International Ice Hockey Federation

“It will be a good game”

“It will be a good game”

Kazakh team could write Continental Cup history in Belfast

Published 14.01.2019 00:06 GMT+3 | Author Martin Merk
“It will be a good game”
Head coach Vladimir Kapulovski (second from left) behind the bench of Arlan Kokshetau during the 2019 IIHF Continental Cup Final. Photo: William Cherry
Never before has a team from Kazakhstan won the IIHF Continental Cup. Nomad Astana was close last year before losing to host Yunost Minsk.

Will Arlan Kokshetau make it better against this year’s host Belfast Giants in a winner-takes-it-all game on Sunday evening?

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 me my hockey players are the best. The league in Kazakhstan is getting better and we also have good players there,” he said and added: “But maybe one day I will go back to the KHL again.”

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.


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