WORLD JRS: Belarus secures berth in 2016 World Junior Championships

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For the first time since the 2007 World Junior Hockey Championship, Belarus will play in the Top Division when the tournament shifts to Finland for the 2016 edition.

After earning 14 of a possible 15 points in the five-game round robin tournament, Belarus has endured nearly a decade of purgatory in Division I often seeing itself come in second to teams that would eventually find promotion instead.

The 2015 edition of the Division I Group A tournament kicked off on Dec. 14 from Asiago, Italy and saw the Belarusians open with a 6-1 thumping of Slovenia. Artur Buinitski and Dmitri Ambrozheichik each scored twice while Konstantin Kozolvski stopped 12 of 13 shots for the victory. Zan Us allowed six goals on 38 shots in defeat. The second game of the day saw Latvia down Austria 5-1 after Mario Huber netted the eventual game-winner. Matlss Kivlenieks allowed a single goal on 22 shots while Stefan Muller allowed five goals on 37 shots. The final game of Day 1 saw Norway shut out Italy 3-0. Mattias Norstebo’s goal with 1:35 left in the first period stood up as the game-winner as Fredrik Gronstrand needed just 11 saves for the shutout victory. Daniel Morandell stopped 35 of 38 in the loss.

The second day of competition opened with Norway downing Austria in a wild 9-5 affair. Norstebo netted a hat-trick for the Norwegians as Gronstrand made 10 saves for his second victory of the tournament. Thomas Stroj made the start for the Polish squad but after allowing six goals on 20 shots in 40 minutes was replaced by Muller who stopped 11 of 14 shots in the third period. Latvia followed that up with a 7-3 victory over Slovenia. Seven different players scored for Latvia with Roberts Locans scoring the eventual game-winner while Kivlenieks stopped 17 of 20 shots for the win. Tomaz Trelc allowed seven goals on 40 shots in defeat. Belarus rounded out the second day of the tournament with a 4-2 victory over the host Italians. Buinitski had the eventual game winner for Belarus as Maxim Gorodetski made 19 saves for the victory. Morandell allowed four goals on 33 shots in defeat.

Dec. 16 saw a break in competition before picking back up the next day where Belarus held on to down Latvia 2-1 in the opening match of the day. Buinitski once again had the game-winner for Belarus, this time coming with 2:32 remaining in regulation. Kozolvski allowed a single goal on 19 shots for the win while Kivlenieks stopped 28 of 30 shots in the loss. The second game of the day saw Norway take a 2-1 victory over Slovenia in a shootout. Markus Soberg had the shootout winner for Norway as Theodor Hestnes stopped 24 of 25 shots for the win. Us allowed two goals including the shootout winner on 38 shots in the loss. Italy rounded out the third day of competition with a 5-4 overtime win against Austria. Alex Lambacher needed the overtime winner 2:48 into the extra frame as Morandell stopped 37 of 41 shots for the victory as Muller allowed five goals on 45 shots in the loss.

The fourth day of competition opened on Dec. 18 with Austria pounding Slovenia 7-3. Thomas Vallant and Maximilian Reisinger each scored twice while Thomas Stroj stopped 18 of 21 shots for the win. Us started the game for Slovenia but allowed six goals on 23 shots in 29:40 of play before being relieved by Tomas Trelc who allowed a goal on 12 shots in the remaining 30:20 of play. Belarus downed Norway 5-1 in the second game of Day 4 thanks to a two-goal performance by Vyacheslav Fadeyev. Gorodetski allowed a single goal on 22 shots for the victory while Gronstrand allowed four goals on 14 shots in the first 30:32 of play before Hestnes took over and allowed another goal on 11 shots. The day ended with Italy taking a 4-2 decision over Latvia. Riccardo Lacedelli’s goal stood up as the game-winner as Simone Armand Pilon stopped 17 of 19 shots for the victory. Mareks Mitens allowed four goals on 15 shots in the loss.

With an off day on dEC. 19, the final day of the tournament got underway with Norway taking a 1-0 shootout victory over Latvia that saw Thomas Olsen score the only goal in the shootout to give Norway the win. Hestnes stopped all 21 shots he faced in victory while Kivlenieks was credited with a goal against in the shootout on 25 total shots. Belarus ended the tournament with a 5-4 overtime victory against Austria. Buinitski played the role of the overtime hero 2:13 into the extra frame while Kozolvski allowed four goals on 10 shots in the final 42:13 of play after replacing Gorodetski – who stopped the four shots he faced – following the first period. Stroj allowed five goals on 27 shots in the loss. In the final game of the tournament, Slovenia downed the tournament hosting Italians 9-5. Zan Jezovsek had a hat trick for the Slovenians as Trelc stopped 19 of 24 shots in the victory. Armand Pilon allowed four goals on five shots in the first 7:56 of play before being replaced by Morandel who played out the remaining 52:04, allowing five goals on 20 shots.

Despite the victory against the Italians, Slovenia still fell short and will be playing in Division I’s Group B during the 2016 World Junior Hockey Championship. As for Belarus, they are headed to Helsinki, Finland to play in the Top Division for the first time since 2007.

FINAL STANDINGS
1. Belarus – 4-1-0-0, 14 pts.
2. Norway – 2-2-0-1, 10 pts.
3. Latvia – 2-0-1-2, 7 pts.
4. Italy – 1-1-0-3, 5 pts.
5. Austria – 1-0-2-2, 5 pts.
6. Slovenia – 1-0-1-3, 4 pts.

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