Hockey squad rehearses for World Championship
By Dmitry Komashko
The participation of Belarusians was a challenge for Kari Heikkila’s team on the eve of the major event: the 76th IIHF World Championship, being held in Finland and Sweden from May 4th-20th, 2012.
The match left an ambiguous impression, as our squad managed to defeat Switzerland and Germany yet had a frustrating final with Slovakia. Despite the guests failing to demonstrate their best play, they easily ensured a confident victory of 5:1, winning the tournament. The Slovaks took revenge on Belarus for their December defeat in the Osterreich Cup semi-finals in Klagenfurt, where Belarusians won in overtime — 2:1.
“Today, the Slovaks were the best,” muses Kari Heikkila, the head coach of Belarus’ national team. “The first goal that we missed, around the 20th second of the match, affected our play. Moreover, we were exhausted. Second place is a positive result, as the tournament brought together four good teams; we had some novice players but they played well. It’s a good stepping stone to the future.”
Third place in Minsk’s Four Nations BelSwissBank Cup tournament went to the Swiss team, who defeated Germany.
The winner of the tournament — the Slovak team — was awarded a cheque for 15,000 Swiss Francs by the general sponsor. The Belarusian squad received 12,000 Swiss Francs while that of Switzerland claimed 8,000 and Germany’s prize was 5,000 Swiss Francs.
The national team of Belarus was performing without a captain to honour the memory of their former captain, Ruslan Saley, who perished in a plane crash on September 7th, 2011. The team intends to leave the post vacant until the World Championship. Meanwhile, before the major start of the season, they’ll have a long training camp, playing several matches in the Euro Hockey Challenge and the Slovakia Cup, which will also feature players from Germany, Slovakia and Switzerland.