Belarusian team battles to join ice hockey elite

The plot of the Latvian-Belarusian match could equally match a Hollywood blockbuster

The plot of the Latvian-Belarusian match could equally match a Hollywood blockbuster
By Yegor Glebov

That evening, a hurricane covered Minsk. As if foretelling an ice battle, the wind broke trees and the sun irradiated with lighting. In addition, it was hailing. In turn, the overcrowded Minsk-Arena was creating a history: the Belarusian team was playing Latvia for a ticket to the quarter-finals. That was a true ice battle, bringing victory to our hockey players — 3:1!

The plot of the Latvian-Belarusian match could equally match a Hollywood blockbuster. Our team began playing with a strong attack — scoring twice to Edgars Masalskis’ goals during the first 33 seconds. During the remaining 50 minutes, our guys had to oppose their rivals’ strong attacks. It seemed, the Latvian team demonstrated a power play; moreover, the guests all time occupied the top position in the statistical protocols. No doubt, the latter fact was used to their advantage. Meanwhile, Belarusians managed to win — achieving a truly historical result. Moreover, the match outcome became an example for the home tournament.

Captain of Belarus’ national team, Alexey Kalyuzhny attacks
Captain of Belarus’ national team, Alexey Kalyuzhny attacks

However, our head coach, Glen Hanlon, had different targets. On commenting upon the achieved result, the Canadian specialist asked us not to draw a final conclusion yet. “Belarus is in the middle of its path so far.”

Goal comes from nowhere

The match culmination happened not when Geoff Platt and Mikhail Grabovski made Edgars take a puck out from his net. Moreover, it was not when three Belarusians had to play  with five Latvians (losing for the first time under their pressure). The key moment occurred 36 seconds before the final whistle; this would be definitely much discussed and reconsidered in the future. One of the final shots — created by Kaspars Daugavins — eventually scored to Kevin Lalande’s goals. However, the match referee considered that this happened due to the Latvian’s action and abolished the goal. The decision stirred a burst of emotions among the Latvian team’s fans, players and coaches. Latvia’s head coach, Ted Nolan, openly expressed his disrespect to judges after the match — advising Belarusians to name a street after them. In turn, the Head of the Latvian Hockey Federation, Kirovs Lipmans, threatened to apply an official protest for the team of judges (viewed as the best Hockey Federation specialists). Moreover, Kaspars — who evidently hoped to see his goal accepted — emotionally broke his hockey stick and knocked the gate to receive a match penalty as a result.

Afterwards, the record of the ‘goal’ was many times studied at the press centre. As a result, even most aggressive sceptics (among Latvian journalists) were convinced that the Latvian hockey player was really inside the goal during the shot. So, emotions have all rights to be expressed but we should thank the judge — for his professionalism.

Behind the scenes

Matches of the kind are always nervous, principal and fate-building. Moreover, they are often accompanied by a couple of stories which are worth discussion by fans. The championship is no exception in this respect.

Vladimir Denisov is one of the ‘characters’ of course. Having received a prize from the organisers (acknowledging him as the best player of the match), the back handed it to Kevin Lalande — which was impressive and, actually, fair.  As the statistics show, Kevin beat back 18 of shots (out of 19). Moreover, all those who’ve seen the match would agree that the goalie’s incredible action helped Belarusians psychologically stand out during the second period (when Latvians attacks lead to fisticuffs but closing the gap failed to bring psychological advantage).

Yevgeny Kovyrshin created another ‘sensation’: on the day of Belarus’ principal match, the striker became a father. Sadly, he failed to devote a goal to his child birth but the player performed brilliantly — despite the overwhelming emotions. It’s quite possible that a new hockey history was also born that day…
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