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12 Days of World Juniors: Day 1 - Belarus upsets USA, Grand Forks 2005

Welcome to The Intermission's new series, "12 Days of World Juniors". For the next 12 days, we will be featuring special moments from previous World Juniors before the start of the 2021 tournament. Here is day one.

(Drew Yang & Rania Elhilali/The Intermission)

By: Kaghlen Roberts

On Thursday December 29th, 2005, Belarus launched one of the greatest upsets in the history of the World Junior Championships. The American team was coming into the tournament as the defending champions. The Belarusian team came into the tournament having never won a single round-robin game. Team USA was the number one seed at the start of the tournament, while Belarus had just advanced from division one and were starting as the ninth seed.

The game did not start off as planned for the Americans when Alexei Efimenko potted a short-handed goal at 9:14 of the opening frame. Shortly after that Belaruisian forward Vadzim Karaha madr the lead two just six minutes after his teammate. The US had a glimmer of hope when a young Phil Kessel put one in the back of the net with under three minutes in the first period.

That glimmer faded away when Alexei Savin scored another goal in the opening minutes of the second frame to give Belarus a three to one lead. American coach, Scott Sandelin, had seen enough and pulled goaltender Corey Schneider. Schneider only had five saves on eight shots. Instead of getting the night off, the NO.1 goalie for the Americans, Al Montoya, had to step in and stop the bleeding. However, that was something he could not do. Less than a minute after Montoya took the net, Siarhei Kukushkin tucked one away to put Belarus up four to one. Andrei Kostitsyn added another one with six minutes to play in the middle period, putting Belarus up five to one. Drew Stafford and the Americans tacked on another goal in the final minute of the second period.

The USA came out into the final frame firing. Mike Brown put one into the back of the net early in the third period giving the momentum to the USA. The Americans sent an onslaught to the Belarusian team, but to no avail. Belarus stood their ground and managed to hold onto the five to three lead, completing the upset of the previous tournament champions.

"I thought they played a great game. They took advantage of our mistakes. I thought we had a lot of turnovers tonight," said Team USA head coach Scott Sandelin in an interview with CBC.

"It's always important to have a victory against a strong opponent like the U.S. It was a very good game." said Belarusian coach, Mikhail Zakharov, in an interview with CBC.

Belarus played a hard game and overcame great odds to win their first ever game at the IIHF World Junior tournament. That was the only game they would win this year, as they got sent to the relegation round and lost.

Belarus didn't have a great World Juniors, but the country shocked the world by beating the defending champions on their home ice. This is why they have made our '12 Days of World Juniors' list.


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