It’s sometimes not enough just to want to play well
By Dmitry Baranovsky
A serious test lies ahead for our national squad, although Finnish coach Kari Heikkila has every faith in them. Recently, he signed a new contract with Dinamo Minsk (playing in the Continental Hockey League).
Optimistically, Mr. Heikkila is unworried by our less than brilliant results, losing to Sweden and Finland in friendly matches; he notes that Belarus played well in the Skoda Cup, coming second in Bratislava.
“We’ve had a hard month of training, with many team members noting their exhaustion. However, after the match against Norway at the Skoda Cup, I asked them, ‘Do you think the Norwegians are less tired? Yet you beat them’. We’re approaching the World Championship in good spirits but need to further improve our performance. All our players need to give their utmost to training. If they do so, I think we’ll have a chance of returning home in a good mood!” asserts Mr. Heikkila.
However, the start of the World Championship was frustrating for the Belarusian team. Defeat by the Finnish squad in the first match of the tournament was no tragedy — as the World Champion was no easy rival, and the Belarusians allowed through only one Finnish goal. The match against Switzerland was far more important from the point of view of tournament prospects. The Belarusians fought hard, twice equalising, and had enough opportunities to move ahead, but the Swiss finally claimed victory. The second defeat in a row has significantly worsened the position of the Belarusian team but we are still in with a chance.
Heikkila’s squad is still finding its feet, doing better with each appearance on the ice. Secondly, the players have had a difficult season, with many performing leading roles in their clubs. Moreover, the team is yet to play with its optimal line-up. On the eve of travelling to Helsinki, Omsk Avangard forward Alexey Kalyuzhny, known as a strong player, joined the squad. Meanwhile, for obvious reasons, the Kostitsyn brothers (performing in the NHL) were unable to take part in the friendly matches (their Nashville team was fighting for a place in the finals of the Stanley Cup).