Germany-Belarus Preview

BY foxsports • February 20, 2010

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.


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