Our Belarusian hockey players have given perhaps their worst performance of recent years. Head coach Eduard Zankovets’ forecast of reaching the quarter-finals has been dashed after the squad was beaten by formidable Canada and promising Switzerland. The first match against Canada was an exciting one; in the first two periods, Belarus was quite active yet failed to take advantage of its opportunities. Meanwhile, Canada employed every chance to score, closing with a 4:1 lead. The match against Switzerland was also no piece of cake, as the opponent was flawless. The team easily swept aside our National Hockey League players, Mikhail Grabovsky and Andrey Kostitsyn, winning as a result. Compared to Canada and Switzerland, France had been viewed as an easier target but they also turned out to be fast, with sharp attack skills. Their goal-keeper, Cristobal Huet, played exceptionally well, swinging the outcome of the match to a 2:1 victory during overtime.
As a result, Belarus was fighting for survival. Belarus managed to defeat Austria (7:2), but lost to Latvia (3:6) before beating Slovenia in a decisive match (7:1). This enables our national squad to stay in the elite hockey group, which it first joined in 1998. It has stayed for 12 seasons and has only twice before dropped below 14th position (as it has now). Our squad’s performance in Slovakia has revealed obvious training shortcomings. With lack of physical skill, it is hard to talk about tactical strength. Another impression is that not all of our strongest players have been invited to join the national team: we lacked sufficient leaders to set the necessary pace. Hopefully, at the next championship, Belarus will show improvement.