So far the team has been on track. Two games, two wins and a 12-4 goal record made the team first in the standings before meeting the also-undefeated Giants on Sunday.
Writing history as the first club from Kazakhstan to win this European club competition would be a huge achievement for a club that was only founded in 2009 when the Championship of Kazakhstan expanded to more cities to spread this great sport across the vast country.
58-year-old coach Vladimir Kapulovski joined the club in 2016 after having worked as an assistant coach at the top level of Russian hockey for Atlant Mytishi, Spartak Moscow, Lev Poprad and Avangard Omsk.
“I work and live there, Arlan and Kokshetau have become part of my life, I like it. We have a good team that became champion for the first time and qualified for the final of the Continental Cup. It was our aim and we did it together,” Kapulovski said about his club.
It’s a rather young organization compared to some of the classic organizations he was in before. But that’s not a problem. “Everything is okay there. The arena is okay, we are in a good position,” he said.
“In the KHL the organizations are of course at a different level, clubs travel with their private planes or charter planes there. The KHL also has bad hockey players, great hockey players and super professional hockey players.”
For the native of Murmansk in the north of Russia, Arlan Kokshetau is not the first job in Central Asia. As a young hockey player on the way to the top Soviet league with Avangard Omsk he had to take a detour through the second-highest Soviet league and landed at Binokor Tashkent in what is now Uzbekistan.
“I like to work in Central Asia but you cannot compare Tashkent and Kazakhstan,” he said with a big smile when reminded about his stint in the ‘80s. “In Kazakhstan we have winter, in Tashkent it’s like in Florida. But they build an arena for 18,000 spectators, maybe there will be some serious hockey there with a team in the KHL or VHL [Russia’s second league] in the future.”
For now he anyway cares most about the present and takes it day by day. So far he has had reasons to be happy in Belfast. After fast starts they beat both GKS Katowice (4-2) and HK Gomel (8-2).
“We went onto the ice just to play and win the game. The tournament is very short. Every game is very important in this tournament. For a coach it’s enough to win by one or two goals but the players scored a lot of goals. You can’t tell the players not to score,” said Kapulovski after the last game.
The last opponent will be the Belfast Giants. And Kapulovski makes it clear that he focuses more on his team’s game than on others. What does he know about the Giants? “Nothing,” he said.
Really nothing? “I saw their games, it was impressive. I also didn’t know anything about Katowice and we played a good game. We have our chance, it will be a good game,” he said.
Follow the game in the Belfast Giants’ live stream or the ticker on the tournament page.