For the host nation of the Division I Group A in Astana it was a successful weekend as Kazakhstan won all three of its games in a Euro Ice Hockey Challenge tournament in the Hungarian capital of Budapest. Victories over Hungary (3-1), Korea (5-3) and Italy (3-2) gave the Kazakhs top spot.
The Kazakhs won the tournament without their established KHL players. Most of the players in the line-up play in the domestic league a few got little ice time at KHL team Barys Astana this season. Offensively Yegor Petukhov was shining with three goals (and four points) while Valeri Gurin (1+4=5) and Dmitri Gurkov (0+5=5) were the scoring leaders of the team. Nikita Boyarkin, who was on the U20 national team that earned promotion to the top-level World Juniors last winter, was in the net for all three games.
In its first tournament since playing top-level hockey at the Olympics and Worlds last year, Korea came to this tournament with only native players even though six North American born, naturalized players from last season’s roster still play with the Korean teams in the Asia League and could join the national team in the Division I Group A.
At another tournament played in Minsk, host Belarus looked to bounce back after relegation from the World Championship top division and showed some promise as it took second place in its tournament. Latvia got the win thanks to a shootout success in Sunday’s decisive game, but the host enjoyed victories over France (5-2) and Slovenia (4-1).
Latvia clinched the title thanks to Egils Kalns’ winner in the shootout. Earlier, the Baltic nation had taken a first-minute lead thanks to Edgars Kulda, but Vladimir Denisov got Belarus level late in the second period. The tournament was also the first for France following the retirement of long-serving head coach Dave Henderson. Under the guidance of Renaud Jacquin, Les Bleus took third place thanks to a shootout win over Slovenia. The Slovenes, who will also play in the Division I Group A, finished in last place.
Behind Kalns and Kulda two Belarusians were third and fourth in scoring: Andrei Stepanov (2+1=3) and Artur Gavrus (1+2=3). Both goalies had good numbers to even though they were outshone by the Latvians. Dmitri Milchakov had a 95.8 save percentage in this two stars, Mikhail Kamaukhov a 96.0 save percentage in the win against Slovenia.
The sixth team that will play in Astana is Lithuania. The rejuvenated Lithuanians hosted the Baltic Challenge Cup in Vilnius and started promising with a 3-2 shootout victory against Japan but then lost 1-0 against Belarus’ B-team and finished last in their group. In a game for fifth place they beat Baltic rival Estonia 6-3.
While several veterans retired after promotion, some established players were still part of the team that was for the first time coached by Daniel Lacroix including last spring’s Division IB scoring leader Arnoldas Bosas, who led the team in scoring with three goals, goaltender Mantas Armalis and KHL defenceman Nerijus Alisauskas.
|Euro Ice Hockey Challenge in Hungary|
|7 Nov.||Budapest (HUN)||Hungary||Kazakhstan||1-3|
|7 Nov.||Budapest (HUN)||Italy||Korea||5-2|
|8 Nov.||Budapest (HUN)||Korea||Kazakhstan||3-5|
|9 Nov.||Budapest (HUN)||Kazakhstan||Italy||3-2|
|9 Nov.||Budapest (HUN)||Korea||Hungary||cancelled|
|10 Nov.||Budapest (HUN)||Hungary||Italy||7-1|
|Standings: 1. Kazakhstan 9, 2. Hungary 3, 3. Italy 3, 4. Korea 0|
|Euro Ice Hockey Challenge in Belarus|
|8 Nov.||Minsk (BLR)||Latvia||Slovenia||4-1|
|8 Nov.||Minsk (BLR)||Belarus||France||5-2|
|9 Nov.||Minsk (BLR)||France||Latvia||1-4|
|9 Nov.||Minsk (BLR)||Belarus||Slovenia||4-1|
|10 Nov.||Minsk (BLR)||Slovenia||France||2-3 SO|
|10 Nov.||Minsk (BLR)||Belarus||Latvia||1-2 SO|
|Standings: 1. Latvia 8, 2. Belarus 7, 3. France 2, 4. Slovenia 1|
|Baltic Challenge Cup in Lithuania|
|8 Nov.||Vilnius (LTU)||Latvia B||Estonia||4-1|
|8 Nov.||Vilnius (LTU)||Lithuania||Japan||3-2 SO|
|9 Nov.||Vilnius (LTU)||Estonia||Romania||3-7|
|9 Nov.||Vilnius (LTU)||Belarus B||Japan||1-5|
|10 Nov.||Vilnius (LTU)||Romania||Latvia B||1-2|
|10 Nov.||Vilnius (LTU)||Lithuania||Belarus B||0-1|
|11 Nov.||Vilnius (LTU)||Romania||Belarus B||3-4|
|11 Nov.||Vilnius (LTU)||Latvia B||Japan||3-0|
|11 Nov.||Vilnius (LTU)||Lithuania||Estonia||6-3|
|Standings: 1. Latvia B, 2. Japan, 3. Belarus B, 4. Romania, 5. Lithuania, 6. Estonia.|