International Ice Hockey Federation

Into the play-offs

Belarus outlasts Norway, prepares for Canada

Published 12.05.2015 15:04 GMT+2 | Author Andy Potts
Into the play-offs
OSTRAVA, CZECH REPUBLIC - MAY 12: Belarus' Andrei Kostitsyn #46 celebrates with Andrei Stepanov #61 after scoring Team Belarus' third goal of the game during preliminary round action at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Three power play goals saw Belarus reach the last eight for the second season running thanks to a 3-2 victory over Norway.

Despite losing to Finland in a shoot-out on Monday the Belarusians still held their destiny in their own hands, needing only one point from the final group stage game against Norway.

But after goals from Alexei Kalyuzhny, Dmitri Korobov and Andrei Kostitsyn put the men in red in complete control by the midway point Norway rallied bravely despite seeing their own hopes of progress extinguished by Denmark on Sunday.

Patrick Thoresen pulled one back in the second and after Mattias Norstebo unleashed another howitzer from the point to make it 3-2 early in the third, the Belarusian goal came under huge pressure in the closing stages as already-eliminated Norway tried to conjure up a final flourish before flying home from Ostrava.

"We were looking good at 3-0 but Norway are a good team and they came back hard," said Belarus forward Andrei Stepanov. "It was hard at the end, we didn't have a lot of time to recover after yesterday's game."

Goalie Kevin Lalande also felt the rapid turnaround of games stretched the team's fitness, but was delighted with his defence's commitment to the cause. "The guys were a little bit tired but we all put the commitment in today," he said. "They put the work in blocking shots, making all those little sacrifices, and it was good to see."

That surge fell short, though, and Belarus won through. Kalyuzhny led the scoring with 1+2, taking his personal tally to 5+5 for the competition, but arguably Sergei Kostitsyn was the architect of his team’s success with two big assists on the opening goals.

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He engineered Kalyuzhny’s first-period marker when a slashing call on Morten Ask handed Belarus the first big opportunity of the game in seventh minute. Kostitsyn got into a shooting position only to deceive the Norwegian defence by sliding a pass out to his captain at the base of the circle. The experienced forward gobbles up chances like that and he beat his Dinamo Minsk colleague Lars Haugen to give his team a vital early lead.

The rest of the first period was quiet, with Belarus perhaps reluctant to gamble too heavily on offence and neither side getting a really good look at goal. But the Belarusian PP came back with a vengeance midway through the second, punishing Alexander Bonsaksen for his 2+2 high sticking infringement thanks to another great Kostitsyn play. He picked up Kalyuzhny’s puck in the central channel, ghosted past a defenceman and dropped a deft pass to Dmitri Korobov on the face off spot. The D-man waited for Haugen to commit himself at the near post before picking out the far corner to double the lead on 29:01.

Soon it was 3-0 with Andrei Kostitsyn getting the third power play goal of the afternoon – a huge step for Belarus, which had previously managed a miserly 5% conversion rate when it had a man advantage. Kalyuzhny was involved again, playing the puck along the red line to find Kostitsyn Jnr on the doorstep, where he lifted it under the bar to put his team on the brink of the last eight.

Norway had only posed an intermittent threat, and its best moments came from Patrick Thoresen. The SKA St. Petersburg forward was denied in a one-on-one breakaway early in the second, but got on the scoresheet right after the third Belarusian goal. Matthis Olimb did the hard work, rushing behind the net and popping out an inviting pass for Thoresen to rifle the puck into the open corner of Kevin Lalande’s net and reduce the deficit.

That injected a little extra pace into the game, but there was little to suggest that things were about to explode in the third. Norstebo dropped the first bomb, hauling us back to a one-goal game with yet another trademark shot from the blue line as Thoresen screened Lalande. The Norwegian defenceman is still in his teens but he has three World Championship goals to his account from this competition.

Norwegian forward Morten Ask said: "We fought back in the second half of the game. This has been a difficult tournament for us and we didn’t want to go out by getting beat so bad. Everyone really worked hard to make sure that didn’t happen and we came back but it was too little too late."

After his goal Norway began to swarm around Lalande’s net, shooting on sight in a bid for an equalizer. What had looked like a serene passage for Belarus was sailing into choppy waters as the Norwegian revelled in the backing of a large crowd boosted by parties from local schools. Many of the youngsters were rooting against Belarus in the hope of seeing Slovakia sneak into the play-offs at the last moment and high-pitched cries of 'Norge! Norge!' shrilled around the arena as Belarus killed a penalty late on and saw out the win it needed to advance.

Belarus now travels to Prague for a showdown with Group A winner Canada. Norway finishes sixth in Group B and will return for next year's tournament in Russia.