Savitski still believes
by Andy Potts|17 MAY 2022
Kazakhstan's Kirill Savitski lines up with his team-mates after the game against France.
photo: Chris Tanouye / HHOF-IIHF Images
The Kazakh national team arrived in Helsinki with hopes of breaking into the play-off rounds for the first time. A year ago in Riga, the Kazakhs finished fifth in their group, denied a quarter-final spot in a defeat against Norway. This time around, with Group A disrupted by the absence of the Russians, there was a golden chance to build on that.

Unfortunately, those hopes took an immediate battering. Within five minutes of the opening game, Kazakhstan was down 0-3 against Denmark. That game finished 9-1, for a time the Danes threatened to hand out a record loss. Next came a 1-2 reverse against France. After dreaming of the knock-out rounds, Kazakhstan faces a rude awakening and things are unlikely to get any easier tonight against an impressive Swiss team.

But forward Kirill Savitski, playing in his second World Championship, believes that his teammates can turn it around.

“Last year we had a good team,” said the 27-year-old Barys Nur-Sultan man. “I don’t think we’re suddenly a lot worse this year. This is still basically the same team that did well a year ago.

“It might be a psychological thing, but right now we can’t get the same results and nobody can really explain why not.”

That said, Savitski feels there was visible progress in the game against France.

“The first game was really bad,” he added. “In the second game we played better but we didn’t get the breaks.”

Savitski’s late goal against Denmark, his first in the top division of the World Championship, may also have helped the team recover from its bad start – although the man himself played down its importance.

“I’m always happy to score a goal, but I couldn’t get too excited because it didn’t help the result,” he said. “It was just a consolation goal at the end of the game, but hopefully it helped us a bit in the next one.”
Against Switzerland, Kazakhstan will need more from its special teams. So far, the power play has yet to produce a goal, while the penalty kill has been problematic, with an alarmingly low 44.4% success rate. Taking 20 minutes of penalties through two games is hardly helping the cause. Significantly, it was a French power play goal after a cheap foul late in the second period that settled Sunday’s game.

And the Swiss form in Helsinki doesn’t suggest much chance of a slip-up. After all, Patrick Fischer’s team won its last game 6-0 – against the same Denmark roster that thrashed Kazakhstan at the start of the tournament.

Fischer, meanwhile, is not about to allow his team to relax. “We have to be ready from the first second, to be alert and disciplined,” he said of the upcoming game against Kazakhstan. “This Kazakh team can be especially dangerous now after two bad losses.”

In Fischer’s debut as national coach at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, Switzerland 3-2 in shootout to Kazakhstan and only finished in 11th place – two years before winning silver.

Savitski remains confident that his team has enough to make things better.

“Our strength is in our unity,” he said. “Every player works hard and cares about this team. We are all frustrated with the results, but we believe in this team. If we do what the coaches ask and play our roles on the ice, we can win games here.

“Yes, we lost our first two games, but we are trying to put that behind us and stay optimistic. Everybody wants to put it right.”