South Scotland

World ice hockey tournament in Dumfries starts in style

Ice hockey
Image caption The action was fast and furious at Dumfries Ice Bowl on Monday night

If you were putting together an advert for the sport, it might well have looked like this.

Great Britain's opening match at the International Ice Hockey Federation's Under-20 Men's World Championship in Dumfries was a bit of a beauty.

It had all the drama, pace and bruising collisions associated with the game.

And the final outcome of the fixture was in the balance to the very end of a night's sporting entertainment which lasted more than two hours.

Yet there was never a moment when proceedings felt like a drag.

Image caption The Stanley Cup arrived in Glasgow as part of celebrations of 100 years of GB ice hockey

It is only fair, at the outset, to confess that my allegiances may have clouded my view of the game.

I was sitting with a small pocket of away fans at Dumfries Ice Bowl as Italy provided Team GB's opposition.

Much of the pre-match hype had been about the involvement of Rod Stewart's son, Liam Stewart, in the home side.

His proud mother, Rachel Hunter, was the subject of much media attention in the crowd.

And her boy's team got off to a flying start, taking a two goal lead to stun the visitors.

But the Italian side, much like their footballing counterparts, clearly like a challenge.

They hauled their way back to level terms to put the final result back in the balance.

Then it was up to Great Britain to show their resilience and get their noses in front once more with a 3-2 advantage they held until the dying moments of the match.

In desperation, the Azzurrini - little Blues - threw their goaltender into attack in a bid to tie the match.

The move was thwarted until just 32 seconds from the end when, incredibly, they slapped home a thunderous shot to take the game into overtime.

'Bad luck'

To add to the drama, the five-minute extra period saw both teams sacrifice a player in order to create more space on the ice and increase the chances of a sudden-death match-winning goal.

It took just one minute and 11 seconds for Joachim Ramoser to strike for the third time and clinch a dramatic Italian triumph.

"What a bit of bad luck," commented Rod Stewart via Twitter. "Well done @LiamStewart11 and the GB team. Wish I could have been there."

Image caption Rachel Hunter was in the crowd to cheer on her son Liam Stewart at the Ice Bowl

Despite defeat, however, Great Britain and Dumfries must have taken a lot of positive elements out of the match.

A good crowd turned out to enjoy proceedings which run in the town until Sunday and showed it can organise a major sporting competition.

The ice hockey buzz will only continue with the arrival of its most famous trophy, the Stanley Cup, in Scotland.

It came in through Glasgow Airport and will be "guest of honour" at a dinner in Dumfries to celebrate 100 years of the sport in Britain.

It will also go on show on Wednesday afternoon at the Dumfries Ice Bowl.

Monday's opening match certainly whetted the appetite for the game, even in a novice spectator such as myself.

It may take me a while to fully understand the rules and to stop calling the puck a ball, but that did not dull my enjoyment of the match.

Those who know me might say that I would cheer an Italy win at tiddlywinks - and they are probably right.

But, regardless of their feelings at the outcome, I think few people could have walked away from Monday night's match without feeling royally entertained.

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