Going into Monday’s game in Helsinki, the Kazakhs knew that they had to record their first victory of the tournament – in overtime or a shoot-out if necessary – to remain in the elite. And Yury Mikhailis’ team did just that, producing its best performance of the tournament to record a big win and send Italy down to Division IA.
A power play goal from Curtis Valk put Kazakhstan up midway through the first period, but the team’s familiar weakness resurfaced soon after when Adil Beketayev took an interference call and Italy added to the Kazakhs’ PK woes.
This time, though, there was greater discipline than in previous games. Staying out of the box helped Kazakhstan open a 3-1 lead with goals from Valery Orekhov and Alikhan Asetov either side of the second intermission.
Italy kept the game alive as Diego Costner pulled one back right away, but that was as good as it good for the Blue Team. The game hung on a foul by Dylan di Perna late in the second period: his kneeing offense saw him ejected from the game and the major penalty brought a fourth Kazakh goal. Roman Starchenko gave his team valuable breathing space and Nikita Mikhailis put it beyond reach.
After the game, Darren Dietz hinted that this might be an even greater achievement than last season’s run, when Kazakhstan almost made the quarter finals.
“It’s really hard to compare the two tournaments,” he said, speaking in Russian for Qazsport. “This year is a completely different, much higher, you just can’t compare the two.”
And head coach Yury Mikhailis added: “After the Germany game we told the guys that we had refined our game and good things were starting to happen.
“We needed to control our emotions. We went on to the ice as a single team, we played for each other. We were great on defense, we impressed on offense and we scored some good goals.”
A solitary goal from Matej Blumel early in the first period was enough to give Czechia a tight verdict over team USA and confirm its place in the knock-out stage.
Blumel converted a feed from Hynek Zohorna in the eighth minute and subsequently goalie Karel Vejmelka pulled off 24 saves to blank the American offense.
The Czech win gives Kari Jalonen’s team a chance of stealing top spot if it can beat Finland tomorrow, something that seemed unlikely after losses against Sweden and Austria earlier in the tournament.
And Tomas Hertl paid tribute to the contribution that Jalonen, who coached Torpedo and Lev in the KHL, has made to the Czech team since taking over from Filip Pesan after the Olympics.
“Kari’s really calm,” Hertl said. “He’s smart, he plans his plays for a five-man unit and that’s how we play. That’s why we’ve won three in a row because we get skating everywhere. Even after a tough loss against Austria he was calm, he was good to us and it’s good to play under him.”
For the first time in its 73 years of hockey, Denmark got a win over Canada. A battling display from one of the most improved nations at this tournament delivered a 3-2 victory that gives the Danes a great chance of reaching its first quarter-final since the 2016 tournament in Moscow.
The first period saw Canada dominate the play, outshooting Denmark 14-6, but it was the Danes who did the scoring. Markus Lauridsen made it 1-0 midway through the frame, then Peter Regin added a short-handed second in the 15th minute.
Canada was stung into action and Max Comtois halved the deficit at the start of the second period. However, the Danes had a lead to hold on to and were able to get a more even share of the play in the middle frame, preserving that 2-1 advantage until the intermission.
In the third, a power play goal from Mathias Bau restored Denmark’s two-goal cushion and Canada’s comeback fell short despite a late tally from Ryan Graves.
Much like Kazakhstan, Great Britain came into Monday’s game needing a win to survive. For 40 minutes, it looked to be on: the Brits led 2-0 on goals either side of the first intermission from Matthew Myers and Robert Dowd.
In the third, though, Austria found another gear. The vulnerable GB penalty kill was exposed again to get the Austrians on the board, and a third goal provided only temporary respite. Austria ran in four goals in the closing stages to clinch a 5-3 win. Captain Thomas Raffl got the game-winner, condemning Britain to relegation after three seasons at the top.
For Austria, handed a return to this level after Belarus was suspended, sixth place in the group is likely – an unexpectedly impressive return for Roger Bader’s team.
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