Lalande on song
Lalande on song
Netminder hero as Belarus downs Denmark
In front of a crowd of 15,086, Lalande stopped 30 shots while at the other end, Sergei Kostitsyn scored a brace while Andrei Stas bagged 1+1 to give Belarus a perfect start in their quest for a place at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.
"I think you could have given it to 20 guys tonight," said a humble Lalande after collecting the man-on-the match accolade. "Everybody did something but it is an honour to get this kind of award."
Denmark who got in front in this seesaw battle are left to rue spurned opportunities in a contest where they won the shots 32-22. Nicklas Jensen and Jannik Hansen got on the scoresheet for the Scandinavians.
Speaking ahead of their opening game at the Final Olympic Qualification, Denmark's head coach Jan Karlsson had predicted a Belarusian onslaught right from the outset.
Instead it was Denmark that drew first blood. First Peter Regin had came close at the opening stages, before Jensen burst through with speed and trickery to cut inside from right point to weave past a Belarusian rearguard and hit home a top-draw finish just 2:46 into the game.
"The first ten minutes Denmark were all over us, but Kevin (Lalande) made some saves which calmed our players," said Dave Lewis, head coach of Belarus.
As Denmark failed to convert further chances to go ahead, it was the home favourites who grafted themselves back into the game roared on by a full house inside Minsk Arena.
At 11:50, a free-flowing move saw Charles Linglet and Stas combine to set up Alexander Pavlovich to tie the game and before the first frame had come to a close Denmark was caught sleeping while on the powerplay with Yevgeni Lisovets and Artyom Volkov converted to put Belarus in front 2-1.
"They get two easy goals, the first one is a 3-on-1 and their second is 2-on-1 while playing shorthanded," lamented Karlsson after the game.
While the second period finished goalless chances appeared at both ends. Belarus hit the post from blueline while Denmark work themselves back into the game during the second half of the period.
With all left to play for heading into the third period, Belarus hit home their third goal of the evening at 43:46. Oliver Lauridsen served a tripping call when inspirational Sergei Kostitsyn converted his first of the evening at a precarious time for Denmark.
"The 3-1 goal is a tough goal with just a few second left of our boxplay," said head coach Karlsson. "But in hockey things can happen fast. Two shifts later, Mads Christensen got a totally empty net and you have to score those chances."
But it was not to be Denmark's night with the killer blow arriving soon after. A tenacious Geoff Platt charged ahead and snapped up the puck of Jesper B. Jensen in Denmark's defensive zone to pick out Stas for 4-1 with 6:33 left of the game.
A Hansen slapshot from the right point high past Lalande offered little consolation with 1:19 left of the game and it was Belarus who scored the final goal of the night with Sergei Kostitsyn's empty netter.
Despite a victory against your top contender for a place in PyeongChang 2018 now successfully out of the way, Belarus refuse to take anything for granted as they head into their second game against Poland tomorrow evening.
"This was the most important game tonight and tomorrow's game is the most important game tomorrow," said head coach Lewis ahead of the game against Poland who will be next up. "The player can enjoy this victory until midnight, but we have three tough opponents in this tournament and we must prepare to play with the same amount of emotion and passion as we did tonight."
With the odds now stacked against Denmark in their quest for that elusive first Olympic appearance a lot is still left to play for as the Scandinavians recharge to face Slovenia next.
"We cry until midnight, but tomorrow we have a new game," said Karlsson.
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