China ensures spot in top tier

ADAM WAZNY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:00 AM ET

SELKIRK -- China's first objective at the 2007 World Women's Hockey Championships was to avoid the relegation round.

A 7-0 victory over Kazakhstan before 1,310 people at the Selkirk Recreational Centre last night ensured that.

"Every game is very important for our team," forward Wang Linuo said prior to the game. "We must stay in Group A."

By Group A, Wang is referring to the top level of women's hockey on the planet, not the group her country is in with Kazakhstan and the United States this week.

The Kazakhs are now 0-2 in the real Group A, meaning the Chinese can finish no worse than sixth in the tournament. Kazakhstan is ticketed to the relegation round -- joining Russia (Group C) and either Germany, Switzerland, or Canada (Group B) in the fight to avoid a demotion to a lower division.

With the 2008 worlds in Beijing, the pressure is on China in Selkirk and Winnipeg to at least maintain their current global standing. Avoiding a last-place finish had to be high on the to-do list. Even though a possible demotion wouldn't take away China's host team status (the event would just grow from nine to 10 teams), it would still be an embarrassing situation for the proud nation.

"The (goal) is to finish in a good place," said Wang, who picked up an assist. "Last (world championship), we placed sixth. This year we want to stay sixth, but maybe improve. Maybe five, maybe four -- we have a chance."

China got goals from Rui Ma, Rui Sun, Liang Tang, Ben Zhang, Fengling Jin, Ziwei Su, and Hong Sang. Yao Shi made 27 saves, while the combination of Darya Obydennova and Yekaterina Ryzhova faced 41 shots in the Kazakhstan crease.

Round-robin Group A play wraps up tonight. China takes on the U.S. (7:30 p.m.).

ALMOST: Some controversy in the game last night, as Kazakhstan looked to score its first goal of the tournament in the second period. Svetlana Vassina's high shot looked to catch the crossbar and some of the twine, but play continued. At the next whistle, Finnish ref Anu Hirvonen got on the phone and checked with the limited replay resources to make sure the Kazakhs weren't short-changed.


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