Belarus eyes QF repeat
Belarus eyes QF repeat
Ready for the big challenge ahead
After three games in Ostrava the Belarusians have seven points, with wins over Slovenia and Denmark and an overtime loss to Slovakia. It's raising expectations that the team can hit the play-offs once again with a new-look, younger roster than the class of 2014.
Despite the changes around the national team, goalie Kevin Lalande still reckons there's plenty of continuity from Hanlon's era to Lewis's.
"Glen and Dave are both similar personalities," he said. "They come from the same kind of background and they are both very positive coaches."
Lalande, who made the #1 spot his own during the tournament in Minsk a year ago, see a less experienced roster as the biggest difference.
"Dave has been dealing with maybe a bit less experience in the group and he's got to cater to that," added Lalande. "We don't have any superstars so we have to play together as a team for the full 60 minutes. He's put a pretty big emphasis on that so far."
Veterans of the team like Mikhail Grabovski of the New York Islanders or Ak Bars Kazan duo Vladimir Denisov and Konstantin Koltsov miss out this time, citing injuries or fatigue after long seasons with their clubs. Exciting young defenceman Roman Graborenko, who posted an impressive +6 return last year, was also unable to travel after the Devils asked him to stay in the USA while he recovered from a niggling injury.
Now the new-look roster is gearing up for some stiffer tests, starting with the USA on Thursday before marking the May 9 Victory Day celebrations by taking on Russia. After that it's Finland on Monday as the tournament tempo picks up. After a promising start, the serious action is just beginning.Continue reading
Forward Andrei Stepanov is well aware that a repeat of the sloppy first period performance against Denmark can't be repeated.
"We have to play all three periods," he said. "We've got stronger opposition coming up and we can't afford to ease up against them."
Next up it's a young USA team that has caught the eye with its win over Russia. Stepanov hasn't seen the Americans in the flesh, but isn't surprised at their performances. "I've only seen them on TV and they look like a young, powerful team," he said. "In general you expect the USA to be one of the top teams."
Lalande echoed those thoughts. “We have to play 60 minutes against teams like the USA, Russia or Finland,” he said. “If we take one minute off it’s going to hurt us. We have to be ready from the start. We’re satisfied with how we’ve played so far, but we’ve not accomplished anything yet.”
The key accomplishment, which could be achieved with another victory, would be a return to the knock-out stage. “Once you make the play-offs anything can happen,” Lalande concluded. “We’re just hoping that the cards will fall kindly for us.”
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