Josh Lund of the Trinity Western Spartans ahead of Thursday night's clash with Kazakhstan's national junior team. (December 13th, 2018)

Story & Photos by Alex Rodgerson/ISN

With the 2019 World Juniors tournament set to begin in under two weeks Kazakhstan’s national junior team earned their second straight victory in pre-tournament competition on Thursday night, coming away with a 4-3 overtime win over the defending BCIHL champion Trinity Western Spartans.

Kazakhstan’s Daniyar Samat had three points including a penalty shot goal in overtime to lift his team to their second win over their BCIHL competition, having earned a convincing victory over the University of Victoria Vikes just two nights prior.

Trinity Western, despite a pair of goals from Jarrett Fontaine and three assists from defenceman Jacob Mills, would come up just short against their international opponents after battling back to erase a two goal third period deficit. Spartans’ goaltenders Lucas Mills and Josh Lund would combine for twenty-eight saves on the night while Team Kazakhstan goalie Denis Karatayev turned away twenty-seven of thirty shots in the victory.

Both teams would feel each other out in the games opening minutes, with Kazakhstan generating the games first real scoring chance just over three minutes in. After the Spartans would cough up the puck in their own zone, Kazakhstan’s Dias Gusseinov would walk in all alone on Spartans’ goaltender Lucas Mills. Gusseinov would deek to the forehand but would be denied by a beautiful blocker save by Mills, who currently leads the BCIHL in save percentage and goals against average. This would be the best opportunity for either team in the early going, before Kazakhstan would break the ice at 6:49.

Daniyar Sayan, who serves as the captain of Team Kazakhstan, would take a pass in the slot and score his second of the pre-tournament on a quick shot over the shoulder of Mills. Trinity Western would se their chance to pull even midway through the period as two straight penalties would send the Spartans to a five-on-three advantage, however after the first penalty would expire Dias Gusseinov would jump out of the box and walk in on his second breakaway of the period. Spartans’ Jarrett Fontaine would come back to break up the play, but would head to the box himself as a result.

Lucas Mills would make his second five-star save on the ensuing Kazakhstan powerplay, as the BCIHL’s current wins-leader would flash the leather and make a great glove save. Team Kazakhstan’s PP would look good early, working the puck into open areas while sneaking a man into the high slot. Late in the first both teams would look to take a physical edge, laying the body at each and every opportunity.

Gusseinov and Oleg Bolko would each record solid hits for Kazakhstan while TWU’s Dustin Deugau would have his teams best hit of the period. Despite concluding the period tied in shots, Team Kazakhstan would vastly out-chance the Spartans in the games opening twenty and take a 1-0 lead into the dressing room.

Spartans’ Jordan Bogress would lead the charge for his team to start the second period, coming within a hair of tying the game in the periods opening minute after beating two Kazakhstan defenders and getting a good shot off. Kazakhstan goalie Denis Karatayev would be equal to the task however and make a quick pad save to keep his team ahead.

The hard-hitting would continue in period two as Artyom Korolyov would be sent off for boarding, on a hit that would enrage both sides leading to a scrum in the Kazakhstan zone. After the teams would return to even strength, Trinity Western would look to get on the attack, led by Jordan Bogress. Bogress, a Vancouver-born forward, would win the puck from behind the Kazakhstan net before feeding Jarrett Fontaine right in front for a tap in goal.

Fontaine’s second period tally would energize the Spartans, leading to some of their first good sustained pressure of the game. However, Team Kazakhstan would then retake the lead after some good forechecking by Daniyar Sayan. Sayan would manage to win the puck behind the Spartans goal and take it out front, before losing the handle and having the puck land right on the stick of Davyd Makutskiy. Makutskiy would make no mistake from in tight, and give Kazakhstan a 2-1 lead.

Spartans goaltender Mills would continue his strong game in the crease for TWU throughout the period, and would make the save of the game late in the frame. After a dangerous odd man rush for Kazakhstan would see Mills forced to slide to his right, the puck would come back across the slot forcing the Spartans goalie into desperation mode. Mills, a Burnaby-born goaltender in his fourth year with TWU, would then make a heroic windmill glove save to keep his team within a goal.

Spartans’ Evan Cusmano would make his presence felt late in the frame, recording several huge hits in the offensive zone and rattling the fillings of several Kazakhstan defenders. After fourty minutes Trinity Western would trail 2-1, while the two teams would be tied in shots with twenty a piece.

In a somewhat unexpected move, Spartans goaltender and Texas-native Josh Lund would replace Lucas Mills to start the final period despite Mills still staying on the bench for the Spartans. This would indicate no injury to Mills, however a cold Lund would enter the game and be tested almost immediately.

After the Spartans would go down a man on an early tripping call, Kazakhstan’s Daniyar Samat would blast a one-time slap shot from the point that would beat Lund over the shoulder to extend Team Kazakhstans lead to 3-1. Denis Karatayev on the other hand would pick up where he left off to start the final frame, continuing his strong positioning between the pipes and keeping his team ahead as Kazakhstan would look to stay perfect in their pre-tournament schedule.

TWU would head back to the powerplay midway through the third, looking to cut into the Kazakhstan lead. On the powerplay the Spartans would do a great job cycling the puck around and getting bodies in the shooting lanes, which would lead to Spartans’ Elijah Vilio taking a one time feed from Jordan Bogress and blasting home a shot from the point. This would bring the Spartans back to within one with under half a period left to play.

Late in the contest with the Spartans pressing for the equalizer, TWU would head to their sixth powerplay of the night with a chance to draw even. On the powerplay Evan Last would get the puck to Jarrett Fontaine, who would score his second goal of the evening to tie the game 3-3. Fontaine, who currently has twelve points in twelve games so far this season in intercollegiate play, would have another strong offensive outing for the Spartans as the two teams would head to overtime.

In the extra frame, Kazakhstan’s Daniyar Samat would be hauled down on a breakaway and awarded a penalty shot at the 4:22 mark of overtime. Going one-on-one with Spartans goaltender Josh Lund, Samat would elect to deek, putting the puck up and over Lund to give Kazakhstan a 4-3 overtime victory.

Despite the first ever meeting between the TWU Spartans and Kazakhstan’s national junior team, Thursday night’s clash at the Langley Events Centre was a bone-rattling one with both teams laying some gigantic hits throughout the game. Spartans’ Evan Cusmano was especially noticeable on the forecheck, sending a few of the Kazakhstan defencemen literally flying through the air in the attacking zone. For Kazakhstan, Dias Gusseinov also displayed a very impressive physical game and was the most tenacious forward for Team Kazakhstan on the night.

While both teams would play a very similar transition-style of play, Kazakhstan’s straight ahead speed game would prove too much for Trinity Western on the night. Despite keeping pace with Kazakhstan on the shot clock throughout the game, Trinity Western would not be able to generate the same level of quality chances as their international foes.

TWU would gain momentum as the game wore on building off of a strong and physical forecheck, but a slow start would end up sinking the Spartans in their attempt to over come Team Kazakhstan on this night. With his penalty shot overtime tally, Kazakhstan’s Sayan Daniyar now has four points in his last two games vs the BCIHL, while both teams would register two powerplay markers on the night.

Kazakhstan will be a part of Group B in the upcoming 2019 World Juniors Tournament, a bracket that includes Sweden, Finland, the United States and Slovakia. Having never placed in the medal round of any World Juniors tournament, the Kazakhs will no doubt be in tough against the top U-20 international teams on the planet.

Next up is the final game in Team Kazakhstan’s World Juniors pre-tournament schedule against the BCIHL, as the Kazakhs will look to stay perfect when they take on the All-Stars of the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League. For TWU, they will now have some time off before resuming intercollegiate play on January 3rd.