In one of the biggest shockers of the 2015 World Championships, Belarus was able to defeat the Americans 5-2 after an explosive second period effort.
Right off the bat, Kevin LeLande looked ready for the Americans. The Canadian born goaltender that moved to Dinamo Minsk in order to gain dual-citizenship, LaLande was a major reason why the team made it to the quarter-finals last year and has already stolen the show between the pipes this year. Coming into the game, Belarus sat tied for third in Group B with seven points, so despite having a lack of NHL talent, it’s clear that LaLande and company knew a thing or two about what they were doing.
At the other end of the ice, Jack Campbell, who many people have written off as just a flash-in-the-pan following his World Junior efforts, was strong in the first. The Americans took two penalties in the first, allowing Belarus to get a couple of scoring chances along the way. Campbell, a prospect with the Dallas Stars, looked really good against Russia earlier this week, and after a solid seven save performance in the first today, it looked like he was up for the challenge.
No matter how many penalties either team took, nobody looked ready to score the first goal. That all changed really quickly for the Belarussians. 11:11 into the second, Belarus would leave their zone after an American zone, with Artur Gavrus going high blocker on Campbell to make it 1-0. Two minutes later, Artyom Volkov used his speed to burn past the slower moving American defense, beating the American goalie with a breakaway goal.
The Americans were simply shocked shortly after. With about four minutes to go in the period, Alexander Kitarov escaped the penalty box to pick up the puck, taking a shot towards Campbell that was stopped. Kitarov would stick with the play, grabbing the rebound and tapping it past Campbell for the 3-0 lead.
Before the period would come to a close, USA would finally get one past LaLande. The Americans brought a long a secret weapon that has been kind of quiet for a while. Future Buffalo Sabre Jack Eichel made his men’s team debut this year, and the young superstar has mainly made a name for himself in the faceoff dot. But obviously, his skill is what makes him so attractive to hockey fans, and after using good speed and patience to find Brock Nelson for the empty cage goal, it was clear that he’ll be a great player in the NHL someday.
The Americans began the second period looking to build on their late momentum from the second. Of course, that wouldn’t help them at all. Almost instantly, Alexei Kalyuzhny took a shot on the 5-on-3 power-play in the corner, only to have Ben Smith score on his own net with a deflection.
The Americans would score another one with under five minutes off the clock in the final stanza. While sitting on a power-play of their own, Eichel would grab another assist after sending the puck off to Torey Krug from the point, who ripped an absolute blast past LaLande for the 4-2 goal. A lot of the credit had to go to Trevor Lewis on the play, streaking in through the middle to steal the attention away from the point, allowing Krug to score uncontested.
One of the major reasons that the Americans beat the Russians on Monday was due to their defense and goaltending. Today, that wasn’t even close to the truth. The team continued to just offer up breakaway after breakaway to the Belarussians, and it would Kalyuzhny firing his second past Campbell that would give his team the 5-2 lead. The lead would stick for the remaining minutes, lifting Belarus to their first ever victory over the Americans in what can only be considered to be one of the biggest upsets of the tournament.
With the win, Belarus sits on top of Group B with 10 points after four games. It was a huge victory for the Belarussians, who had never defeated USA in any of the previous five World Championship meetings. The Americans currently sit in second with nine points with tough games against Denmark, Slovenia and Slovakia upcoming.
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