Weekend in Kazakhstan, Spain

Women’s Olympic Qualification continues

03.11.2016
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Kazakhstan and Poland are among the teams battling this weekend in Astana. Photo: Ian Hanlon

ZURICH – The Women’s Olympic Qualification continues with the second preliminary round. All games from Astana, Kazakhstan, and San Sebastian, Spain, will be streamed live.

A record 28 women’s national teams have registered to play at the next Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang 2018 but only for eight the dream will come true. The top-five countries of the 2016 IIHF Women’s World Ranking – USA, Canada, Finland, Russia and Sweden – as well as host Korea are already qualified while two spots are open for qualifiers.

The first preliminary round took place one month ago. Mexico won it on home ice in Mexico City against Hong Kong and Turkey. That means 20 teams are still in the race for the last two spots in PyeongChang 2018. Eight of them play this week in the second preliminary round.

Group G will be hosted by Kazakhstan in the country’s capital of Astana. The Kazakh women’s national team once played at the Olympics, in Salt Lake City 2002, and most recently played in the top division of the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in 2011. Since then the team of Alexander Maltsev has gone down the ranks until the fourth tier before moving back up to the third level, the Division I Group B.

In Astana they will be the top-seeded team against Great Britain, Poland and Mexico. The games will be played at Barys Arena, a KHL venue. “We’re pleased that it takes place in such a modern arena where we have good conditions for the athletes,” national team coach Alexander Maltsev told the website of the Ice Hockey Federation of Kazakhstan. “Every athlete has the dream of going to the Olympic Games every four years and we’re going towards this goal. We will fight in every match and try to show our best game.”

Click here for the schedule, live scores and statistics from Astana. Click here for the live stream starting with the Great Britain vs. Mexico game on Thursday.

It will be a bit less wintery for the other four teams as the other tournament takes place in San Sebastian in the Basque County but with a different plot. Host Spain is the lowest-seeded team in the tournament and the team coached by former Swedish women’s national team coach Christian Yngve will battle against the Netherlands, Italy and Slovenia.

Click here for the schedule, live scores and statistics from San Sebastian. Click here for the live stream with the first games being played on Friday.

The winner of each tournament will advance to the Olympic Qualification Preliminary Round 3. The higher-seeded winner will travel to Stavanger in December where Norway, Slovakia and Hungary will play from 16 to 18 December. The other tournament winner will travel to Cergy-Pontoise near Paris and battle it out with host France, Latvia and China from 15 to 18 December.

The tournament winners in December will then advance to the Final Olympic Qualification, which will take place 9-12 February 2017 and determine the two qualifiers for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. Switzerland will host one group with the Czech Republic, Denmark and a qualifier in Arosa. The other tournament will take place in Tomakomai with host Japan, Germany, Austria and a qualifier.

MARTIN MERK

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