International Ice Hockey Federation

In the firing line

In the firing line

Lalande stands in Canada's path

Published 13.05.2015 14:19 GMT+2 | Author Andy Potts
In the firing line
Kevin Lalande will play the quarter-final with the Belarusian jersey and mask against Canada. Photo: Richard Wolowicz / HHOF-IIHF Images
Laughing in the face of danger, Belarus' Canadian-born goalie looks forward to facing the rampant offensive line of his homeland in Thursday's quarter-final.

In this year’s World Championship Canada has been the scourge of goaltenders.

In seven games its powerful offence has blasted 49 goals – an average of seven a game, and 15 more than the second hottest shots from Sweden. Twice, against Germany and Austria, the Maple Leafs have rattled up double figures and on three occasions the starting goalie has been chased before the finish. Not surprisingly, Canada tops the scoring efficiency chart with a 17.01% conversion rate from its 288 shots.

So when a goalie for a rank outsider describes the prospect of stopping Matt Duchene, Jason Spezza and Sidney Crosby as “a lot of fun” it’s tempting to assume he’s something of a masochist. But for Kevin Lalande, the Ontario-born Belarus goalie, Thursday’s quarter-final in Prague is the culmination of a rapid, yet unlikely journey.

“If you'd told me a couple of years ago in that I’d be in the Czech Republic wearing a Belarus jersey and playing against Canada I'd have said you were crazy but now it's something I'm really looking forward to,” Lalande said. “I'm excited and it's going to be a lot of fun no matter what the score is.”

The goalie’s Belarus connections date from 2011. He moved to Europe for the 2010/11 campaign, playing in the KHL for a Vityaz Chekhov roster that also included Russia’s rising star Artemi Panarin, and decided to remain in the competition with Dynamo Minsk. During his three seasons there he was invited to take Belarusian citizenship – something which helped with travel documents as he jetted around the KHL – and got a call-up from compatriot Glen Hanlon who coached the national team as it hosted last year’s Worlds.

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That was big, and helping CSKA Moscow to the Russian championship this year was also a huge achievement for the likeable 28-year-old, but facing the land of his birth and trying to get Belarus to its first ever World Championship semi-final could be even bigger.

“This could be the most exciting or most fun game of my career,” he said. “We're going in as underdogs, all the pressure is on them. We’ll just go out there to work hard, have fun and do the best that we can.”

And that daunting Canadian offence? “They’ve scored seven a game? Then I guess our goal is to try and keep it under seven,” Lalande laughed. “They're a good team. We have to respect them but not too much. They are human, they make mistakes and we're going to have to play hard, play our game and try to enjoy the experience.”

Lalande isn’t the only Canadian involved with Belarus at this competition. Head coach Dave Lewis hails from Saskatchewan and has more than 1,000 NHL appearances on his resume, as well as three full seasons as head coach with Detroit and Boston. He believes his goalie, a fifth-round draft pick for the Oilers back in 2005, could have what it takes to attract renewed attention back home after a strong World Championship performance at the end of a season that saw him produce the best GAA in the KHL.

“What does Kevin need to do to get an NHL club? He just needs to keep playing the way he is right now,” Lewis told reporters after the goalie made several key saves to preserve a 3-2 win over Norway and book that quarter-final berth. “There are a lot of scouts from North American clubs at the World Championship and they will look at any player who stands out in games for his country.”

If Belarus is to follow up its historic win against the USA in the group stage and stun Canada in the quarter-final, it’s fair to say an outstanding performance between the piping will be a big part of that.


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