International Ice Hockey Federation

Kazakhstan hopes

Wins game and sends Poland down

Published 15.08.2018 07:31 GMT+2 | Author Martin Merk
Kazakhstan hopes
Strachenko Roman, Rymarev Yevgeni Photo: Laszlo Mudra - HIIHF
Kazakhstan beat Poland 6-1 and can still hope for promotion depending on the other results. With the fourth loss in five games Poland is relegated.

After two disappointing losses, Kazakhstan keeps its hope for promotion alive thanks to a 6-1 victory against Poland that sends the Poles down to the Division I Group B.

Kazakhstan now has to hope it will be tied at nine points in a favourable fashion since it beat two direct opponents (Great Britain and Hungary) but lost against the other two promotion candidates (Italy and Slovenia). An overtime or shootout win by either team in the Slovenia-Italy game or a Hungarian win against Great Britain to create a three-team or four-team tie would benefit the Kazakhs.

“We had to win and we played a good game. The guys were fighting until the end,” said Roman Starchenko, who was Kazakhstan’s man of the match with four goals and an assist. “Now we don’t know what will happen. We have to hope for the best, we will watch the other games, it’s 50-50. If we go up it’s great, if we don’t go up it means were not good enough.”

The win also makes the scenarios for the other teams clearer. Great Britain will definitely need one point from the game against Hungary, otherwise they will drop to third of fourth place. Scenarios that see Great Britain promoted even in case of a regulation-time loss have been swiped out with Kazakhstan’s win.

Slovenia will need a regulation-time win against Italy to be promoted, anything else will not help anymore. Italy will also need a regulation-time win but at the same time needs to hope that Hungary won’t beat Great Britain in regulation time. Hungary needs a regulation-time against Great Britain but this will only lead to promotion if Slovenia doesn’t beat Italy in regulation time.

Poland cannot improve from sixth and last place anymore and will be relegated after four years in the Division I Group A.

Despite a KHL-starred roster Kazakhstan entered the last team not only as one of five teams who can theoretically get promoted but also as one of three teams that can be relegated following two straight losses. It was a must-win game for survival and a chance for promotion for Kazakhstan and it Poland was in need for a regulation-time win to avoid relegation.

The Kazakhs responded well to the pressure and showed their A-game with skill, pressure and punishing errors in the Polish defence. Alikhan Asetov missed out on a penalty shot when he was tripped by Damian Tomasik during a breakaway but in the next shift the Kazakhs opened the scoring at 12:20. Yevgeni Rymarev skated along the goal line and found Roman Starchenko in great position to score the 1-0 goal. One minute later the Kazakhs capitalized on a giveaway. Valeri Orekhov found Pavel Akolzin, who scored from the right face-off circle.

“It was a tough game despite the result. [Poland] plays technical hockey like us. We were nervous in the beginning but we scored first and that helped us a lot,” said Kazakh head coach Galym Mambetaliev.

“The teams at the tournament are at the same level. Everybody deserves to be in the top division. All the games have to be played from the first to the last second. Now we wait for the other results and will see.”

Although Poland kept up on paper, it was the Kazakhs whose chances were more dangerous. Early in the second period they converted their first power play to make it 3-0. Starchenko sent off a long shot from the left boards that beat Przemyslaw Odrobny through his five-hole.

Three minutes later it was the Kazakhs themselves who allowed a goal after a giveaway. Valeri Orekhov’s pass behind the own net jumped from Kirill Polokhov’s stick straight to Polish forward Krzysztof Zapala, who made it 3-1. Another situation behind the own net with Leonid Metalnikov being assessed a penalty for tripping gave the Poles further opportunities.

However, with 47.7 seconds left in the period and the Kazakhs on power play, Starchenko scored the 4-1 goal to bring his team one more step into the upper direction of the standings. And if that didn’t seal the win, then Ivan Kuchin’s goal at 6:03 of the third period did. Unguarded at the centre of the blueline, he took the opportunity to increase Kazakhstan’s lead to 5-1.

“I thought we played pretty well but unfortunately we couldn’t beat their goaltender. Their team just scored first, second, third on their chances. Every nation here is very well prepared and develops hockey, and in Poland we have to do the same thing. Before today there were 64 outcomes. There is a fine line between winning and losing,” said Poland’s head coach Ted Nolan.

The further away the Poles were from coming back in the third period, the less disciplined they acted. Krystian Dziubinski’s five-minute major penalty for spearing was just the start of a serious of penalties that kept the Polish penalty box busy for the remainder of the game. That allowed Starchenko to end his day with a fourth goal during a 5-on-3 and the final score of 6-1.