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Russia Clamps Down to Beat Belarus

By David Ginsburg
Associated Press
Wednesday, February 18, 1998; 3:29 a.m. EST

NAGANO, Japan — Those slick-skating Russians have found a new formula for hockey success at the Olympics — defense and goaltending.

Unbeaten Russia advanced to the seminfinals Wednesday, getting 25 saves from Mikhail Shtalenkov in a 4-1 victory over Belarus. Russia will next face Finland for the right to play in the gold-medal game.

Belarus, a former Soviet republic participating in its first Olympics, lost its final four games while being outscored 19-5.

Before the tournament began, Russian Coach Vladimir Yurvinov said his team was built around players "who can attack, create and score.'' While Sergei Fedorov, Pavel Bure and Alexei Yashin have validated that claim, the Russians have benefitted from an impressive performance in their own end of the ice.

Russia entered the quarterfinals as a top seed by winning a tight duel with the Czech Republic, 2-1. On Wednesday, the Russians killed all seven Belarus power plays and played solid defense in front of Shtalenkov, a dependable if not exceptional goaltender.

By the time Sergei Erkovich scored for Belarus with 15:42 remaining, Russia had already taken a 4-0 lead.

Russia got the only goal in a lackluster first period in which Belarus managed only six shots despite having two power plays. While being squeezed by two Belarus players in the left circle, Yashin pushed a backhand pass to Valery Kamensky, who scored from the slot at 19:00.

The intensity picked up in the second period, but Belarus still had no luck getting the puck past Shtalenkov despite taking 11 shots. Russia went up 2-0 at 1:31 when Andrei Kovalenko lifted the rebound of a shot by Fedorov over the right shoulder of goaltender Andrei Mezin.

Bure scored at 2:38 of the third period, skating around defenseman Oleg Khmyl before jamming the puck past Mezin, and 41 seconds later Alexei Morozov made it 4-0 by scoring on a rebound of a shot by Valery Zelepukin.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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