Tonight, Slovakia edged a 4-3 verdict over a Kazakh team that welcomed back Darren Dietz for his first action of the competition. His return is timely, with Viktor Svedberg unavailable for the remainder of the tournament due to injury. However, Dietz and his team-mates were ultimately undone by a penalty shot from Slovak prodigy Juraj Slafkovsky.
Not for the first time in this tournament, Kazakhstan got itself in front in the game. Goals from Kirill Panyukov and Dmitry Shevchenko late in the first period cancelled out Slovakia’s opener and offered hope that the Central Asian nation might lift itself off the foot of Group A.
But the second period went firmly in Slovakia’s favor. Pavel Akolzin took a major penalty for charging, and the Slovaks turned the game upside down on that extended power play Martin Fehervary, recently added to the team, tied it up before Severstal’s Adam Liska made it 3-2. Then came Slafkovsky’s penalty shot to open a 4-2 lead.
Kazakhstan rallied and Panyukov got his second of the game early in the final stanza, but there was no way back.
After the game, Curtis Valk remained optimistic about his team’s relegation battle, which looks set to go to a final game decider against Italy.
“We're getting better but we've got to do more if we want to win some games,” he said. “We've got two left here and hopefully we can come out on top.”
In Tampere, Latvia all-but secured its top division status after a nervy shoot-out win over Austria. Roberts Bukarts got the game-winning shot on Bernhard Stickbaum in the Austrian net following a 3-3 tie in regulation.
Arturs Silovs got the start in goal ahead of Elvis Merzlikins and he pulled off some big saves to frustrate Austria’s third-period fightback in an absorbing game. The Austrians opened the scoring at the start of the second period. Latvia turned it around though, with two goals from Rudolfs Balcers either side of a tally from Rihards Bukarts to take a 3-2 lead into the second intermission.
But Austria, also looking for a win that would preserve its top-flight status, would not lie down. Captain Thomas Raffl tied it up at 3-3 and ultimately sent the game to a shoot-out. But Silovs had the measure of the Austrian forwards, and Roberts Bukarts potted the decisive shot to secure two more points for the Latvians.
In Friday’s earlier games, there were goals aplenty. Finland eased to a 6-0 victory over Great Britain to the delight of another big crowd at the Nokia Arena. In Helsinki, Germany defeated Italy 9-4 in an entertaining clash.