To Russia with love
To Russia with love
Hungary, Kazakhstan return in 2016
For Hungary it was an exciting and much celebrated moment when it claimed second place at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Krakow by beating host Poland 2-1 in the deciding game of the tournament, while favourite Kazakhstan dominated the event in a spectacular manner.
Kazakhstan was locked in as the tournament winner after the fourth of five round-robin games. They started with clear wins over Ukraine (5-2), Hungary (5-0) and Japan (7-2) before facing a tougher challenge in a 3-2 win against host Poland that crowned Kazakhstan as tournament winner in the former royal capital of Poland. On the last day Kazakhstan continued its streak with a 3-0 blanking of Italy. Roman Starchenko, who was the scoring leader with four goals and six points, won the MVP and Best Forward awards while his teammate Kevin Dallman was named Best Defenceman.
“It was a hard-fought win. After the first period the coach made some changes and they turned out well,” said Starchenko, who scored the game-winner against Poland with five minutes left while coach Andrei Nazarov added about the reason for the success: “The guys played well and they did what they were asked for and I’m happy they listened to me.”
With traditional top division contenders Italy and Japan as well as Ukraine coming with a lot of new faces on their teams there was room for other teams to improve. On the last day it was Hungary and host Poland that went head-to-head to battle it out for the second ticket to the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
In front of 12,632 fans in Krakow including a contingent of roughly 3,000 Hungarians who travelled to the city, Hungary just needed one more point from the game while a regulation-time win was necessary for Poland to move up for the first time in 14 years.
The players from the host country battled hard but produced too little offensively during two scoreless periods. 90 seconds into the third period Hungary’s Janos Hari scored on the rebound after a blocked Frank Banham shot.
The 1-0 score meant Poland would need to score two goals in the remainder of the third period. With 3:08 left and the goalie pulled a Mateusz Bryk slapshot went in behind a screened Hungarian goalie.
Now the Poles were working on the second goal in front of an enthusiastic crowd but with four seconds left Hungarian defenceman Bence Sziranyi scored into the empty net from his own zone to seal the tickets to Russia for next spring for the Hungarian team that in its 2015 edition included several naturalized players from the domestic clubs including its scoring leader Andrew Sarauer, Banham and Tyler Metcalfe, whose grandfather was Hungarian.
For Hungary it’s only the third time in the post-World War II era that the men’s national team will play at a top-level event, after the 1964 Olympics and in 2009, when Hungary made it to the top-level World Championship for the first time in 70 years. This time the Magyars had to wait only seven years while Poland had to settle for bronze.
“It was a great team effort to stick together until the end. It’s unbelievable. It was a good job from the goalie to the defence to the forwards. Everybody worked for the same reason and finally we did it,” Hungarian forward Daniel Koger said.
“The good thing about this team is everybody goes for the team and that’s why we are successful. Right now we just want to feel this moment every second and celebrate with the guys.”
The celebration with the fans continued the day after on a stage in downtown Budapest.
“We may not have had the best team behind Kazakhstan on paper but the players stuck to the plan from the beginning of the training camp and you could see the progression every day and the believe that developed in a very short time,” head coach Rich Chernomaz said but also warned:
“It’s going to be a totally different world next year. For us to be able to win a game [in the top division] we have to be perfect. But if you stick on a plan and stay disciplined you can achieve the unachievable and that’s what we did [in Krakow].”
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