The violation occurred at 5:02 in the 1st period of Kazakhstan’s preliminary round game against Germany on 26 May. After his teammate plays the puck along the boards out of his defensive zone. German forward Lukas Reichel was chasing the puck to gain possession and move into the Kazakh defensive zone. At the same time, Stepanenko skates towards Reichel from the opposite side. A few meters after the red line Stepanenko approached Reichel from the left side. As Reichel extends his stick to reach the puck, moving himself into lowered position, he is checked by Stepanenko from the left side. Stepanenko initiated a check with his right shoulder to Reichel’s head/chin area. Stepanenko’s forceful contact to Reichel’s head/chin area results in a strong whiplash movement of his head and ends with Reichel falling to the ice.
Based on all facts ascertained, the Disciplinary Panel determined that, because Stepanenko could see Reichel’s lowered, vulnerable position on the ice prior to contact and could have played the puck or make a sideways motion to prevent or mitigate the contact¬ — yet continues with the forceful hit to the head/chin area of Reichel – Stepanenko’s actions were extremely dangerous, could have resulted in serious injury to Reichel and violated IIHF Official Playing Rule 124 (Checking to the Head and Neck).
The Panel determined that Stepanenko will serve a one-game suspension and will miss Kazakhstan’s next game against Canada on 28 May. He is eligible to return for Kazakhstan’s preliminary round game against Italy on 29 May.