In many ways, the match against Belarus was decisive for the Russian national team at the tournament. Since both teams started with victories over Kazakhstan and Stars and VHL, respectively, success in the head-to-head confrontation seriously brought one of them closer to winning the trophy.

And for Roman Rotenberg's wards, he was doubly important. The fact is that last year the Belarusians made a splash at the Channel One Cup. Then they also turned out to be stronger than the Kazakhstanis, and in the key meeting in a shootout they beat the hosts and sensationally finished in first place.

It is no coincidence that the coach promised that the mood of the hockey players of the teams will be off the charts.

"This is an international level. It's one thing to play for a club and another to play for the country. Do you think Belarus will lack motivation? There is motivation at the level of the country's president. It's good, it's right, because it's the national team. A completely different level. Ask the hockey players, they will confirm," Championat quotes the specialist.

He himself made serious changes in the lineup. For example, Nikita Grebenkin was transferred to the first line, and Nikita Korostelev, on the contrary, was lowered to the fourth. Vasily Atanasov's actions in the previous game were not assessed in the best way. The young star of Torpedo was announced only as the 13th forward. And his teammate Maxim Shabanov was completely removed from the squad.

No sooner had the starting siren sounded than the domestic hockey players, urged on by thousands of fans, rushed forward. They literally pressed the opponents to the goal and tried to find free zones in defense through the pass. However, the visitors were ready for this and defended calmly and disciplined, trying not to leave space.

There were still chances at the opponents' goal, but Alexei Kolosov acted beyond all praise. For example, he coped with Mikhail Vorobyov's powerful point-blank shot. I was especially worried about the goalkeeper when Nikita Zhikharev was sent off for two minutes. But Kolosov turned out to be impenetrable even in unequal compositions. In total, he made 11 saves in the first period.

And in the seventh minute, the Belarusians scored a goal that did not follow from the logic of the match. Moreover, it was built by two representatives of SKA, Vladimir Alistrov and Stepan Falkovsky. The first won the battle near the boards, and the second shot another teammate Nikita Serebryakov from close range.

Having conceded, the Russians rushed into the attack with even greater desire and soon restored the balance. It is gratifying that Grebenkin justified his transfer to the leading line. Vorobyov did a great job on the faceoff. Sergey Tolchinsky took a shot, and Nikita was the first to finish it off.

The scenario of the second segment turned out to be almost identical. Rotenberg's team flew forward, had an overwhelming advantage and created chances, but Kolosov was very good. Suffice it to mention the episode when Atanasov broke through the center and threw it into the far corner with an awkward hand. The goalkeeper did not see what was happening very well, but managed to pull out the pad in time. A little later, Vasily Glotov tried his luck from the left circle, but Alexei caught the projectile with a trap.

And in the 36th minute, the Belarusians, who had not come up with anything in the opponent's half before, took the lead again. This time they ran into a two-on-one counterattack, and Alistriov, Serebryakov's evil genius, made an effective pass to Roman Gorbunov. The response of the Russians turned out to be swift. Moreover, they managed to punish their opponents with their own weapons. The loss in the middle zone ended with a cool run by Vasily Glotov and an accurate shot.

In the final period, the fans also had to worry. On the ice, there was more accurate hockey, and goaltenders entered the game less and less. Everyone was well aware that any mistake could be fatal. Alas, Rossiya 25 allowed it to happen. Another mistake in the opponent's zone ended with a swift three-on-one attack by his vis-à-vis and a goal by Vadim Moroz.

To the credit of the hosts, they did not give up and in the end pressed the guests to the goal. They were forced to retreat to their half in full force. At first, Rotenberg's wards did not succeed much. They possessed the puck only near the boards, and did not allow them to shoot dangerously.

However, the constant pressure paid off and led to removals. First, Falkowski went to the bench behind the footboard. Alexander Nikishin instantly converted the power play with a powerful brush click. Then Maksim Sushko let his partners down, attacking the area of Atanasov's head out of the blue. Once again, the Russians made perfect use of their chance. Tolchinsky delivered a cross to the far post, and Daniil Bokun's stick flew into the net.

Having conceded twice, the Belarusians were forced to take a risk and change the goalkeeper for the sixth outfielder, but only allowed Ilya Safonov to hit the empty net and put an end to it – 5:3.

"Thanks to the fans, they gave us energy. Our team came out with the understanding that the opponent is the triumphant of last year's tournament. In the beginning, we created a lot of chances, but the execution let us down. Everyone had a great desire to prove themselves and play for their homeland. And when you don't score, they score against you. We allowed several counterattacks, the opponents converted them. There is work to be done. Well done guys! We scored the most important goals and won. The Belarusians caught everything on themselves, played selflessly, it was hard for us. That makes this success all the more important," Rotenberg said after the final buzzer.

Another Russian team, Stars and the VHL, suffered its second defeat at the tournament. This time, he failed to cope with Kazakhstan. Already in the first minute, Yegor Stepanov made a block, and the opponents instantly converted the power play.

After the break, Nikolay Voevodin's men responded to the visitors with the same coin, when Artyom Korolev detained the opponent's striker with his stick. In unequal lineups, the Russians did not manage to properly place themselves in the zone for a long time. But it was Stepanov's individual skill that decided everything. When there was very little time left before the fifth skater, the forward made a spectacular slalom pass along the starboard side and sent the projectile to the far side.

The end of the second period turned out to be a fateful segment, when the hosts conceded twice. First, Nikita Mikhailis finished off Kirill Panyukov's cross, and then brought Artem Korolev to a heroic snap almost from the blue line. The puck flew at such a speed that Sergey Murashov could not react properly. And there were only two seconds left before the siren. In the final quarter, the Stars and VHL stormed the net and made more than two dozen shots, but failed to upset Nikita Boyarkin, who made 39 saves.

Thus, the national team of Kazakhstan has a chance to get ahead of Russia 25 in the final standings in case of victory in the head-to-head confrontation, which starts at 15:00 (Moscow time) on December 17. Zvezda and VHL, on the other hand, will try to help their compatriots and slow down another competitor - Belarus.