Andy Potts Andy Potts
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A heroic goaltending display from Poland’s John Murray backstopped a shock victory for the underdog in Nur-Sultan. Murray, an American-born dual-national, made 51 saves as the Poles won 3-2 to take top spot in Olympic Qualification Group H and advance to the final round of qualifying in August.

Dustin Boyd scored twice for the host nation as it battled back from 0-2, but a third Polish goal early in the third period ended Kazakhstan’s hopes.

Kazakhstan came into the game after big victories over the Netherlands (8-0) and Ukraine (7-1) and looked to make another fast start against the Poles. But, unlike the previous outings, there was no early goal. Poland worked hard defensively, frustrated Kazakhstan’s powerful offense and then stunned the home crowd by grabbing the opening goal midway through the opening frame when Bartosz Cuira’s speculative shot took a big deflection off the luckless Alexei Maklyukov and beat Henrik Karlsson.

Murray pulled off some big saves early in the second, and Poland doubled its lead on a rare raid into Kazakh territory midway through the game. Martin Przygodski pounced on a big rebound to make it 2-0.

The response was immediate. Just 17 seconds later, Boyd got his first of the night after good work by Curtis Valk and the same pair combined five minutes from the intermission to tie the scores. At that point, it felt like the momentum was with the home team, but Poland had other ideas. The first meaningful attack of the final frame saw Maciej Urbanowicz restore the Polish lead after a shot dinged off the piping and dropped straight onto his stick.

Kazakhstan battled hard to save the game, but could not find a way past Murray. Despite outshooting its Division IB opponent 53-17, the steppe eagle’s wings were clipped and the Olympic dream came to an abrupt, unexpected end.

Andrei Skabelka, head coach, Kazakhstan and Barys

Andrei, what went wrong today?

We didn’t win the game. I just want to apologise to all our fans across the whole country for this result. It is what it is, and first and foremost, it’s my responsibility. We didn’t achieve what we set out to do.

What happened?

We couldn’t get through their defense, we couldn’t find a way past their goalie. We scored two, but that wasn’t enough. Poland is a team at a slightly different level from the other opponents in this group, they have players who can score goals.

There was a lot of attention on the dual-nationals on the Kazakh team. Maybe we need to look at other players?

In two days I can’t look at anyone. We called up guys from the KHL, guys who have played at a high level all season. But it’s a short tournament. It’s not like a World Championship, where you have a month or more to prepare. Of course there are lots of young guys we’d like to look at, but this isn’t the tournament to do that.

Dustin Boyd, forward, Kazakhstan and Barys

We’re very disappointed. We really wanted to win tonight. We had a lot of chances to score and win this game, but their goalie played really good and they capitalized on the opportunities that they had. In a game like this everything counts. Right now, it’s just disappointing.

We had a lot of pressure, a lot of good looks but we have to put more than two goals in the net. We needed to find a way to get more and we didn’t, and that’s the result we have.

Poland’s a good team and in a game like this anything can happen. You get a bounce here or there, the first goal went in off a foot. We were trying so hard to score and we just couldn’t seem to find a way to get another goal and that cost us in the end.

We were prepared for this game. We tried to put a lot of pressure on them in the third period but we couldn’t get a third or fourth goal. You gotta give them credit, they blocked a lot of shots, the goalie made some big saves. We’re not happy right now, that’s for sure.

Talgat Zhailauov, captain, Kazakhstan

The bottom line was that we couldn’t score one more goal and our opponent took its chances really well. That’s all.

There’s not much more to say. We lost and we’ll have to live with that.

Hockey is the kind of game where one skate, one lace, can make all the difference. But our guys are skilled players and should be able to score in any situation. I had two good chances myself that I should have taken.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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