One player in the focus will be long-time national team goalie Darya Dmitrieva (nee Obydennova), who has shone with consistently good numbers between the pipes of the Kazakh women’s national team over the past few years and won the Best Goaltender award at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I Group B.
“The team played well for the win. Thanks to the teammates that I didn’t have a lot of work to do. We were ready for this game,” Dmitrieva said about the start in Torre Pellice.
Kazakhstan appeared at three consecutive Olympic ice hockey tournaments between 1998 and 2006, once with the women in Salt Lake City 2002 and twice with the men (1998, 2006). Since then no Kazakh team has qualified for Olympic ice hockey. Something Dmitrieva and her teammates would love to change for Beijing 2022.
“It’s a dream for us. It’s what we’ve been working hard for. What we do right now is for playing at the Olympic Games. We do our best and wish to go to the Games,” the 30-year-old says.
Her teammate Malika Aldabergenova, who helped translating the interview, agrees: “The Olympic Games for me are really a dream because I have never played there. It’s hard to get there but we can do this and we work hard for this. We really want to play there.”
Dmitrieva is among the veterans on the team. She played in three top-level Women’s Worlds (2007, 2009, 2011), nine Women’s Worlds tournaments in total, two Asian Winter Games, the Winter Universiade and this is her fourth attempt in the Olympic Qualification.
She calls playing with the Kazakh national team, the Asian Winter Games and Universiade on home ice in Almaty her career highlights so far. Her favourite places to play hockey beside her home country are in Austria with the EWHL and in Canada where she had her IIHF debut at the 2007 Women’s Worlds in Winnipeg and Selkirk.
In Torre Pellice the Kazakhs will have another opponent they’re favourite to win on Saturday as they play one tier higher than Spain. It will be the first IIHF-sanctioned game in the women’s senior category between these two countries and Spain made it clear in their game against Italy on Thursday that despite being the underdog they’re ready to make it difficult for the bigger nations.
Then comes the final game against Italy, which also had a strong start in Torre Pellice and is the highest-ranked among the teams playing here in the Piedmont region.
“It’s going to be a tough game, we know that. We are going to work hard for this game and are going for the win. We just have to be positive, work hard and do the best,” Dmitrieva said.
“We played them at the World Championship. They are a really hard team. They are strong and tough girls,” said Aldabergenova. “But I think we can beat them. If we play well together we can grow as a team and win this game.”
The two countries met each other in three consecutive years at Division IB level. Italy surprised the Kazakhs in their first meeting on home ice in Asiago in 2016 with a 2-1 shootout win. One year later Kazakhstan beat Italy 2-1 in regulation time in Katowice, Poland. In 2018 again in Asiago Italy won the game 4-1 and earned promotion to the Division IA for the first time in history before being relegated back to Division IB in 2019.
Hockey fans in Torre Pellice and fans around the world through the free live stream can expect another tough battle on Sunday night at 20:15 CET. And Dmitrieva a busier evening in the Kazakh net than on the opening day.