Kazakhs top Slovakia in record shootout
by Andrew Podnieks|19 MAY 2023
Kazakhstan went 4-for-4 in the penalty-shot shootout to defeat Slovakia, 4-3, their first ever win over the Slovaks at the Men's World Championship.
photo: Matt Zambonin / IIHF
Kazakhstan went 4-for-4 in the shootout to defeat Slovakia 3-2 in Group B action tonight in Riga. They had rallied from 1-0 down to score three goals in the second, but the Slovaks turned the tables in the third and made a wild rally to tie it 3-3 and sent the game to overtime.

Kazakhstan's four goals in four shots in the penalty-shot stage ties a record in Men's World Championship play set by Czechia on May 31, 2021.

Both teams had sensational chances to win outright in the short fourth period. Kazakhstan's Yevegni Rymarev displayed blazing speed to create two breakaways out of seemingly nothing, but in both cases he failed to convert. At the other end, Alex Tamasi went in alone, only to be stopped by Andrey Shutov, who was sensational all night long in stopping 48 of 51 shots. The Kazakhs fired only half that number (26) at Samuel Hlavaj.

Roman Starchenko had a goal and two assists for the winners while Marek Hrivik assisted on all three Slovakia goals, two of which were gems of passes.

This was the first ever win by the Kazakhs over Slovakia after five losses in Men's World Championship history, and it went a long way to ensure they'll be back in the top level next year. They now have four points in the standings and sit tied for sixth place, a quarter-finals berth not likely but relegation also not likely.

Slovakia, meanwhile, has five points (now in fifth place) and still has a chance to make the playoffs.

"We’ve been successful twice in the shootout now," said Batyrlan Muratov. "But we have to play well the whole game. I said before we had a problem with the first period, but today was better. We played the first period well and the second period even better. We have a lot of young guys who are in the World Championship for the first time, so it was difficult when they pushed hard. But it’s okay now; we won."

"In the second period, I think we sold ourselves short," Hrivik noted. "We put ourselves in a tough situation, and in a tournament like this, every team is good, and it’s hard to come back. It’s really painful right now to go through that, but we’ve got get over it and make sure we’re ready for the next game. It’s still in our hands to win the next two games, so that’s what we’ve got to focus on. If we win those two games, everything will take care of itself."

The first period was a tentative and cautious 20 minutes as both teams realized the implications of the game. The only goal came off a long shot from the point, a floater from Patrik Koch that was tipped in front by Libor Hudacek at 14:58. 

But the Kazakhs had their chances, they just couldn’t convert, as has been the case all tournament. They came in having scored only six goals in four games, 13th among the 16 teams, and it was evident from the events of the opening period. They had the first and only power play but could generate no clear scoring chances. 

Later, Mikhail Rakhmanov barrelled down the left wing, but his shot didn’t pose much of a problem for Hlavaj. Kirill Savitski came in on a 2-on-1, but his shot as well hit the shoulder of the Slovak goalie and drifted into the corner.

The Slovaks came out to start the second with verve, moving the puck around in the Kazakh end with confidence for the first minute, a goal looking inevitable. And then, just like that, the game changed. Defender Adil Beketayev blocked a shot in front of his goal, and crumpled to the ice in pain. While everyone was watching him, the refs said play on and the Kazakhs moved up ice quickly. Abay Mangisbayev made a sensational pass in centre to spring Starchenko free, and he beat Hlavaj with a shot between the pads at 1:03 as Beketayev remained on the ice.

Less than four minutes later, they took their first lead, scoring just after a power play had ended. Nikita Mikhails made a nice pass form the side of the goal to Valeri Orekhov, and his shot sailed over the glove of Hlavaj. Just 32 seconds after, on another power play, they converted to go up by two. Rymarev was at the side of the goal and fired a pass in front, but it hit a man and came right back to him. Hlavaj had committed to the pass, so Rymarev had an empty net. He didn’t miss. 3-1 Kazakhstan.

Meanwhile, at the other end, Shutov was sensational. The Slovaks had two later power plays but couldn’t solve the Kazakh goalie, who made his best save coming across the crease and stoning Pavol Regenda.

The Kazakhs tried sitting on the lead in the third, and that worked for several minutes...until it didn't. They took a penalty that turned the tide. Although the Slovaks didn't score, there was one wild scramble around the goal after another, Oliver Okuliar with the best chance when he hit the back of Shutov's pads with the goalie down and out.

Moments later, however, they connected. Hrivik sent a gorgeous pass through two defenders to Richard Panik, and he outwaited Shutov before roofing a backhand and making it 3-2. The Kazkahs incurred another penalty on the ensuing faceoff at centre, but they weathered the storm this time.

Not so later. Hrivik again provided the decisive pass outside the Kazakh blue line, this time sending Regenda in. He made an inside-outside move and fooled Shutov with a quick shot short side to tie the game at 16:58. That set the stage for a wild finish.