- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Now that Belarus has fulfilled one nearly unobtainable dream, can it achieve a second?

The tiny former Soviet republic has made it into the quarterfinals of the International Ice Hockey Federation world championships in Riga, Latvia, with a roster that does not contain a single NHL player. It does, however, have an NHL coach — Glen Hanlon of the Washington Capitals.

Playing Hanlon’s close-checking defensive style, Belarus yesterday edged Switzerland 2-1 to earn its first berth in the playoff of the international tournament. It plays Finland tomorrow while the United States will face Olympic champion Sweden in the first round of the playoff action.

Belarus goalie Andrei Mezin stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced, outplaying Swiss (and NHL) goalie David Aebischer, who stopped 19 of 21 shots.

This is Hanlon’s second coaching stint with the small European country. In last year’s world championship he coached the team to a 1-0-2 record and 10th place in the tournament. It can finish no worse than eighth this season.

Belarus scored in the first period off a drive from the faceoff circle and later when Aebischer could not stop a rebound he had let get away from him. The Swiss scored in the third period to make the final score 2-1.

The U.S. beat a seemingly disinterested Czech Republic team 3-1 to advance and get the chance to play Sweden, which does not have all the pieces it had when it won Olympic gold. Goalie Jason Bacashihua played a sensational game for the U.S., allowing only one of the 26 Czech shots to get through. Milan Hnilicka of the Atlanta Thrashers was in goal for the Czechs.

Ryan Malone, Mark Cullen and Dustin Brown scored for the Americans.

“We played really well as a team today,” Malone said. “When we got our chances, we buried them. It’s important we play as a team against these European teams that come flying at us at 100 miles an hour.”

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