A new head coach was presented on Tuesday for KHL club Barys Astana. Andrei Skabelka signed a two-year contract and is also set to coach the Kazakh national team when Kazakhstan will host the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A on home ice in Astana.
The head coach of Barys traditionally is also in charge of the national team in Kazakhstan as the KHL team serves as the main club for the national team roster. It won’t be different in Skabelka’s case as Askar Mamin, the President of the Kazakhstan Ice Hockey Federation, told a Kazakh journalist of Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
“Of course the national team of Kazakhstan will have to return to the elite since we will host the World Championship of our division at home. Therefore, Skabelka’s task, of course, will be to win this tournament,” Mamin said.
“The club [Barys Astana] is waiting for a restart. But at the same time every year we set a goal to get into the playoffs, this task nobody has taken away from us. We will work on it. The task as usual beautiful. Both for the club and the national team it is known. For Barys it’s in first place a change of generations. We will involve young people, players from Kazakh hockey.”
Barys Astana missed the playoffs and Yevgeni Koreshkov was replaced as head coach by Galym Mambetaliev, who was also coaching the national team at the recent 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A. Kazakhstan finished in third place and missed promotion for a second year in a row.
Kazakhstan will host the tournament for the first time. It will be the first men’s tournament of the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship to take place in the country. An event the federation looks forward to even though the task on the ice won’t be easy.
“We didn’t fulfil the task. Next year it will be even more difficult to leave from the Division I Group A because the rivals will be more serious, the national teams of Belarus and Korea,” Mamin said during the federations’ executive committee meeting. “Holding the World Championship [Division I Group A] in Astana will be a stimulus to increase the popularity of hockey in Kazakhstan.”
And while the result at the last tournament was rated as unsatisfactory by the executive committee, there are also positives such as the U20 national team joining the top-10 nations for the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship in Canada.
For Skabelka winning the tournament means having to succeed against his own country. As a player he represented Belarus in 12 World Championship tournaments and two Olympic Winter Games between 1994 and 2006 and experienced two more World Championships as a coach for the Belarusian national team.
Skabelka was an assistant coach of Belarus at the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship and became the head coach for the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship and will know many players on the opponent’s team. After that he left for Russia to coach in the Kontinental Hockey League. After one year as an assistant coach of Torpedo Nizhni Novgorod he worked four years as a head coach in Siberia, first three years at Sibir Novosibirsk and this past season for Avangard Omsk.
Belarus, Korea, Kazakhstan, Hungary, Slovenia and Lithuania will play the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A at the 12,000-seat Barys Arena in the Kazakh capital of Astana from 29 April to 5 May 2019. The best two teams will be promoted to the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Switzerland.