There was much hope that Team GB could win Group G and progress to the final stage of Olympic qualification for the Winter games of 2018.
Even during the tournament hosted in Kazakhstan, there were moments of genuine belief this was an achievable goal, despite various setbacks.
A series of slow starts, missed opportunities and clinical experienced opponents, ensured this was the end of the road.
Game one against Mexico set the tone, as GB Ladies found themselves trailing 2-0 after twenty minutes.
Despite heavily out-shooting the lowest ranked team, GB would not get on the board until 52:38 and proceeded to score a total of three goals in a little over six minutes to secure a remarkable regulation win.
The Poland match-up was always going to be crucial. With GB’s opponents having lost to the hosts the night before, it was a must win for Poland. GB however, had the chance to eliminate their opponents with a victory and set themselves up for a winner takes all encounter with Kazakhstan.
Another slow beginning led to GB down by two after the first period – a pair of strikes within 21 seconds doing the damage.
To their credit, GB responded by out-shooting Poland by a ratio of 2:1 in the middle frame and tied the game up 7:26 into the period. A power play goal from the Poles less than two minutes later ensured they would hold a somewhat underserved lead after forty minutes.
Poland’s experience came to the fore in the final frame as they played keep away hockey and clogged up the neutral zone. A goal to make it 4-2 made GB’s task even tougher, but to the ladies credit they kept plugging away and would tally with 1:39 left to play. Despite opportunities to force overtime it wasn’t to be and it proved a case of “what if’s’ as Poland prevailed 4-3.
Qualification was still a possibility as GB lined up against Kazakhstan.
A small miracle was required in the form of a two goal win against clearly the best team in the group.
Sadly it was the same old story as GB once again found themselves trailing 2-0 after twenty minutes of play.
With the officials calling everything in this encounter, unlike the previous two games, GB failed to adapt and any sort of comeback was halted by too much time spent in the penalty box.
On a five minute power play late in the third period, GB finally gave themselves a lifeline by converting a chance into a goal with almost six minutes remaining.
Just six shots on net during the third period wasn’t enough to force a tying goal and the hosts deservedly sealed the victory and qualification with an empty net tally.
It’s not all doom and gloom however as this is a young squad with much potential to improve in years to follow. Angela Taylor and Katie Henry were both in the top five for scoring and there were many fine individual performances throughout the three games, especially against two higher ranked teams.
Expectations will rightly be high for the World Championships in April 2017, where GB should be aiming for the gold medal and promotion.