The white machine
Russia beats Belarus handily 4-1
Russia took command of the game from the get-go, scoring three goals in the first period, making the uphill too steep for Belarus to climb. To Belarus's credit it must be said that the never gave up.
Alexander Polunin scored twice for Russia, Vladislav Kamenev and Maxim Lazarev scored two points each. Russia outshot Belarus 32-18 in the game.
“This was our third game in four days and I can’t say it was a fast game. It was interesting in other ways, though,” said Belarus captain Vladislav Goncharov.
Belarus had left everything they had out on the ice in their game against Slovakia, a game that they felt was crucial for their staying in the World Junior Championship top division. The 4-2 loss left them disappointed but after a day off, they took on Russia. History was not on their side, though, as Russia had won all three World Junior Championship games between the two countries, and as if that wasn’t enough, they had also crushed Belarus.
The three games’ goal difference was 37-1 to Russia.
But, "that's why we play the games." To find out the winner.
"It was tough to prepare for this game, the game was slow, maybe we were a little tired from the game against Finland, but it was tough to step on the against Belarus," said Russian forward Radel Fazleyev.
Early on in the game, both teams played tentatively, Belarus wanting to keep the game tied at zero for as long as possible and Russia, their confidence boosted by yesterday’s impressive comeback in their game against Finland, knew they’d get their chances eventually.
The Russians were right.
They got their chance when Belarus’s Alexei Busko got a hooking minor at 8:59. Russia’s power play worked well, and they moved the puck quickly around the Belarus zone. Then Maxim Lazarev found Kirill Kaprizov behind the net, he sent the puck quickly to Vladislav Kamenev on the other side of the goal, and he forwarded it just as quickly back to Lazarev who one-timed it in at 10:00.
Five minutes later, Russia got their second power play opportunity, and again, they played the puck to Wayne Gretzky’s old office behind the net, to Pavel Kraskovski who found Alexander Polunin in the slot, and he fired a quick one-timer past Vladislav Vernitski in Belarus’s net.
Russia’s third goal with 1:41 remaining in the period wasn’t a power-play goal, although it looked like one, as Belarus kept their defence in the middle of the zone, trying to keep Russia on the outside. Ivan Prokorov’s wrist shot from the blueline found its way to the front of the net where Kamenev deflected it in to make it 3-0 to Russia.
Russia outshot Belarus 22-10 through two periods, but despite having several excellent chances, couldn’t beat Vernitski who made several high quality saves in the second period.
Ilya Samsonov’s shutout came to an end at 6:14 into the third period when Alexei Patsenkin beat him with a nice wraparound. It was Belarus’s second ever goal against Russia and the first since 16 April 2000.
As if to punish Belarus for scoring a goal, Russia picked up speed in the next shift, and Polunin made it 4-1 after a great solo performance. He received a pass at the blueline, took a few quick strides, cut to the middle and beat Vernitski with a wrister for his second goal of the game.
"It was a tough game, everybody could see that the other team was better and more skilled, and could create chances, they play hockey on a very high level. We did our best, but the other team was better, and I don't think they gave everything they've got," said Belarus coach Alexander Beliavski.
"For us to have a chance, we have to bury our chances, simple as that."
Belarus will play against the Czech Republic tomorrow, and then prepare for the relegation round game on 2 January.
“The top teams are top teams for a reason. They are really skilled, they read the game really well and see the ice well, and they made quick decisions on the ice. We try to play together like a team and show a lot of character out there,” Goncharov concluded.
Russia has a day off on Tuesday, and will take on Slovakia on New Year's Eve.
“I don’t want to think about the group win yet, we still have one game left. We can talk about it after that,” Fazleyev said.
Belarus vs. Russia (1-4)
It was a good news/bad news kind of night for Belarus. They scored a goal against Russia, the first in fifteen years. The bad news: Russia won the game 4-1.