Germany-Belarus Preview

It’s been eight years since either Germany or Belarus won a

hockey game at the Olympics. The drought is about to end for one of

those nations.

With each team seeking to salvage a victory in its Group C

preliminary-round finale, the Germans and Belarusians will face off

Saturday night.

Each team enters this matchup having dropped its first two games

in Vancouver. After losing its opener 5-1 to Finland, Belarus gave

a gallant effort Friday but fell 4-2 to defending gold medalist

Sweden.

The Germans have fared even worse. They’ve yet to score in these

Olympics, much less win. Germany got blown out 5-0 by the Finns on

Friday, two nights after falling 2-0 to the Swedes.

Times were better for these teams less than a decade ago. Both

Belarus and Germany won multiple games in 2002 at Salt Lake City,

where the Belarusians finished fourth. Belarus did not send a

hockey team to the 2006 Turin Games, while the Germans left Italy

with three losses, two ties and a 10th-place finish.

Belarus enters this matchup with the most cause for optimism

following a solid showing against the Swedes. Dmitri Meleshko

scored twice and Andrei Mezin made 34 saves to keep the game

close.

“You try to tell the guys that you can compete with anybody in

the world. Until they feel that, it’s hard to explain it,” said

Ruslan Salei, one of two NHL players on the Belarus roster along

with Sergei Kostitsyn. “Our guys got more comfortable. They started

to believe in themselves.”

Kostitsyn, a left wing for the Montreal Canadiens, scored the

lone Belarusian goal against Finland. One of Meleshko’s goals

Friday came on the power play, and Belarus will now try to take

advantage of a German penalty kill that yielded three power-play

goals to the Finns in the first two periods.

“Just too much Finland,” Germany coach Uwe Krupp said. “I don’t

need to analyze this game, just got to look ahead.”

Dimitri Patzold stopped 30 shots for Germany but struggled in

his Olympic debut.

“You spend so much time killing penalties you’re just wasting

energy,” he said.

For this contest, Krupp will likely opt to go with Thomas

Greiss, who made 23 saves in the opener against Sweden.

Offensively, the Germans have been anemic, failing to find the

back of the net in 45 shots over their two losses, including six

shots on goal by the Buffalo Sabres’ Jochen Hecht and four by

Boston Bruins forward Marco Sturm.

“We have to play with more confidence and try to make some plays

offensively,” said Christian Ehrhoff, a defenseman for the hometown

Vancouver Canucks who has been stymied along with the rest of the

German players.

The only previous Olympic meeting between these teams came in

1998, when Belarus beat Germany 8-2 in a preliminary-round matchup

in Nagano.