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Hockey players fail to reach Olympiad

Belarus’ national hockey team won’t be playing at the Olympic Games in Sochi, having lost unexpectedly to Slovenia at the qualification tournament hosted by Danish Vojens
By Dmitry Baranovsky

The Slovenians weren’t considered favourites, as their leader, Anže Kopitar, was absent, having joined Los Angeles after the end of the NHL lockout. The Danish hosts seemed a more formidable rival, whom Belarus anticipated locking horns with. Meanwhile, the Ukrainians appeared to be outsiders in our group.

Problems began for coach Andrey Skabelka’s team even before the tournament commenced, as Chelyabinsk Traktor forward Andrey Kostitsyn — a true leader in the squad — was dismissed for missing training. Goalkeeper Andrey Mezin was also couldn’t help his team, but the coach stresses that these were not the root cause of our loss. Sadly, the results are irreversible. 

In the first match against the Slovenians, Razingar’s penalty shot, exact shot by Rodman and Mikhalev’s disallowed puck resulted in Slovenians’ becoming leaders, followed by the Danes. “We need to win our remaining matches,” mused Mr. Skabelka. “The Slovenians are likely to make a false step and we’ll be able to correct the situation.”

Belarus won its remaining matches in the qualification round, beating Ukraine (6:0) and Denmark. However, the Slovenians turned everything on its head, defeating the Danes and taking the Sochi ticket. Belarus’ victories over Ukraine and Denmark counted for nothing.

Belarus won its last match less confidently than was expected. Stepanov scored the decisive puck at the beginning of the third period, after which our Danish hosts had plenty of opportunities to score. Only the confident actions of goalkeeper Vitaly Kovalev helped the team hold its victorious score. Sadly, this won’t influence the tournament standings or our Olympic prospects. We can only hope that our squad will be able to use its ‘spare’ time efficiently, in preparation for the IIHF World Championships, hosted by Minsk in 2014.
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