Canada stays alive with win over Kazakhs
by Lucas Aykroyd|28 MAY 2021
The Canadian players celebrate a goal against Kazakhstan.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Desperately needing three points to keep their quarter-final hopes alive, Canada delivered a 4-2 win over Kazakhstan on Friday at Arena Riga. Cole Perfetti scored the winner in the third period with his first goal of the tournament. The Canadians now have six points, but remain in sixth place in Group B.

The Canadians, who started off the tournament in unprecedented fashion with three consecutive losses, have now won two straight games. Canada has never missed the quarter-finals in IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship history.

"We didn't get off to the start we wanted in the tournament, but understanding that, we've got to kind of basically win out and take it one game at a time," said Canadian defenceman Troy Stecher. "We did that last game [versus Norway] and we did it again tonight."

Canada has two preliminary-round games left against Italy on Sunday and defending champion Finland on Tuesday. Kazakhstan, which got two goals from Nikita Mikhailis in this loss, is right back in action on Saturday against Italy.

The top Canadian line featuring captain Adam Henrique, Connor Brown, and Andrew Mangiapane generated all four goals in the 4-2 victory over Norway and excelled again versus Kazakhstan. All three scored, combining for seven points.

"You can't look too far ahead, can't overlook any team in this tournament," said Henrique. "So we've got to take care of business. Our game has been evolving the last couple of games. We've certainly been playing a much better, well-rounded team game. That's what we need to do to have success so I think we have to carry that into the next game. Our sole focus is on Italy right now."

Goalie Darcy Kuemper, who recorded 13 saves in the 4-2 victory over Norway, returned between the pipes for coach Gerard Gallant.
Kazakhstan vs Canada - 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship
KAZ CAN 28 MAY 2021
In a change of pace, Kazakh coach Yuri Mikhailis gave Andrei Shutov the start in net over Nikita Boyarkin, who had starred in their previous four games with a 1.92 GAA and 94.5 save percentage. Shutov, a 23-year-old Ust-Kamenogorsk native, came in with just one previous IIHF appearance at the U18 Division IA level in 2015-16. He showed strong athleticism and reflexes in his top-level debut.

"It was my first game against Canada and I was a little bit nervous at the beginning, but then everything became OK," said Shutov. "It doesn’t matter which team I play against. It’s just a game for me."

Canada outshot Kazakhstan 36-28.

Surprisingly dangerous with their opportunism, the newly promoted Kazakhs had previously picked up points in every game in Riga except their 3-0 loss to the Americans.

"They like to defend a lot, but they were taking it to us on the forecheck," said Canadian coach Gerard Gallant. "They were very aggressive on their forecheck tonight. I thought they played an excellent game. They competed really hard. That was a tough game for us."

The Canadian power play entered this game clicking at a tournament-worst 6.25 percent, while Kazakhstan’s penalty kill ranked second at 90.1 percent. Canada took the early lead on the man advantage when Mangiapane whacked in a rebound at 6:03 in a wild goalmouth scramble. The play was video-reviewed and deemed good.

Minutes later, Shutov made a fantastic save on a pinching Jacob Bernard-Docker, who received Perfetti’s pass from the side of the net, to keep it a one-goal game. At the other end, Kuemper denied Kazakh captain Roman Starchenko on a breakaway, kicking the puck away dexterously as it squeezed through his pads.

Just 1:10 into the second period, Henrique gave Canada a two-goal lead with a sweet tip of defenceman Owen Power’s drive from the blue line. Power, the likely #1 overall pick in the upcoming NHL Draft, has registered three assists in his last two games in Riga.

Commenting on the productivity of his line, Henrique said: "I think there's some creativity on the line. Mange, coming in, certainly looks to be creative and make plays and works hard and Brownie, the same thing on the other side. So I think we have a good mix of chemistry on our line. And we've just been battling."

Kazakhstan has trailed in every game it has won at these Worlds, so it’s unwise to count out the former Soviet Republic. Nikita Mikhailis, the son of the Kazakh coach, came down left wing on a 3-on-1 break and beat Kuemper five-hole to cut the deficit to 2-1 at 4:30.

The Kazakhs took four minors in the second period, including a tripping penalty to the goalie Shutov on Justin Danforth right after stopping the future Columbus Blue Jackets attacker on a breakaway. However, Canada wasn't able to extend its lead with the man advantage.

"I think the main thing is discipline because we had too many penalties in the second period," said Yuri Mikhailis. "I think 8 minutes is too much. I think that’s the main thing we have to work on."

At 1:31 of the third period, Nikita Mikhailis tied it up on the rush, taking a drop pass from Curtis Valk (a naturalized Barys Nur-Sultan forward) in the middle and beating Kuemper on the glove side.

"He’s definitely a trigger man," Valk said of Nikita Mikhailis. "He’s got a good shot as you could see. When he’s playing well, he gets his chances, and he usually finishes on them. He’s been snake-bitten in the tournament so far, but it’s good for him to get two today."

Danforth nearly set up Brandon Hagel for the go-ahead goal on a Canadian break, corraling a bouncing puck and sending a tricky backhand pass in tight, but Shutov was there with the right pad.

Perfetti put Canada up 3-2 at 7:40 with a nice wrister from the right faceoff circle that deflected upward off a Kazakh defender's stick.

"We knew our circumstances and that it’s must-win here on out, so when they tied it, we knew we had to get the go-ahead goal," said Perfetti. "I was lucky enough to get a good pass and find the back of the net, and then the rest of the team shut it down from there, so it was a good win."

With Shutov pulled for the extra attacker in the dying stages, Kazakhstan pressured hard in the Canadian zone, but Brown added an empty-netter with three seconds left.

Kazakhstan played without defenceman Ivan Stepanenko, serving a one-game suspension for a hit to the head and neck area of Germany’s Lukas Reichel.

The only previous encounter between these countries at the Worlds was 8-0 for Canada on 12 May 2012 in Helsinki.
Kazakhstan vs Canada - 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship