SELKIRK -- While the United States will break in some young players tonight, their opponent will be breaking in some new equipment.
Kazakhstan will probably not be taking home a medal when the 2007 Women's World Hockey Championships end, but they will be leaving Manitoba with some brand new hockey equipment, bought during their training camp in Morden last week.
A much-needed purchase, according to team leader and coach Sergey Solovyev.
"There is a lot of hockey equipment in Kazakhstan, but it's not as good quality," Solovyev said with the aide of translator Tania Berger at the Selkirk Recreational Complex yesterday. "It's very expensive. (We) don't have special stores or dealers for hockey."
In most cases, the national teams of Kazakhstan will have to order equipment from neighbouring Russia, where the growing country pays not only in the purchase of the equipment but shipping costs, as well. Plus, the pricey equipment would sometimes get damaged during the lengthy transit, forcing the players to wear sub-standard gear for practices and games.
During the Morden shopping trip, the Kazakhstan players actually got to wear the helmets and pads before team officials pulled out the credit cards. It sounds like a small thing, something trivial that you wouldn't give a second thought about, but the difference meant a lot.
"They were able to try it, to see it, and to pick it up right there," Berger added. "It was the first time they were shopping for equipment, not just ordering it."
Next on the list for Kazakhstan is a game with the powerful U.S. team tonight (7:30 p.m.) in Selkirk. While the Americans are the prohibitive favourites, the Kazakhs realize they have nothing to lose. Like the U.S., they're more interested on focusing on their own game and not the results.
"A hard game, a tough game," answered 17-year-old goaltender Yekaterina Rhyzhova on what she expects from the defending world champs. "I'm expecting a lot of shots. It will be hard but I'll do my best. (We've had) good practices, and we're waiting for the games. We want to show (ourselves) what we can do."