By Igor Leshin
The Belarusian team’s final match was against HC Dinamo Riga, whom the squad last faced at the season opening, in the Latvian capital. Coach Artis Ābols and his ice hockey players received the Belarusians as Nadezhda Cup champions on that occasion; more recently, they arrived as victors of five consecutive matches and with hopes for fourth place in their conference, which gives an advantage to host the quarterfinal of the Gagarin Cup on their ground.
Fans of HC Dynamo Minsk once again proved their great loyalty and support. Dynamo Minsk lost its chance to reach the play-offs long before the end of the season; however, fans managed to almost set a record for attendance during the match which actually decided nothing. They were rewarded with a fierce first period, in which the teams seemed equally matched. The Riga players opened the score in the 7th minute, after an accurate shot by Jamie Johnson, past Minsk goalkeeper Lars Haugen. Several sharp attacks followed, with Dinamo’s Andrey Stas also scoring.
In the second twenty minutes, the Minsk players continued to attack more persistently, bringing two more superb goals within three minutes. Alexander Materukhin was the first to score, taking the puck independently to its final destination in the net, followed by Richard Lintner, outwitting Riga’s goalkeeper, Mikael Tellqvist.
In the final third, the Riga players were fully on the attack, keeping Lars Haugen on his toes. In the middle of the period, Tomбš Surovэ scored, following a fine pass from Alexander Kitarov. Each squad made another attempt at a goal in the final 90 seconds: Riga’s Gunārs Skvorcovs successfully scored the second puck, as did Zbyněk Irgl, bringing the final result to 5:2 — in favour of Ľubomнr Pokovič’s squad.
Sadly, the game solved nothing for the Minsk team, despite their skilful play and fans’ devotion. We cannot but hope that next season will be more successful for the team.