Belarus upsets USA at 2005 WJC

By Simon Richard





2005 Prospects: Alex Bourret

USA coach Scott Sandelin placed Cory Schneider in the net for the
first time to face the Belarus team in the 2005 WJC, replacing the struggling Al
Montoya
.

The game began with the fans shouting the usual USA, USA, USA. Alexei
Efimenko opened the score at 9:15 of the first period while Belarus was playing
a man short.

Suddenly, the crowd became silent. Six minutes later, Vazdim Karaha
doubled the Belarus lead on a pass from Andrei Kostitsyn from behind the
net.

At 17:10, while his team was playing with a man advantage, Patrick
O’Sullivan
took a bad penalty for boarding an opponent.

With both teams playing with four forwards, the young phenom Phil
Kessel
beat Stepan Goryachevskikh on a cross ice pass from Jacob Dowell.
Jeff Likens also assisted.

Trailing 2-1, the USA players went in their dressing room for the first
intermission, probably thinking it was just a bad period.

Undisciplined Americans pay the price

At 2:10 of the second period, Belarus put the score to 3-1 on their
eighth shot of the game on a goal by Alexei Savin. Efimenko made the pass.

That was enough for Sandelin who sent Montoya in to replace
Schneider, ending his debut.

A mere 45 seconds later, the USA U-20 2004 hero was beaten on Belarus’
ninth shot by a weak wristshot from five feet behind the blue line. Dallas
Stars prospect Siarhei Kukushin was the scorer, assisted by Savin and
Vauhen Haranin.

Sandelin called for a timeout to help his players regain their
composure.

Still undisciplined, the Americans got three minor penalties between the
24th and the 28th minutes. Belarus could not capitalize
from it.

In the meantime, the USA fans applauded sarcastically Montoya while he
stopped an easy shot from the blue line.

Goryachevskikh made a great save on a USA break who were playing one man
short.

At 14:16, Kostitsyn intercepted a bad pass from Suter. The
Belarus player didn’t miss his chance and easily beat Montoya. It was 5-1.

USA cut the Belarus advance at 19:14 on a power play on a goal by Drew
Stafford
, assisted by O’Sullivan.

After two periods, the shots on goal were 21-16 in favor of USA. A large
part of the period had been played in the USA territory.

The home team demonstrated no grit, no emotion, no heart at all.

Too late

Mike Brown reduced the Belarus lead to 5-3 soon in the third, beating
the Belarus goalie from a weak 50-foot shot.

Fans became alive again. The Americans players too. From there, they
continuously pressed their opponent, but it was too late. Belarus won a
stunning game despite USA’s 21 shots in the third.

Andrei Kotstitsyn was named the Belarus player of the game. Phil Kessel
deserved the award on the other side.

Post game comments

"We had our chances but we missed them," shrugged Chris
Bourque who left the game after his second shift on the ice with a knee injury.
"We definititely can rebound, we have a big game tomorrow [against the
Czechs], we have to put it behind us.

"These things happen you know, they were better than
expected," told Bourque before leaving the media zone, limping while
hardly walking.

"They got a lot of lucky bounces," explained Stafford.
"We must put that behind and prepare for the next game."

The young defenseman Brian Lee said "We continued tonight what we
did against the Swiss yesterday. There wasn’t much talking in the dressing
room."

"They got their chances and converted them," said Al Montoya.
“If we play tomorrow the way we did in the third period, we will have success.
My confidence was not hurt.”

"Basically, we just dumped the puck instead of trying to control it
as we did in our first three games here," said Andrei Kostitsyn. "I’m
proud of this victory, we are all very proud. It gives us the confidence to
play against the best of the world."

The Belarus coach Mikhail Zakharov said in the post conference game,
"This victory is very important against such a strong team, but still we
have to survive in pool A and then we will have to fight hard to avoid the
relegation."

After the press conference, Zakharov added some comments to Hockey’s
Future.

“Before the game, we thought that USA would not take us very seriously
because we didn’t play well in our first three games. You know, two years ago,
the same thing happened in the U-18 World Junior when a game between USA and
Belarus ended in a 3-3 draw. Tonight’s team is the same we had then,” observed
the Belarus coach.

Sidenotes

To give a good perspective of the forces of the two teams, note that
there are 2,562 players under 20 years of age in Belarus compared to 361,000 in
USA. There are a total of 10 indoor rinks in Belarus while USA has 2,500.
Overall, Belarus has three outdoor rinks while the little town of Grand Forks
has 10.

There are four NHL drafted players in the Belarus team – Andrei
Kotstisyn (Montreal, 2003), Siarhei Kukushin (Dallas Stars, 2004),
Siarhei Kolasau
(Detroit, 2004) and Konstantin Zakharov (St. Louis,
2003).

 

 

Simon
Richard is the author of La Serie du siecle, Septembre 1972, a book about the
Summit Series published in 2002.
Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the
editorial staff.