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Belarus 4, France 0

Associated Press
Saturday, February 7, 1998; 8:43 a.m. EST

 France/Belarus Hockey
 France's Robert Ouellet (left) and Belarus's Ruslan Salei watch the puck during their preliminary round game.
(Olivier Morin/AFP)
NAGANO, Japan — There was no miracle for Herb Brooks in his return to Olympic hockey.

Brooks, who coached the U.S. team to a surprise gold medal in the 1980 games, was behind the bench for France's 4-0 loss to Belarus in preliminary round play today — the only shutout in the first day's four games.

It was the first Olympic defeat for Brooks, now a scout with the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins. He guided the United States to a 6-0-1 record in the Lake Placid games, where the Americans stunned the Soviet Union in a game revered as the ``Miracle on Ice'' en route to the championship.

Playing in its first Olympic hockey tournament, Belarus used its size advantage and bruising checks to win behind goaltender Andrei Mezin, who stopped 18 shots at Aqua Wing arena.

It was a game full of penalties, and two skirmishes broke out in the second and third periods, with players pushing each other until the referees moved in and broke things up.

Cheered on by flag-waving, chanting fans, Belarus got goals from Viktor Karachun, Vadim Bekbulatov, Alexei Kalyuzhny and Andrei Skabelka.

Trailing 4-0 with four minutes remaining, Brooks called a timeout, but it was no help to France, which hasn't placed higher than eighth in its last 70 years of Olympic hockey.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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