Mezin shuts down Slovakia

Oleg Antonenko scores both shootout goals in Belarusian win


Belarus celebrates its first tournament victory. Photo by Jukka Rautio/HHOF-IIHF Images

ZURICH-KLOTEN- In a goaltending duel and exciting finish, Belarus defeated Slovakia 2-1 in a shootout to win their first game of the tournament. Oleg Antonenko’s shootout goal sealed the victory. Belarus netminder Andrei Mezin, making his first start of the tournament, and Slovakia’s Rastislav Stana, kept their respective teams in the game with big stops throughout the contest. Andrei Stas’ second period goal held for most of the game until Marcel Hossa tied it with less than three minutes remaining in the game to bring Slovakia back. Belarus would get its share of chances throughout, certainly better that they were able to get on Friday against Canada. Indeed, it was a stronger effort as Belarus stayed fairly disciplined and did not give up chances easily. Belarus took only three minor penalties in the game. At the same time, Mezin, who made 26 saves, was on his game. In many ways today was reminiscent of his performance at the 2006 World Championships in Riga, Latvia. Mezin was able to backstop Belarus to a 2-1 win over Slovakia in the Preliminary Round of that tournament. For the better part of the game boisterous Slovak supporters could get their side going. But once Hossa scored, the arena erupted and the team had new life. The action was fairly well paced with both teams cautiously circling each other like two boxers in the middle of a ring. Without a clear finisher in their lineup, Slovakia wasn’t able to take advantage despite having the better scoring opportunities. “We did not have the start we wanted,” said Stana. “We wanted to put more pressure and get more shots but it is very difficult because they back up and have five players at center ice.” Andrei Stas would score his first goal of the tournament- and the first for Belarus here in Kloten- at even strength. Stas, a 20 year old Minsk native, send a shot stick side that Stana was unable to stop. From there, Belarus further tightened up their defensive play while the Slovakians would press even more to equalize the game. “All of our players play hard every shift,” said Grabovski. “We play a simple, easy game but we have fast forwards who are strong on the puck.” In the third period, Slovak got some scoring chances but Belarus’ Mikhail Grabovski had the best when he moved in on goal but could not raise the puck over Stana’s pad. As well, Mezin make a great right pad save on Petr Smrek who left his point position and moved in on goal. With time winding down and desperation kicking in, Slovakia began to further press. Hossa was tenacious deep in the Belarus zone and his hard work finally paid off and he solved Mezin to knot the score at one. Belarus drew a late penalty but could not convert as the game was sent to a shootout. Belarus won the right to shoot first, and it unfolded as follows (according to the IIHF game-winning shots procedure, in which three different shooters from each team take alternate shots until a decisive goal is scored--and if the game is still tied after three shots by each team, the GWS continues with a tie-break shootout by one player of each team, with the shooting order reversed):

 Round 1: BLR, Antonenko - goal, wrist shot. SVK, Ruzicka - goal, wrist shot Round 2: BLR, Grabovski - no goal. SVK, Nagy – Mezin pad save

 Round 3: BLR, Kaliuzhny – no goal. SVK, Bartecko – miss, backhand shot over net. Round 4: SVK, Ruzicka – Mezin, pad save. BLR, Antonenko – goal, wrist shot Oleg Antonenko ends up the hero for Belarus and gets Glen Hanlon his first World Championship win since returning behind the bench. JOHN SANFUL



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