ZURICH-KLOTEN – It took their second shootout of the tournament but Belarus prevails against Finland Oleg Antonenko once again plays hero as he scores in a shootout to give Belarus a 2-1 win over Finland and increases their chances of moving on.
Belarus now has six points, which knocks Slovakia out of potentially qualifying for the playoff round. If Norway loses to Canada tomorrow then Belarus will reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 2006.
Belarus talked about how it was important to start with a lead to establish their game.
That’s exactly what happened some five seconds into the game when Sergei Demagin scored with a wrist shot that went far side high over Pekka Rinne. Demagin’s pinpoint shot was the fastest goal in World Championship play.
"Demagin has a good shot and I don't think Finland was prepared after the faceoff," said Mikhail Grabovski. "It is much better for our team to play with the lead. We like to play good defense and wait for our chances."
Almost immediately after the goal, Finland stepped up the tempo and had many great opportunities to score were it not for Andrei Mezin.
In the period Mezin faced fifteen shots and turned them all aside. Some of the best Finnish chances were high percentage shots in front of his net.
Sami Kapanen, the hero of last night’s game, moved in on goal while Finland was on a power play but Mezin played the angle well and squeezed the shot between his pads.
Leo Komarov also had a great chance that was stopped.
"It is a little tough playing against them because the have five men on the blueline all the time," said Komarov. "But Mezin was very good and we could not score. You cannot expect to win a game by scoring only one goal."
Mezin is displaying the form he had at the 2006 World Championships when he won four games and posted a 2.01 goals against average. In that tournament Belarus finished a very respectable 6th.
After the first twenty minutes of play, Belarus went off the ice feeling good about their performance. They did what they wanted which was to score an early goal and hold the lead by playing tight defence.
In the second, Finland finally solved Mezin at 6:38 while capitalizing on a power play. With Alexander Riadinski in the penalty box for elbowing, Janne Niskala, recently added to the team, sent a hard wrist shot on net that went in. Mezin was partially screened from seeing the shot. Petteri Nummelin picked up the assist.
In the final twenty both teams had power plays that offered the possibility of taking the lead but neither team could convert and the game would move into overtime.
Alexei Ugarov was exceptional throughout the game. Ugarov had perhaps his best game of the tournament. He was a constant threat in the Finnish zone and had a chance to seal the game in the overtime but could not tee the puck up.
Between Finland and Belarus they have played a combined five overtime games at the 2009 IIHF World Championships.
As overtime lapsed, the game progressed to a shootout.
Belarus won the right to shoot first, and it unfolded as follows:
Round 1: FIN, Hagman – no goal, no shot. BLR, Antonenko - goal, wrist shot
Round 2: FIN, Nummelin – goal, forehand shot. BLR, Meleshko – no goal, shot wide
Round 3: FIN, Immonen – goal, backhand. BLR, Grabovski – goal, backhand
Round 4: BLR, Antonenko – goal, wrist shot. FIN, Nummelin – no goal, shot wide
In both games that went to a shootout for Belarus, Antonenko proved clutch.
Belarus was missing Alexei Kaliuzhny and Konstantin Koltsov due to injuries. Kaliuzhny was especially missed as he’s tied with Mikhail Grabovski in team scoring.
For Finland it was their third one goal game in a row. They next face Canada on Monday while Belarus will take on the Czech Republic on Sunday.