Ukraine finishes with a win
by Andy Potts|09 FEB 2020
Sunday’s opening game in Nur-Sultan was a battle for pride. Both Ukraine and the Netherlands had suffered heavy losses in their match-ups with Poland and Kazakhstan, but neither wanted to leave without claiming a victory in this tournament. In the event, Ukraine took third place with 19-year-old goalie Artur Ohandzhanyan recording his first shut-out in senior international hockey with 19 saves.

For the Netherlands, here after winning through the previous qualification round in Barcelona, the step up in class has been difficult. Even before they came to Kazakhstan, the team admitted that this was a tournament where it would learn from playing a higher level of opponent than usual. And so it proved: the Dutch, who will play in Division IIA later this year, were overpowered in their opening games.

But, in the words of forward Raymond van der Schuit, it’s been a chance to see different kind of hockey from that played at home. “We knew that Kazakhstan would bring a team of players from the KHL, so playing against them is a good, useful experience for us. But our aim in the game had to be to keep the score down as best we could.

“And the arena here is just wonderful. I really like the ice, it’s so fast.”
Netherlands vs. Ukraine - 2020 Men's Olympic Qualification Group H
NED UKR 09 FEB 2020
Ukraine, too, suffered heavy losses in its first two games – a tough blow for a country that has seen its hockey program struggle to match the heyday at the turn of the century when Olympic participation and top-level World Championship action was all part of the set-up. Today’s team admits that Kazakhstan is now a nation to emulate.

"It's good to finish with a win but we know that overall, we didn't play our best tournament here," said defenceman Igor Merezhko. "We have to look at this as preparation for the World Championship.

"I think we learned a lot. In this event we were a bit of a slow team, I don't really know why. Kazakhstan and also Poland were a bit better physically. They skated better, they shot more, maybe they thought a bit faster than us.

"That's what we have to learn from these teamsbefore we play in April."

Ukraine's win was largely thanks to fine work from its second line of Dmytro Nimenko, Nikita Butsenko and Sergi Babynets. That trio combined for the first two goals to take the game away from the Dutch.

Late in the first period, Babynets fired the puck to the slot where it deflected off Butsenko and dropped for the unmarked Nimenko to score. Then early in the second Butsenko found the net off a Babynets feed. There was more to come with a power play goal in the middle frame making it 3-0; Olexi Vorona screened Netherlands goalie Kevin Meierdres and Ivan Savchenko fired home from the top of the circle.

With the outcome more or less secure, there was one more task for Ukraine: get a shut-out for 19-year-old goalie Artur Ohandzhanyan. The Kharkhiv native is currently playing for New Hampshire Jr Monarchs in the NCDC and made his senior international debut during last season’s Division IB. On that occasion, he had a tough time of it; today was a smoother game for the teenager as he backstopped his country to a comfortable success.
Netherlands vs. Ukraine - 2020 Men's Olympic Qualification Group H