Posted: 24.04.2024 11:15:00

Hat trick wonder

HC Metallurg Zhlobin has won the President’s Cup again

The President’s Cup final, unfortunately, provided no cool western with chases, shootouts or a dramatic denouement. Having released all the steam in the previous rounds, the Brest hockey players failed to give battle to Zhlobin’s Metallurg at the decisive moment and lost in four matches in a row, which allowed the opponent to seal a series whitewash. Along with that, Metallurg secured the title of Belarus’ best hockey team for the third time in a row.

HC Metallurg Zhlobin         BELTA

After the last year’s triumph, Metallurg head coach Dmitry Kravchenko was shaved bald right in the locker room. It was a masterful motivational move by the mentor. Before the decisive match with Neman, he personally bought a shaving machine and promised that in case of victory, he would allow the players whom he had criticised most often during the season to shave his head. Zhlobin hockey players gritted out a tough victory, and almost everyone wanted to test themselves as barbers. After the voluntary execution, the formidable coach looked funny but very pleased. This time, Dmitry Kravchenko chose a nobler image for himself — the triumphant coach met his team’s treble success dressed in a chic cowboy outfit, which was very appropriate for the occasion. Interestingly, hardly anyone would have bet a plugged nickel on their victory during the regular season.  
Metallurg and Dmitry Kravchenko are making history together. This is the fourth Championship Cup for the Zhlobin hockey team overall (the first was won back in 2012) and the third under the guidance of the charismatic coach. In 2022, the ‘Wolves’ [nickname for Metallurg hockey players] managed to turn the tide of events despite losing to HC Yunost (Youth) Minsk (2:3) in the course of the series. They sealed the decisive victory at the crowded Minsk Arena. It was an incredible sensation! Very little time had passed since then, but the Metallurg composition changed almost beyond recognition. Of those who used to forge success, only five players subsequently went out on the ice — Sergei Kuznetsov, Vitaly Pinchuk, Vladimir Yermenkov, Ilya Spat and Ilya Shurinov. Roman Dostanko was a direct participant in the events two years ago, although he was fighting not for Metallurg but against it then, as a forward of Yunost. In fact, a new team was assembled in Zhlobin every season. The game was just middling throughout the regular season, with the team interaction mechanisms being adjusted on the way. The team composition was being strengthened, and the players were learning to play efficiently and in a cohesive way with each other, the teamwork was being improved in order to open up and surprise the public and the opponents in the playoffs. This was the case in the last championship, when Neman was defeated in the final. The same happened this year, too. The paradox is that, despite the apparent ease of the final superiority over Brest, it is the current success that is perhaps the most unexpected since the ‘Wolves’ looked too pale during the regular season. However, Dmitry Kravchenko apparently knows some secret or has a magic spell that allows turning a pumpkin into a carriage at the right moment.

Dmitry Kravchenko, head coach of Metallurg Zhlobin               BELTA

“It is a lot of blood, sweat, joy and tears,” the coach was happy after the victory, but seemed worn out psychologically. “There are no weak teams in the championship, all clubs are evolving, everyone wants to win and bring joy to people. In fact, hockey in our small country is a huge social project led by Dinamo Minsk. Everything happens very quickly on the ice. In one match, fans can shed both tears of sadness and tears of joy. It is happiness to bring joy to people.”  
The makings of an outstanding toastmaster with a flair of philosophical sadness is another trademark of Kravchenko. The coach is known to be as eloquent and thoughtful as his teams are on the ice — one may enjoy when listening to him as well as admire when looking at his team playing. 
“We constantly have a new team composition, by 70-80 percent. It is impossible to show good results right away. Given more time, the result will undoubtedly come. I have an excellent coaching staff as well as the club management, starting from the director and ending with all other employees. Each of them works hard enough for two and does their best. Hence the result. I am happy that we act as a single factory, like a small sports workshop,” Dmitry Kravchenko commented on the result. 
One of the undoubted secrets behind the current success is the unity and cohesion of the team, as well as the fusion of youth and experience. The Dinamo reinforcement in the face of the Zhlobin hockey school trainees — Vitaly Pinchuk, Sergei Kuznetsov, Yegor Borikov — came in very handy, too. The same refers to Mikhail Stefanovich’s transfer to the team from Shakhter Soligorsk during the season — in the Belarusian Cup he is almost like Sidney Crosby in the NHL. Sergei Kostitsyn undoubtedly deserves special mention, whose authority and skill have cemented the foundation of teamwork and collective spirit for the second year in a row. He is no longer as bright as he was in his stormy youth, yet his experience and grandmaster prudence on the ice are worth a lot. In short: it is a great team! 
As for secrets and magic spells, Dmitry Kravchenko revealed them to the general public, “It is necessary to talk less and do more.” The question about the future and plans for the upcoming season did not remain unanswered, either. “Why don’t we repeat it?” responded the happy coach and smiled slyly with his eyes from under his fancy cowboy hat. That would mean a poker, and no one in Belarusian hockey has won gold four times in a row so far.


Hockey. The President’s Cup. Final series. Fourth match. Brest – Metallurg — 0:4. Series result — 0:4 (three previous matches — 1:6, 1:3, 2:3 in overtime).

By Sergei Kanashits