U.S. Toppled by Belarus At World Juniors

The U.S. National Junior Team suffered its first loss at the 2005 World Junior Championship on Wednesday night, 5-3 to Belarus. After previously defeating Switzerland and Russia, the Americans stand at 2-1-0 for the tournament.

Goaltender Dzmitry Milchakou turned away 39 shots as Belarus earned its first-ever World Junior Championship win over the United States.

The U.S. is set to face the Czech Republic (2-1-0) Thursday night. A U.S. win in that game would secure the top seed in Group B and would send the U.S. directly to the semifinal round.

While still in striking distance at 2-1 following the first period, Team USA surrendered three goals in the second period. Belarus started the scoring binge with a sharp-angle shot past Boston College’s Cory Schneider just 2:10 in. Schneider exited in favor of Michigan’s Al Montoya after the score, but Belarus converted on its next shot for the 4-1 lead.

Eleven minutes later, Belarus player of the game Andrei Kastsitsyn turned a U.S. turnover into the largest lead of the game at 14:16.

After surrendering five goals in the first 34 minutes of play, the U.S. trailed 5-1 before launching a late comeback attempt.

With under a minute remaining in the second and Belarus in the box for interference, North Dakota’s Drew Stafford took a nicely-placed pass from Patrick O’Sullivan and fired it in. Michigan’s Mike Brown opened the third period with a shot to the far corner at 2:11 to bring the U.S. within two.

A tight-checking U.S. team held Belarus scoreless for the remainder, but could not muster any further offense. U.S. coach Scott Sandelin said his team will build off the late effort.

“I think what we take from this game is the way we played in the third period. We need to bring that focus, and that level of passion tomorrow to beat a very good Czech team,” Sandelin said. “I know our guys are up to it. … We’ll need to be a very good team to beat a very good team.”

In other tournament action Wednesday, the Czech Republic skated to a 5-2 win over Switzerland in Grand Forks. In games at Thief River Falls, Minn., Finland scored four unanswered goals to overcome Sweden, 5-4, and Slovakia blanked Germany, 5-0.