By Igor Leshin
Japanese national team celebrated its first ever win over Belarus
Belarus’ national ice hockey team lost its third final match of International EuroChallenge Tournament, which finished in Slovenian Ljubljana. Austria (2:3) and Slovenia (0:3) defeated our national team, inspiring head coach Vladimir Krikunov to reshuffle his line-up. Kevin Lalande returned as goalkeeper while defender Andrey Karev stood down through injury, reducing the defence to six players. The forward line-up also experienced change but, sadly, all attempts to reinforce the game of the Belarusian national squad at EuroChallenge failed to improve the result.
Despite two losses in Ljubljana (against Slovenia — 1:3, and Austria — 1:5) Japan felt their superiority over Belarus, taking the lead within the first twenty minutes, skating at high speed. They scored in the 13th minute, achieving a two goal advantage in the first half. Belarus managed to equalise not long afterwards but allowed their rival to take the lead once more, and the winner was evident by the middle of the match. Goalkeeper Igor Brikun was sent on in the final half and kept out all goals, but so did his Japanese counterpart, Yutaka Fukufuji (who previously played for the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings).
Before this game the squads have met five times, with only one draw between the two teams — at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, 2:2. This was the second time that Japan had claimed four goals against Belarus, having done so at the 1998 World Championship (ultimately losing 4:6).
- Unsuccessful EuroChallenge