U.S. gets its Belarus rung

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Cory Schneider won't quite earn the goat horns like Tommy Salo. Still, that's hardly any consolation.

In his first start for Team U.S.A. at the world juniors, Schneider didn't even survive the second period before being yanked and watching the rest of the carnage from the bench as the Americans were stunned 5-3 by Belarus last night at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.

"I didn't get it done. I put a lot of it on myself," quietly said the U.S. 'keeper who surrendered three goals in little more than 32 minutes of action and made just five saves.

The defending champs suffered their first setback at the tournament, as Belarus got its first-ever round-robin win in world junior action.

The Belarussians' only previous world junior victories came against France and Kazakhstan. But both were in relegation play.

"It was a great win but, unfortunately, it doesn't make much difference in the standings," said Belarus forward Andrei Kastsitsyn. "Our biggest game is having to win the next one so we don't go out of the pool."

True, the key test for Belarus will be to remain in the top round for a second-straight season.

But for one night they were allowed to enjoy a surprising win.

Alexei Efimenko and Vadzim Karaha scored first-period goals and after Alexei Savin made it 3-1 early in the second period, Schneider was given the hook.

Al Montoya, the top goaltender at last year's tournament who's been sub-standard so far this year, didn't have any better luck.

Siarhei Kukushkin's wrist shot from centre ice beat him and, seconds later, Kastsitsyn made it a 5-1 count.

Kastsitsyn, a Montreal Canadiens draft pick who's been playing this season in Hamilton of the AHL, also collected a pair of assists.

Phil Kessel, Drew Stafford and Mike Brown replied for the U.S., which can still clinch first place in Group B -- and a berth to the semifinals -- with a win over the Czech Republic tonight.

Although his team's goaltending has been inferior throughout the tournament, Team U.S.A. coach Scott Sandelin said he believes his netminders will rebound.

"Personally, I have confidence in them," he said. "They're fighting in goal but as a team -- I keep going back to it -- we have to play better in front of them."

The loss was doubly bad as forward Chris Bourque left the game early after "tweaking" his right knee and will have an MRI done today.

He is hopeful about returning.

"It's a tough loss to take but there's nothing we can do about it now," said the son of Ray Bourque. "It all still depends on (today). If we beat the Czechs, we still get the bye."

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BELARUS: 5

TEAM U.S.A.: 3

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CZECH REPUBLIC 5 SWITZERLAND 2

Rotislav Olesz had a goal and two assists to help the Czech Republic defeat Switzerland. Petr Vrana and Marek Kvapil added two points each for the Czechs, who improved to 2-1 in pool play.

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FINLAND 5 SWEDEN 4

Finland scored four straight goals in the final period to beat Sweden. Lauri Tukonen scored the winner with about five minutes left. Two powerplay goals within 10 seconds, by Lauri Korpikoski and Jesse Joensuu, started the rally.

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SLOVAKIA 5 GERMANY 0

Stefan Ruzicka scored the first three goals, all in the first period, to help Slovakia blank Germany. Andrej Meszaros had the other two.


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