Norway stays up, Kazakhstan goes down
by Lucas AYKROYD|02 MAY 2024
Norway's Elias Vatne (centre) and his teammates have reason to celebrate after avoiding relegation with a 6-5 shootout win over Kazakhstan at the 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship.
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Chris Tanouye
On Elias Vatne's shootout winner, Norway outlasted Kazakhstan 6-5 in Thursday’s relegation game in Vantaa. The Norwegians will return to compete in the 2025 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in the United States, while Kazakhstan goes down to Division IA.

In the eleventh round of the shootout, Vatne, who wore the "C" and also had a goal and two assists in regulation time, coolly came in and beat Kazakh goalie Tarnirkhan Alpysbayev to the stick side. Alpysbayev replaced starter Abilaikhan Toleubay for the shootout.

"It was really good to see it go in the net," said Norway's Jorgen Myhre.

It’s a big moment for Norway, which has never stayed in the top division for three straight years before. Last year, the Norwegians swept their best-of-three relegation series with Germany.

Other Norwegian standouts in this do-or-die game included Mikkel Eriksen, who scored twice and added an assist, and Mathias Dehli, who racked up three helpers.

Korney Korneyev and Assanali Sarkenov chipped in a goal and an assist apiece for Kazakhstan.

For Kazakhstan, it’s a disappointment after a hard-fought tournament that included a surprise 4-3 overtime victory over the Czechs. Despite falling 7-1 to Sweden and 11-3 to Canada, the Kazakhs brought a never-say-die mentality under coach Georgi Vereshagin.

"We're always optimistic," said defender Mtstislav Shipilin. "Next year, we're going to support our guys to return [to the top division]."

In this back-and-forth battle, Kazakhstan rallied from deficits of 3-1 and 5-3, but couldn’t complete the comeback. Final shots favoured Norway 32-28.

Vatne opened the scoring at 6:30 and set up Eriksen for his third goal of these U18 Worlds at 13:46. Korneyev got Kazakhstan on the board with 2:45 left in the first period.

Eriksen restored Norway's two-goal lead early in the second period, but the Kazakhs fought back to equalize with Vitaliy Bozhhko's power-play marker at 8:41.

Niklas Aaram Olsen, a budding Norwegian star at age 16, put his nation up 4-3 just 1:09 later, and Myhre made it 5-3 at 6:37 of the third period. It looked like Norway finally had some breathing room.

But the Kazakhs refused to cave in, as Arthur Glukhikh and Mstislav Shipilin scored goals in the last nine minutes of regulation to send the game to overtime.

"Kazakhstan is good," said Myhre. "It was tighter than it could be, but a good game."

In the last minute of sudden-death, an unguarded Eriksen had a glorious chance to deke out Toleubay, but he couldn't get it past the 18-year-old's outstretched right leg. Fortunately, Vatne would come to the rescue, and it's happy days in Oslo.

"We have some good talents coming up," Myhre added. "Especially the guys on our team right now, and many more to come!"