Even though it’s his last year at the IIHF U18 World Championships, it’s very important for Artyom Anosov that Belarus remains in the top division.
To that end, the 17-year-old scored in the second period of his team’s last group stage game against Russia to take a 1-0. After a dominant start to the game, however, the Belarusians ultimately couldn’t contain all the Russian talent and lost 4-1.
“We played good for two periods, but in the third Russia … it’s such a good team - one of the best five teams - and it’s so hard to play against them, but we played well. We can be proud of our effort.”
On the heels of nearly earning at least a point against Sweden, only to surrender a power-play goal in the last minute of regulation time, the Belarusians needed a regulation win in their last game against Russia to have a chance of avoiding the relegation series. They came out with a determined effort, had some chances on the power play, and at the time of Anosov’s goal at 26:12, were leading the shot count by a surprising 13-5 margin.
“They scored on the power play twice, and we need to be better on our power play,” Anosov stated the primary difference in the game. “We need to work on it more because we had enough chances.”
Indeed, the Russians tied the game on the power play just two minutes after Anosov’s goal and never looked back. In the game they were 2-for-6 with the man advantage, while Belarus was 0-for-8. As hard and disciplined as the Belarusians had played, it was on special teams that the talent gap between the two teams became apparent.
At the outset of the tournament, placed in a group that included Sweden, the United States, Russia and the Czech Republic, the odds of Belarus avoiding the relegation series of the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship were quite slim. And after four losses, that’s exactly where they are. However, based on their play in the last two games against Sweden and Russia, they have reason to be optimistic in the upcoming series against Latvia.
“We need two wins to stay in the top division for next year. That’s the goal for Team Belarus because we haven’t played here for seven years. Playing here is a great moment for our team.”
The last time Belarus played in the top division of the U18s was in 2010, where home ice wasn’t enough to help the team avoid relegation. At last year’s Division I, Group A event, Belarus was once again on home ice, where they earned promotion. As a 16-year-old, Anosov had three points in five games. However, playing against the big boys is a whole other story.
“It’s very different. Playing against the USA, Sweden and Russia … it’s not like playing against Germany or Norway, where we can out-skate them and use our skill to get more passes, more shots. This hockey here is so much faster - there’s no comparison.”
Anosov has gotten experience playing against better competition in North America the past couple years, though. At the age of 15 he moved to Canada to play Midget AAA in the Greater Toronto Hockey League. Now this year he plays for the Massachusetts-based Northeast Generals of the North American Hockey League.
“I was invited to go over there, so why not?” he said of his reason for going overseas. “It’s a good experience for me and will maybe help me in my hockey career and in my life.”
Anosov is one of four players on the team who play outside of Belarus. The others are Vladislav Yeryomenko and Artyom Baltruk, who play in the Western Hockey League with the Calgary Hitmen and Edmonton Oil Kings, respectively, as well as Artyom Borshyov, who plays with the Springfield Pics of the U.S. Premier Hockey League.
“We have good hockey in Belarus, though,” he explained, noting that the vast majority of the team plays in the Belarusian national development program, for either their U18 or U20 team. “This team has played together for two years. There are only a couple of players invited from North America, but about 15 of them have played together on the same team the past couple of years. Everyone knows everyone.”
This coming off-season, Anosov has the option of returning to North America or staying home in Belarus, where he would probably join the U20 national team. He sees advantages and disadvantages of both, but isn’t focused on that decision right now.
“I don’t know. We’ll see after the season’s over,” he said. “Right now we need to concentrate on these next few games. Even though most of us can’t return to this tournament next year, we want to stay in the top division. It would be great for Belarusian hockey.”