ahead against Latvia inside 13 minutes as Perlini tapped in on the powerplay and then Neilson deflected in a Hook pass on a delayed penalty, but Batna responded 4:17 into the second period.
Hook then scored his goal with a super snipe at 6:24 of the second but Jaks made it a one-goal game at the second intermission and Bukarts tied it up on the man advantage early in the third.
Phillips was then controversially binned for what appeared to be a perfectly legitimate hip check on Jaks and, on the powerplay, Dzerins broke GB hearts with his tip-in off Martins Dzierkals’ pass for the game-winner.