When Team Kazakhstan arrived in Helsinki, it had hopes of improving on last season’s performance in Riga and reaching the World Championship quarter finals for the first time. Today, though, those hopes seem forlorn.

A disastrous opening game in Group A against Denmark saw Yury Mikhailis’ team suffer a crushing 1-9 reverse. Without Darren Dietz on defense, the Kazakhs made a dreadful start, falling 0-3 down inside five minutes. Things did not improve: Denmark added four more unanswered goals in the second period and threatened to eclipse Kazakhstan’s worst ever result at the Worlds – a 10-0 loss to the USA in 2010.

It was small consolation to avoid that unwelcome record: a late short-handed goal from Kirill Savitsky saw the final scoreline reading 9-1.

Forward Curtis Valk, who recently joined Avtomobilist from Barys, accepted that this game was over almost before it began. “We have a lot to work on,” he said. “Our team took too many penalties to begin with. They have a good power play and scored a couple of goals on it. We have to start the game better.”

Tomorrow, Kazakhstan takes on France. A second loss would see talk of the playoffs replaced with worries about demotion. Valk, though, believes things can improve. “You shake it off as much as you can,” he said of Saturday’s horror show. “There are little things we have to do better. We need to come out with a better attitude and a better effort.”

Baltic battle goes to Finland

The big game of the day in Tampere saw host nation Finland take on Latvia. The Finns wanted to build on yesterday’s 5-0 victory over Norway, while Harijs Vitolins hoped his Latvians could recover after losing 1-4 to Team USA.

Latvia opened the scoring midway through the first period as the team’s NHL forward Rudolfs Balcers potted his first of the tournament. Finland tied it up midway through the second with a power play tally. Former SKA defenseman combined with Mikael Granlund – he of the famous World Championship ‘lacrosse’ goal against Russia – to set up Sakari Manninen for the equalizer.

And Granlund got the decider with a late power play tally, continuing a winning start for the home team while Latvia is still waiting to get off the mark in this year’s tournament.

And the rest ...

In Saturday’s other action, Sweden made hard work of a 3-1 win over Austria in Group B. Johan Garpenlov only named three lines for the game and that contributed to a labored display from the Tre Kronor. An early goal ensured the pre-game favorite was never in serious danger of defeat, but it took a Joakim Nordstrom effort midway through the game to build a two-goal advantage that offered some comfort for the Swedes.

Another outsider, Great Britain, also proved tougher than expected to beat. The Brits, lowest ranked in this tournament, matched Czechia stride for stride in a goalless first period and remained in contention until deep into the second. Ultimately, though, the underdog ran out of steam and fell to a 1-5 loss.

In Group A, fans in Helsinki saw Switzerland ease to a 5-2 verdict over Italy before Germany edged past Slovakia 2-1.

Main photo: © Eurasia Sport Images / Getty Sport / GettyImages.ru

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