By Danny Buckland
England secured 5th place at the World Championships but had to weather a storming come back from a spirited Scotland to claim the crucial win.
The Auld Enemy refused to lie down and recovered from a 4-0 deficit to go level and then gave a cruising England a scare by scoring three goals in 30 seconds to almost force the game into overtime.
Ben McAllister was a stand-out in goal with 13 saves, several one-on-ones from point blank range, after the Tartan terrors continually worked slick moves to feed the potent McBride brothers on the crease.
Scotland fans sensed the prized scalp of England to go with their promotion to the Blue Division elite as the game rocked in the blazing Denver heat.
But another McAllister save and Jak Wawrzyniak’s body-on-the-line positioning to block a shot snuffed out the fire and England was able to see out the last 1 minute and celebrate a gutsy victory.
Three wins on the bounce after losing their opening five division games was a good way to finish and underscore the team spirit and commitment to the flag in what has been a tough World Championships for Matt Bagley’s men.
Scotland, with their Canadian pros and US college players, fancied their chances of an upset and a large crowd gathered to see them enter the field behind a brace of bagpipers. But it was England who drew first blood, Tommy Kirkland advancing at pace to connect with Aaron Prosser, who shrugged off a challenge before setting himself to plant a shot into the top shelf.
Co-captain Sam Russell then drove his man right then left and unleashed a shot on the run for 2-0 and when Chris Brady won the restart cleanly and charged down the centre to score, it seemed like England were in for a comfortable afternoon.
Glenn Humphreys got the next to make it 4-0 with just ten minutes played but there was a concern that Scotland were getting too many close-in shooting opportunities.
Jordan McBride spotted a chink in the defense and had netted before England could adjust. With errors creeping into the England game, Scotland grew in stature and Jesse Fehr, of the Philadelphia Wings, scored rounding the pipe and McBride brought the game to the boil with his second just five seconds before the Quarter.
The second Quarter was just 50 seconds old when he got his hat-trick from a sharp passing move and perceptive feed from Kyle Buchanan. Scores level
McAllister – the Great Wall of Stockport – was called on repeatedly to deny a rampant Scotland and his performance inspired the attack again with Nick Watson rounding the post to score with a jump shot and then repeating the move two minutes later with a slight delay on the shot to out-think the keeper.
But England couldn’t shake Scotland off and Ryan Sage completed a lengthy run from behind goal to strike with a whiplash shot to make it 6-5.
McAllister then repelled another McBride crease shot and got in the way of the rebound shot for a lightning double save.
The teams exchanged scores with Colin Clive booming in a goal and McBride somehow finding room from close range to leave in 7-6 at half time.
The second half was a stalemate as both teams manoeuvred for a game-changing goal. Prosser provided it with a spinning move, jinking through the defence and firing into the top corner stick side.
Jack Brook then cut inside his man to fire in low and England were once again breathing premature relief at 9-6. Back came Scotland and McBride was quickest to pounce on the rebound from a McAllister save to close the gap again.
The see-saw nature of the game continued and although scrappy at times, Russell produced a piece of class, gliding elegantly past his man, forcing the defence to shift to him before delivering a sweet pass to a cutting Josh Roden on the crease for 10-7.
Humphreys got his second with a laser guided shot, dropping his shoulder to fire low to high and England had a four goal cushion again. Scotland changed their keeper and Buchanan was next on the scoresheet, squeezing a shot in from the tightest angle.
Tom Gallon was injured at the next face and had to be helped off by team-mates with a knee sprain that ruled him out for the rest of the match.
England kept pushing, determined to show the large crowd their attacking flair and Watson grabbed another trademark goal then Clive ended the quarter by running down the clock before launching his move from X with 20 seconds in the quarter. He got the jump on his defender and fired home to settle English nerves at 13-8.
Another perfectly timed Kirkland take-away check seemed to get England off to a great start in what they recognised would be a tempestuous final quarter.
A bounce shot reared up at an awkward angle to sneak past McAllister but Prosser ripped in a ferocious shot in reply after five minutes to keep the five goal advantage at 14-9.
Scotland threw everything at England and were starting to dominate ground balls for the first time – winning that battle 15 – 7 in Q4 – and create chances but McAllister and strong England defence from Kirkland, who was in a voodoo check groove, and Andrew Baxter kept the McBrides at bay.
With 9 minutes to go, Scotland had to press and it seemed they were doomed when Matt Sexton kept the ball intelligently and invited the double. Just as the keeper stepped out to create the extra pressure, Sexton accelerated, got a step inside and scored from a sharp angle before the keeper could scramble back. 15-9 with 7 minutes, 30 seconds left, and most of the large crowd thought Scotland were out of it. But there was plenty of drama left.
McBride grabbed one back to make it 15-10 with 4 minutes 30 seconds to go and then came 29 seconds of Scottish magic and English fear. Three goals flashed in – including one from Timperley’s Resham Panesar – as Scotland seemed to develop superhuman powers.
The game reached fever pitch as the Scots launched waves of attacks and hunted in packs for ground balls. England were struggling to find any composure to close out of the game.
Another McAllister wonder save probably clinched the game as the clock ticked down to a minute and in a back-line melee for possession, an over zealous Matt Carey sent McAllister flying and earned a seat in the penalty box for the rest of the game.
This time, with Russell dictating the front six, England ran the remaining seconds out of a pulsating game to claim 5th place. Scotland were devastated to lose a thriller but will be overjoyed with finishing 6th.
Scorers: Nick Watson 3, Aaron Prosser 3, Colin Clive 2, Glenn Humphreys 2, Chris Brady, Jack Brook, Josh Roden, Sam Russell, Matt Sexton.