ASTANA – Team Kazakhstan followed up its confident start at the Ice Hockey World Championships, which saw them cruise past their Ukrainian and Hungarian rivals, with a crushing defeat of Japan, a hard-fought match against Poland – and a ticket to the World Championships.
The beginning of the championship ignited solid optimism among Kazakh fans, but knowing the unpredictable nature of sport, pundits tried to remain cautious about a return to the elite division. However, with the third resounding win in Division I, Group A – a decisive 7:2 victory over Japan – a return the upper echelons seemed within reach.
The fourth game, against the tournament’s hosts, Poland, turned out to be most competitive and nerve-wracking. In the first period, neither side managed a goal. In the second period, Roman Savchenko opened the score for Kazakhstan, then Bartlomiej Pociecha equalised for the Poles. In the third period, Roman Starchenko brought Kazakhstan to the lead again before Marcin Kolusz gave hope once again to the local crowd. However, it was Starchenko who had the last word and delivered both the hard-won 3:2 victory and a guaranteed ticket to next year’s World Championships in Russia.
The fifth and final game, against Italy, was then a mere formality. The Kazakhs did well anyway, winning 3:0.
Kazakhstan’s national team won all five games in Krakow, scoring 23 and letting in only six goals. The second ticket to Russia 2016 was won by Hungary.