Phoenix star wins gold medal with GB

Sunday, 18th July 2004

Altrincham born Manchester Phoenix defenseman Mark Thomas was named defenseman of the tournament at the International Ice Hockey Federation's annual World In-Line Hockey Championships.

Thomas was a part of the Great Britain team, which won its first-ever gold medal after they beat Brazil 5-4, in overtime in Saturday's Division One final. Team captain Simon Hehir scored the game winner 2:38 into the overtime period, the first time the British had taken the lead in the game.

Brazil, last year's silver medallist, got the first goal of the game when Rogerio Polido scored just 7:14 into the game. Great Britain tied things at one, but before the first quarter was over, Brazil had again reclaimed the lead when Enio Hayashida put in a slick backhander. The goal was double bad luck for Great Britain as goaltender Nathan Gasco was hurt on the play and had to be replaced by back-up Mark Law.

Great Britain evened things at two in the second quarter and the deadlock lasted until the last two minutes of the half when Diego Araujo gave Brazil a one-goal lead yet again. GB then had two goals disallowed before hitting a post. Joe Wightman eventually evened the score but Gomes once again gave the Brazilians the lead. Jay Paxman made it 4-4 late in the fourth period setting up overtime and Hehir's heroics.

Thomas finished the tournament as GB's second highest scorer with eight goals and nine assists in seven games. He played ice hockey for the Manchester Phoenix last season.

The gold medal for Thomas and GB was a tremendous achievement for the British team who finished fifth in the competition last year and have steadily improved over the last three years under the guidance of head coach Mark Cavallin and assistant coaches Rob Coulstock and former Manchester Storm star Nick Crawley.