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By Emily Laycock

Ben O’Connor says Great Britain showed they “deserve to be here” as they gave world number one Canada a run for their money in their opening game of the World Championship in Prague.

GB took the lead in the first period through Liam Kirk – an immediate improvement from the last meeting between the two sides which saw Canada skate to an 8-0 victory.

O’Connor said: “In Slovakia when we played them, it was like they were on the powerplay. We couldn’t even get in the zone  and you look now, we’re making them run around and zipping the puck around and getting good scoring opportunities.

“It just shows how far we’ve come as a team.”

Pete Russell’s side secured promotion back to the top flight for the 2024 World Championship in Czechia having won gold in Nottingham last year.

The 35-year-old continued: “I think we showed everyone again that we deserve to be here.

“Pete said after the game, it’s probably one of the best team performances he’s seen in a GB uniform for 10 years.”

Coming up against the best team in the world on gameday one was believed by some to produce a disheartening start to the campaign, but O’Connor produced a highlight reel goal in the third period to show that Britain are not a side to be overlooked.

He said: “They’re the number one team in the world for a reason. We watch them on TV everyday in the NHL highlights and I thought we did ourselves proud.

“We took it to them at parts. We had them hemmed in. We were moving the puck well and on the powerplay we were zipping it around and were unlucky not to score.

“Again, it’s just all positives to take into the next game and the rest of the tournament. For large parts of that game we were absolutely perfect.”

But the Durham-born defenceman can’t relish in the joy of his team’s stellar performance for too long with gameday two at the World Championship already upon them.

Great Britain take on Finland this afternoon with both teams still looking for their first victory at the O2 Arena.

A closely-contested opening game for Finland against Czechia could only be decided by a penalty shootout with the hosts taking the 1-0 win on Friday.

“We go from the world number one to the world number two in two days,” O’Connor said.

“It’s good, that’s what we want. We want to be thrown in at the deep end. We want to get up to speed and again we’ve just got to nail down a few things.

“There was a couple loose sticks and they [Canada] scored two goals. They’re costly mistakes at this level. If you don’t pick-up a stick, they’re going to score.”

Gameday two for Great Britain will be followed by two rest days before their fixtures continue on Wednesday with an evening face-off against Switzerland.