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Kazakhstan wins men’s ice hockey gold medal

26 Feb 2017
Sapporo, Japan, February 26, 2017: Kazakhstan clinched the gold medal in the men’s ice hockey competition at the 8th Asian Winter Games for the fourth time on Sunday to successfully defend the title they won at home in 2011. Kazakhstan beat Japan 7-0 in the final round-robin game of the four-team Top Division at the Tsukisamu Gymnasium to record their third straight shutout and end the tournament having scored 19 goals without conceding any.

Ranked 16th in the world and boasting an experienced lineup packed with players who ply their trade in the Kontinental Hockey League, Kazakhstan proved to be in a class of their own, with their powerful, fast skaters. After beating South Korea 4-0 then China 8-0, Kazakhstan produced another clinical display, drawing gasps of admiration from the Japanese fans who had packed out the stadium hoping to see the host-nation win.

Gold medallists in 2003 and 2007, Japan were powerless to stop a Kazakhstan team that dominated the game from the outset with their superior power, skill and tactics. Kazakhstan scored four times in the first period with forward Yaroslav Yevdokimov opening the scoring after just 31 seconds and Ilya Kovzalov, Kirill Savitskiy and Nikita Mikhailis all netting.

Yevdokimov buried the puck into the net again in the second period and the captain Konstantin Savenkov also got his name on the scorer’s sheet while Japanese forward Kenta Takagi was serving a 10-minute penalty for misconduct. Kazakhstan led 6-0 lead heading into the third period and Kovazalov finished off the scoring with his second goal less than 90 seconds before the end to complete the rout.

Japan earned the bronze medal after finishing third in the Top Division while Korea took the silver after beating China 10-0 in their last pool match with Shin Sang-hoon leading the way with a hat-trick and Park Jin-kyu netting twice.

Bronze medallists four times previously, Korea’s second-place was their best ever finish at the Asian Winter Games and a confidence-booster ahead of next year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang where they will make their Olympic debut after qualifying automatically as hosts.

With a record 18 teams of varying experience and ability entered for Sapporo, including many first-time teams from regions where it does not snow, the organisers split the competition into three different leagues, with the best four teams in the Top Division and able to win medals. Thailand finished first in the six-team Division I, signing off in grand style with a 14-0 victory over Singapore.

Thailand was unbeaten in five games, including the decisive round-robin game with Chinese Taipei that went to overtime. The eight teams in Division II were split into two groups of four with the two winners playing off in a final, which saw Kyrgyzstan finishing top of Group A and  Turkmenistan topping Group B.
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