STOCKHOLM Ė For years the Belarus team relied on Andrei Mezin in goal. And in his 12 tournament appearances, Mezin was alternately sublime and subpar. At this IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, Vitali Belinski is getting the opportunity to show what he can do.
In two games, heís registered a 2.50 goals against average and saved almost 93% of the shots heís faced. Belinski was named the best player for Belarus after his debut game at the World Championships, a 2-0 loss where he stopped 34 of 36 shots.
Belinski is also responsible in part for carrying his team to victory against Slovenia on Sunday. Belarus was out shot 30-17 by Slovenia. But Belinski stopped 27 of the 30 shots he faced in leading Belarus to a 4-3 win.
Thereís nothing Belarus can do to face relegation since the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship will be held in Minsk and the home side cannot be relegated the year before.
With that in mind, Belarus has the chance to use this World Championship as a testing ground for possible talent in next yearís tournament.
The 23-year-old Belinski has spent most of his career being developed by the Yunost Minsk program. In 2005 he began with the junior team and moving through the system as a senior player.
Internationally, Belinski played for the Belarus U18 and U20 teams so making his appearance here for the senior menís team is part of the natural hockey progression the Minsk native is making.
At the 2009 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I, Belinski was named the best goaltender of the tournament by the Directorate. Belarus finished second behind Switzerland and Belinski was impressive.
In four games, Belinski won three and the lone loss coming at the hands of Switzerland in the final game of the tournament. His goals against average was a remarkable 1.50.
Everyone knows what Andrei Mezin has meant to the Belarus side for so long. Now players like Belinski can show their value to the national team moving forward. After two games, heís given the Belarus braintrust something to think about.