Belarus cruises past Poland
Belarus cruises past Poland
Belarus vs. Slovenia in final day showdown
Three first period powerplay goals in 3:27 set the tone as Belarus racked up their second straight win in Group D toppling Poland 5-3.
With two wins out of two, Belarus are now only one win away from making their fourth Olympic appearance.
"We are exactly where everyone wants to be," said Belarus team coach Dave Lewis. "We are happy where we are, but we are not finished yet."
Sergei Kostitsyn led the team on points with 0+3 while goals by Nick Bailen, Andrei Stepanov, Roman Graborenko and captain Andrei Stas hoisted Belarus out of trouble during a first frame which saw them turn the game around after going two goals down.
Belarus netminder Kevin Lalande was pulled from the net at 8:59 after conceding two goals. Replacement Mikhail Karnaukhov recorded seven saves as Belarus won the shots emphatically by 33-15.
Bartlomiej Bychawski, Aron Chmielewski and Bartlomiej Pociecha got on the scoresheet for Poland while Rafal Radziszewski recorded 28 saves. Following two straight defeats, Poland is out of the running for PyeongChang 2018.
Just as in their opening day win against Denmark, Belarus got on the backfoot during their second game at the Final Olympic Qualification.
Having just got on the ice after serving a penalty call, Bychawski was picked out by Patryk Wajda and steamed down from the left board toward the net and found a chink in Lalande's armour after 05:35 to get Poland ahead.
Lalande, unstoppable against Denmark, showed a more human side tonight, and was replaced by Karnaukhov after Poland had doubled their lead when Chmielewski stabbed home a rebound to send pulses raising inside the Minsk Arena.
"He did not feel comfortable ahead of the game, but we will check on him tomorrow," said Lewis without wanting to get further into the reason for the netminder's discomfort.
The home crowd got their hopes up soon after as Poland started their parade to the penalty box. Krystian Dziubinski served a hooking minor and following a goalmouth scramble, Stepanov fed the puck back to Bailen who hit a slapper past the glove side of Radziszewski to pull one back at 13:51.
Roles were reversed less than two minutes later. Working on a 5-on-3 advantage, Andrei Kostitsyn won the draw at the right circle, before Bailen turned provider, with a pass along the blueline to Stepanov whose strike took a deflection to tie the game at two.
33 seconds later and now on a one man advantage, Graborenko scored on the doorstep after fine work by Stas as Belarus had turned the game to 3-2 to the joy of the 10,820 inside Minsk Arena.
Before the first frame was over, Belarus' captain Stas made it 5-2 with 28 seconds left ahead of first intermission.
"We got a good start, had a bit of luck scoring our two goals and we had hoped the luck was going to last a little bit longer," said Poland's assistant coach Torbjorn Johansson.
"But we took too many penalties and Belarus did well and got in control. After 4-2 it was going to be hard to catch up and we didn't really have many chances after that."
A slapper from the point by Andrei Kostitsyn made it five for Belarus at 38:01 which effectively meant game over. Belarus got into cruise control and Poland added a late consolation with 45 seconds left of the game when Pociecha slammed home a slapshot for 5-3 to deny Karnaukhov's shutout bid.
As Belarus now gear up ahead of their decider against Slovenia where the winner goes to PyeongChang 2018, question marks loom over the condition of their netminder Lalande, but also on their tendency to concede early on in both of their Group D games.
Poland meanwhile can take positives out from this game and will look to improve further in their final game of Group D as they face Denmark with both teams wishing to finish on a winning note after their two respective straight losses.
"The teams we play here are on a new level for many of our players, but we will look for another step forward on Sunday," said Poland assistant coach Johansson.
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