Sweden continued its hot streak through the Euro Hockey Challenge, this time narrowly avoiding an Olympic-like upset to Belarus, with a 4-3 shootout victory to retain the International Hockey Lineal Championship.
Similar to the infamous Olympic matchup between these two 10 years earlier, where Belarus continuously kept up with Tre Kronor from horn to horn, the same scenario unfolded in Minsk, with the Bisons matching the Swedes goal-for-goal. Daniel Gunnarsson scores four minutes in, Alexander Kulakov answers back 90 seconds later to tie the game. Robin Figren puts Sweden ahead midway through the first, Andrei Stas gets the equalizer towards the end of the frame to head to intermission tied 2-2.
The game opened up a bit in the second period, with Sergei Drozd giving Belarus their first lead of the game capitalizing on a Figren slashing penalty. Sharp play from goalie Vitali Koval, combined with a number of Swedish penalties in the back half of the second and early third, kept Belarus ahead with the lead, but it was Nicklas Danielsson that finally solved Koval in the nick of time, tying the game with 3:13 left in regulation to send the game to overtime.
The extra frame solved nothing, leading to a shootout that can only be described as a “firing show,” as all six opening shooters scored, turning both Koval and his Swedish counterpart Erik Ersberg into figurative Swiss cheese. It was only on the fourth shooter for Belarus, Dmitri Meleshko, trying to answer Fredrik Pettersson’s fourth Swedish goal, that was stopped by Ersberg, propelling Sweden to the tight victory.
With the victory, Sweden retains the International Hockey Lineal Championship in their fifth consecutive win, following wins at the Oddset Hockey Games over Russia and Finland, and a pair over Norway in the Euro Hockey Challenge’s first leg. This marks the first IHLC meeting between Sweden and Belarus in over a decade, the last meeting being the now-legendary upset at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, where Belarus shocked Sweden (and the hockey world) with a 4-3 quarterfinal victory to win their first-ever IHLC. These two go at it again tomorrow in Minsk with the IHLC back on the line.
03:07 – PEN – Kitarov, hooking
04:08 – PP GOAL – Gunnarsson (Fernholm, Pettersson)
05:48 – GOAL – Kulakov (Mikhalyov, Kitarov)
06:09 – PEN – Fernholm, interference
10:13 – GOAL – Figren (Enterfeldt)
12:27 – PEN – Persson, high sticking
16:00 – GOAL – Stas (Korobov)
17:59 – PEN – Kitarov, tripping
22:11 – PEN – Enterfeldt, holding
25:21 – PEN – Figren, slashing
26:38 – PP GOAL – Drozd (Chernook)
30:29 – PEN – Lundqvist, tripping
34:38 – PEN – Dahlbeck, kneeing
35:35 – PEN – Chernook, checking from behind + 10 min. misconduct
36:44 – PEN – Fasth, high sticking
36:55 – PEN – Dahlbeck, roughing
36:55 – PEN – Kulakov, roughing
48:47 – PEN – Danielsson, interference
52:03 – PEN – Persson, hooking
56:47 – GOAL – Danielsson (Persson, Axelsson)
W: Ersberg (22-25)
L: Koval (35-39)
SHOTS ON GOAL
15+6+14+3+1 = 39
7+12+6+0+0 = 25
Goaltenders: Erik Ersberg, Christopher Nihlstorp. Defence: Jonas Ahnelöv, Mattias Bäckman, Klas Dahlbeck, Daniel Fernholm, Daniel Gunnarsson, Mattias Karlsson, Staffan Kronwall, Henrik Tömmernes. Forwards: Dick Axelsson, Niclas Bergfors, Nicklas Danielsson, Sebastian Enterfeldt, Jesper Fasth, Robin Figren, Johan Harju, Simon Hjalmarsson, Joel Lundqvist (A), Niklas Persson (C), Fredrik Pettersson, Dennis Rasmussen.
Goaltenders: Vitali Koval, Andrei Mezin. Defence: Pavel Chernook, Oleg Goroshko, Roman Graborenko, Dmitri Korobov, Viktor Kostyuchenok, Yevgeni Nogachyov, Igor Shvedov, Nikolai Stasenko. Forwards: Sergei Drozd, Sergei Dudko, Alexander Kitarov, Sergei Kolosov, Konstantin Koltsov (A), Yevgeni Kovyrshin, Alexander Kulakov, Dmitri Meleshko, Andrei Mikhalyov, Pavel Musienko (C), Alexander Pavlovich, Andrei Stas.