ASTANA Ė Just like the women, Kazakhstanís menís national team won the gold at the Asian Winter Games as well by defeating Japan 4-1 in the deciding game before 6,000 fans.
It was the long-anticipated game between Kazakhstan and Japan that decided about the best hockey team in the 2011 Asian Winter Games. Four years ago in China, Japan succeeded with a 3-2 victory over Kazakhstan, but the Kazakhs were eager to avenge the loss on home ice in Astana.
These two favourites faced little challenge against the other participants of the menís ice hockeyís Top Division at the Asian Winter Games. Bronze-medal winner Korea, China and Chinese Taipei were simply outperformed in their games against the two Asian hockey powers. The Kazakhstan-Japan match-up in the round-robin tournament on Sunday also became the predictable gold medal clash.
The first period ended scoreless with a 18-6 shots-on-goal advantage for Kazakhstan, but the Japanese remained dangerous with both teams enjoying two power plays each in the first part of the game.
Yutaka Fukufuji, famous for becoming the first (and so far, only) Japanese to play in the NHL for the Los Angeles Kings in the 2006-2007 season, had a strong game in the Japanese goal with 47 saves, but the Kazakhs eventually broke the deadlock before the end of the middle stanza.
Yevgeni Blokhin scored the first goal with 74 seconds left in the second period when his shot hit Fukifuji and the puck dropped over the goal line. Ilya Solarev made it 2-0 just two seconds before the buzzer by capitalizing on a lucky bounce from the lively boards.
Kazakhstan had a two-man advantage in the beginning of the third period and just when the first Japanese came back from the penalty box, defenceman Maxim Semyonov added the third goal for the home side.
The marker still didnít break the Japanese resilience and the men from the land of the rising sun tried hard to come back, but it didnít result in more than Jun Tonosakiís consolation goal at 8:37.
Roman Starchenko made it 4-1 with his tenth goal of the tournament four minutes before the end of the games Ė and the celebrations in Astana could begin.
Player Awards as selected by the Tournament Directorate:
Best Goalkeeper: Yutaka Fukufuji (JPN)
Best Defenceman: Aaron Keller (JPN)
Best Forward: Vadim Krasnoslobodtsev (KAZ)
Click here for the scores and standings from all ice hockey tournaments.
Click here for the official 2011 Asian Winter Games website.
- Both the menís and womenís ice hockey tournaments ended with the same outcome as Kazakhstan won the most important game against eventual silver-medallist Japan. Korea won the bronze medals in the menís event, China in the womenís tournament.
- The Asian Winter Games were organized by the Olympic Council of Asia and the teams were selected by the National Olympic Committees. It mostly included the national teams known from IIHF events and the IIHF Rule Book was used, although, IIHF eligibility rules were not in place.
- 13 nations participated in the ice hockey events and totally 27 countries took part in the Asian Winter Games. India and Qatar also planned to participate in the menís Premier Division, but eventually had to cancel the trips.
- The event also included two nations that are not IIHF members and who were represented internationally for the first time; Kyrgyzstan and Bahrain.
- After the experience with lopsided scores between the top and bottom Asian nations in the past, the menís teams were separated into two tiers based on the performance in the IIHFís World Championship program and the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia. The final standings of the second-tier Premier Division: 1. Kyrgyzstan, 2. Thailand, 3. United Arab Emirates, 4. Mongolia, 5. Malaysia, 6. Kuwait, 7. Bahrain.
- The Kuwaiti ice hockey national team played under the name ďAthletes of KuwaitĒ and used the IOC as the teamís abbreviation and the Olympic rings as its flag. The reason was that Kuwaitís National Olympic Committee had been suspended by the IOC since last year because of alleged political interference by the government. However, athletes were allowed to participate in the Asian Winter Games.
- Barys Astana took a 16-day break from the Russian Kontinental Hockey League to loan their players and their arena for the Asian Winter Games. The Kazakh team will conclude the KHLís regular season with a road trip to Nizhni Novgorod, Yaroslavl and Mytishi after the February international break, but their playoff participation is almost ensured with a 12-point gap to Traktor Chelyabinsk, the ninth-placed team in the Eastern Conference.
- The Asian Winter Games were declared closed by long-serving Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev. Kazakhstan might use the experience from hosting the Asian Winter Games for a 2022 Olympic Winter Games bid. There was a bid from Almaty for the 2014 Olympics that didnít make the IOCís shortlist.
- The flag of the Asian Winter Games was given to the representatives from Sapporo, Japan, where the next Winter Asiada will be held in four years.