Italy outshot the Kazakhs 31-15 but was running behind a 1-0 deficit for most of the game until goals from Franziska Stocker and Anna Caumo in the final period. The team will play the next and last round of Olympic Qualification in Fussen, Germany.
“Thanks to the players for never giving up for always having a positive attitude despite the difficulties encountered in the first half,” Italy head coach Max Fedrizzi said after the game.
The teams started with entertaining north-south hockey with Kazakhstan having more puck possession in the first minutes and making use of their first official shot on goal. Kendra Lynne Broad saw her shot attempt interfered by Italian defender Amie Varano but Larisa Sviridova was in perfect position next to them to net the puck for the Kazakh lead at 3:45. The Kazakhs were active from the beginning and wanted to make up for yesterday’s historic loss to Spain that made their mission on Sunday more difficult as they would need a regulation-time win against Italy.
The game continued with chances at both ends. Kazakhstan caught the eyes in Torre Pellice with good passing and experience with their system as most players come from the same club, Aisulu Almaty, while Italy created dangerous moments with persistent, physical play in front of the net and looking for rebounds.
“We started way too soft and we played complicated hockey. They came really hard. We didn’t expect that but we kept fighting. We said after the first period let’s play easy hockey as we can do, good passes and let’s crush to the net,” Stocker said.
With Italy running into penalty trouble late in the first and early in the second period, Kazakhstan had the chances to increase the lead but the Italian penalty kill was strong. With Aida Olzhabayeva in the penalty box for an illegal bodycheck, Italy tried to gain momentum. Aurora Abatangelo had the best opportunity when missing to reach a pass in the crease. The period ended scoreless with an 8-6 shot-on-goal advantage for Italy.
Early in the third period the Italians had their next chance to play with one more player on the ice after a tripping call against Breanna Lynn Berndsen. The blue team patiently played the puck around the Kazakh penalty kill positions until Franziska Stocker was in good position at the right face-off dot. After receiving Nadia Mattivi’s pass she took the time she got for a top-shelf shot that went in behind Darya Dmitrieva at 2:27 to the loud joy of the Italian bench and fans in Torre Pellice’s Palaghiaccio Olimpico.
“We knew the goal would be coming and the feeling was amazing with my teammates cheering so much. It was a feeling of relief because we had been so close many times,” Stocker said.
“Italia! Italia!” chants for the first time echoed through the rink. Kazakhstan tried to react with a fast attack but a penalty for delaying the game against Erin Monique McLean didn’t make the challenge any easier for the Kazakhs.
During the last minutes the Kazakhs tried to create chances to tie the game while on the other side Abatangelo missed a good one on a breakaway. But the Italians didn’t allow their opponents to get back into the game and earned the 2-1 win and the tickets to the Final Olympic Qualification Group D in Fussen, Germany.