The match with the Americans was anticipated with special impatience. Air as if had a smell of sensation: from match to match Belarusians improved and accurately showed their intention to fight to reach the play-offs. Meanwhile, the national team of the USA demonstrated bright and attacking hockey, and perhaps, together with Canadians — the most entertaining at the championship. Even the Russians lead by Yevgeny Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk did not find arguments against young and pushy American machine. Nevertheless, our guys were going to struggle hard.
Remembering shattering defeat one year ago with which our team began in 2014 home championship, Belarusians began the match carefully. However, the present team which was gathered by Dave Lewis and his assistants significantly differs from Glen Hanlon’s analogue. Probably, it will not be an exaggeration to say that we have never had such impudent, self-assured, strong, fast and tactically trained team. In the first matches our players timidly looked at contenders, perfecting skills and mastery, but now the national team uses its power pressure, despite persons and authorities.
Surprised and confused faces of American coaches and hockey players who obviously didn’t expected such speed from their rivals, spoke better than any words about the impression made by the national team of Belarus on the whole hockey world. Our national squad has no stars, it’s — a team-star. Kalyuzhny, Kostitsyn brothers, Gavrus, Kovyrshin, Kitarov, Usenko, Shinkevich... It’s possible to enumerate the names of all our players, it’s possible to wait surprises from each of them, and in each game we will have new heroes.
Our players defeated Americans in a classical way. The experienced rival could not oppose to the national team of Belarus, though tried hard. Dave Lewis’ wards defended themselves confidently, counterattacked quickly, and threw accurately. It seemed that forces of Belarusians were inexhaustible — another surprising discovery making us to say ‘bravo, good job!’ to trainer’s staff. Gavrus, Volkov, Kitarov who scored and Kalyuzhny who scored even twice with solid support of all team made what nobody managed to do in the history of our hockey — to beat American masters. Of course, this victory didn’t provide Belarusians with a place in the play-offs, but chances are quite real.
Every other day there was a game with the national team of Russia. Probably, we have slightly overestimated the level of expectations that, of course, is not surprising after enchanting victory over the team of the USA. However a miracle happens not every day. This time, the game of the national team of Belarus was not successful and as a result — defeat with the score of 0:7.
The best what happened in that match was the first period. It was absolutely equal and as if was a continuation of the last, such successful, match with Americans. It was absolutely unclear on ice where are Russian players and where are Belarusians: waves of attacks to Bobrovsky’s net were rolled from the first minutes, and Belarusians had many chances to score, yet failed to do this…
The second and third periods were a real catastrophe. The team was as different again, and nobody managed to do anything. Moreover, Lalande received an injury. Well, probably, our players needed such a slap in the face in order to dim the flaming fire of our own ambitions and expectations. All the same, we cannot get the first place in a group yet, but we are still capable to fight for a place in the play-offs. For this purpose it’s necessary to get three points in the remaining two matches against Finns and Norwegians. It’s quite within our powers, and it means that we don’t put on sack-cloth and ashes. It’s necessary to be able to lose, too.
After the disastrous match with Russians the Finns were next in line to try Dave Lewis’ team for strength. In the toughest struggle the national team of Belarus lost to Finland in penalty shoot-outs — 2:3. The earned point brought a little bit closer Belarusians for the play-offs.
By Igor Grishin