COLOGNE – The sweat was beading off the chin of Belarus goalie Andrei Mezin when he stated the obvious.
“It is a decision game for us, a must-win game,’’ Mezin said. “It will decide who will go to the next round.”
The game Mezin was referring to was the Qualification Round game on Sunday between Belarus and Germany. Both Belarus and Germany lost its first game in the Qualification Round, setting up a crucial encounter on the road to the Playoff Round later this week.
Russia is first in Group E with nine points before Sunday and had a three-point bulge on Denmark, which is Russia’s opponent in Sunday’s first Qualification Round game at Lanxess Arena.
Germany, Finland and Slovakia are knotted with three points apiece, while Belarus hasn’t registered a point in the second round of the competition.
A loss by Belarus would ice its chance to move on, while a victory by the host county of the IIHF World Championship helps its chances of playing more meaningful hockey.
“We have to get the three points,” a sweat-soaked Mezin said after a 2-0 loss in Finland. “For Germany it will be the same. If they lose to us they will be in trouble.”
Germany lost 3-2 to Russia on Saturday night and the Germans didn’t have to be reminded about the implications of their next game.
“It will be a big game for us, no doubt,” said goaltender Dimitri Kotschnew about playing Belarus. “We want to go to the next round and we will have to win this game.”
Teammate Kai Hospelt agreed.
“It will be a battle for sure. Both teams know what is going on.”
Belarus goes into the game having had the luxury of not playing on Saturday, while Germany will be back competing less than 24 hours after the hard-fought loss to Russia.
Mezin knows the crowd will be pumped and will on the feet screaming “Deutschland, Deutschland” from the opening faceoff.
“This is a game where we will have to give 150 per cent,” he said. “It will not be an easy game. They have their fans supporting them.
“We can’t afford to lose if we want to keep playing.”