Kazakhs ease past Netherlands
by Andy Potts|07 FEB 2020
Kazakhstan captain Talgat Zhailauov battles for possession behind the net during his team's Olympic Qualifying victory over the Netherlands.
Kazakhstan enjoyed another big victory in Olympic Qualifying Group H. The win over the Netherlands perhaps lacked some of the attacking sparkle shown against Ukraine 24 hours earlier, but was good enough to set the stage for a winner-takes-all showdown against Poland on Sunday.

In particular, it was a big day for Talgat Zhailauov. The team's hugely popular captain got the biggest cheers of the night when he potted goals six and seven late in the third period to seal a convincing victory. And he was quick to pay tribute to the quality of the support his team enjoyed in the arena.

"People are used to coming here during the season to watch Barys play and now we’re seeing fans come here to root for Kazakhstan as well as their club," he said. "Some people are travelling from other cities and getting behind us as well. That’s a big help for our team, it inspires us to play well."

For the Dutch, meanwhile, there was a moment of consolation when Raymond van der Schuit scored his team’s first goal of the tournament. However, the hard-working underdog never looked like seriously troubling the host nation after Kazakhstan took an early lead.

The Dutch game plan had to be built around solid defence. Kazakhstan’s high-powered, KHL forwards would punish any laxity in front of Martijn Oosterwijk and, after Thursday’s heavy loss to Poland, the Netherlands wanted to show a more resilient side to its game.

Unfortunately for Bo Subr and his team, the Kazakh offence is enjoying itself on home ice and wasted little time in getting in front here. After just 61 seconds, Jesse Blacker fired home a Yegor Shalapov feed to collect his first goal for Kazakhstan. Blacker, 28, was born in Toronto and was drafted by the Leafs before making his solitary NHL appearance for Anaheim in 2014/15. More recently, he headed East and is now in his second season with Barys – sufficient to earn a Kazakh passport and a place on Andrei Skabelka’s team.
Kazakhstan vs. Netherlands - 2020 Men's Olympic Qualification Group H
KAZ NED 07 FEB 2020
The lead soon grew, with Darren Dietz getting his second of the tournament before Yevgeni Rymarev slotted home from a tight angle after a flurry of shots left Oosterwijk out of position. Three goals in front at the first intermission, Kazakhstan added a fourth when Zhailauov went behind the net to set up Vitali Orekhov between the hash marks.

Then came a memorable moment for the Dutch. Danny Stempher’s diagonal pass evaded Alexei Maklyukov and sent Raymond van der Schuit beyond the defence to tuck away the Netherlands first goal in this tournament. It wasn’t going to change the course of the game, but it would give the underdog something to enjoy from another testing examination in Nur-Sultan.

There was another big moment for the Dutch at the other end of the ice when Roman Starchenko set up Rymarev only for Oosterwijk to pull off a big glove save to bat the puck to safety.

However, for Dietz, the second period was a minor concern in an otherwise emphatic performance. "We slowed down in the second, we got away from our game plan a little bit," he said. "We started to play a little fancy and when we do that instead of sticking to the plan then it seems like it’s a more equal game.

"When we get away from our gameplan we go away from our strengths. In the third we got back to that and we were able to score a couple more goals." 

The start of the third period brought a fifth Kazakh goal, with Anton Sagadeyev reacting faster than the defence after a Yegor Petukhov shot was deflected across the front of the net. Pavel Akolzin might have done better when the puck came to him all alone in front of goal, but his connection was unconvincing and the chance went wide.

At the other end, the Netherlands went close to a second midway through the session when van der Schuit went around the back and set up Schempher for a shot from the deep slot that dinged against the post. Reno van Hondt was closing in on the rebound, but a Kazakh stick frantically scrambled it away from danger.

However, the next goal went to Kazakhstan and brought the loudest cheers of the night as Zhailauov bundled the puck over the line from close range before wrapping up the 7-1 scoreline with a late power play tally, much to the delight of the home fans.

"In the first period we played very well, in the second our defence let us down a little," the captain summed up. "Then we we put that right in the third. And those fans helped us when it got tougher, they were like an extra skater for us."
Kazakhstan vs. Netherlands - 2020 Men's Olympic Qualification Group H