MINSK – Belarus won the 2009 IIHF World U18 Championship Division I, Group A on home ice and will join the elite nations next year along with Latvia, which won the other group.
Belarus, which was relegated last year, was the favourite in Minsk but lloked shaky in the first game, needing a shootout to defeat Hungary, which was newly promoted from Division II. Hungary was close to the upset when Belarus blueliner Evgeni Nogachev equalized only with six vs. three skaters at 59:55.
The two points were earned and the struggle ended after that as Bealrus rolled through the rest of the event. They beat Poland (4-1), Ukraine (5-0), Lithuania (3-0) and Kazakhstan (6-1) to win the tournament.
Hungary had surprisingly good tournament which ended with the bronze medal. They continued with victories against Lithuania (4-3), Kazakhstan (6-1) and Ukraine (5-0). Only a 9-0 loss against Poland prevented Hungary from winning silver, which went to Poland.
Kazakhstan with two wins and Lithuania with one missed the podium, while Ukraine was relegated to Division II. The Ukrainians lost all games with a four or five-goal margin.
The Belarusian triumph was characterized by a strong defence, which only allowed six goals, and a well-balanced team. The scoring title went to the more offensive Poles which have three players among the best four scorers. Bartlomej Neupauer was the best with five goals and six assists.
Best Goalkeeper: Mantas Armalis (Lithuania)
Best Defenceman: Evgeni Nogachev (Belarus)
Best Forward: Janos Hari (Hungary)