Game off on wrong foot

The Belarusian national team has not reached the top eight squads at the World Hockey Championship, failing to meet head coach Kari Heikkila’s hopes in Helsinki

By Dmitry Baranovsky

The match against the Swiss national team was vital, while the presence of Canada, the USA and Slovakia in our group automatically made each match significant. Unfortunately, we lacked sufficient strength and saw defeat from Finland (0:1) and Switzerland (2:3).

Despite victory over Kazakhstan (3:2), a small miracle was required against the Americans and Slovaks to reach the play-offs. After missing two goals from the USA at the beginning of the first half — leaving the score at 0:2 — Belarus managed to equalise and even had opportunities to take the lead. However, inconsistent play and lack of luck led to our opponent taking victory.

Mr. Heikkila remains optimistic, even after such a frustrating defeat. However, neither he, nor the presence of the Kostitsyn brothers (joining after their Nashville club lost in the Stanley Cup), could help the Belarusian national team.

On the eve of the key match against the Slovak team, the most experienced goal keeper, Andrey Mezin, staged a walk out from the Belarusian squad. According to Mr. Heikkila, this left the team’s spirits dejected, leading to a frustrating defeat of 1:5. The team now has absolutely no chance of reaching the play-offs.

Scoring points from the 2012 IIHF World Championship are now being calculated to determine who will go to the Olympics in Sochi directly and who will enter the qualification tournament (struggling for three more places). The rest will have to be content to attend as guests. Heikkila’s team will be trying to ‘jump into the last wagon’ in its matches against the French and Canadians — no easy task.

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