Belarus hopes for surprise against Czech Republic
by Niklas Aßfalg/Christian Bellinger
In the Eastern European clash between Belarus and the Czech Republic, one of eight quarter-finalists of the 2020 IIHF Esports Fan Championship will be determined next Saturday.
From the Belarusian point of view, an upset on the virtual ice triumph against No.5 ice hockey country of the IIHF World Ranking is something to shoot for. The Czechs, for their part, will try their best to confirm their role as favourites and earn the right to move on.
Both nations can rely on experienced representatives. The Czechs will be joined by 26-year-old Josef 'Pepcastachurcik1' Stachura and 33-year-old Jaroslav 'J4rincze' Rehor. 'Pepcastachurcik1' scored 61 goals in seven qualifying matches, and the San Jose Sharks' fan showed a great deal of attacking power. Stachura regularly proves his qualities on Playstation 4 for HC Kometa Brno, in early May he and his team finished third in the Czech Esports Hockey League. His counterpart Rehor drew attention in the Xbox One qualifier with his 4:0 final victory over 'Svicko', but 'J4rincze' had also celebrated clear successes in the previous rounds. "The semi-finals would be a great success", says Rehor.
He will be up against NHL™ veteran Dzmitry 'NEFINOR' Harbunou on the Microsoft console. The 37-year-old wants to follow in the footsteps of his favourite player Alex Ovechkin and dominate the ice. He succeeded in doing so in the qualifier when he put his four opponents in their place with a goal difference of 20:6. The most memorable thing is the 10:2 final against Yauheni 'Zhokaboka' Susko. 'NEFINOR' will be supported by Aliaksandr 'Sonic_BLR' Yalasheuski, who will ask 'Pepcastachurcik1' to dance. 'Sonic_BLR' had to defeat six opponents on his way to the main round, he had his nerves under control in the decisive moments - will he also have the necessary calm in the playoffs? "The composition of the playoffs is very strong, fortunately I watched a few regional finals and made conclusions about possible rivals, so need to be realistic", says Yalasheuski.
The duel involves two individual games on each console, the added results of the four matches make up the overall winner. If the final score is a draw, the last two games will go into a simultaneous Sudden Death, which will be decided by a Golden Goal. While in the qualifiers the players still had to play with their respective national teams, in the playoffs they will be free to select any team. However, participants may only use each team once, which allows for various tactical variations. The puck drop will take place on Saturday at 1pm (UTC) and can be followed on the official IIHF Twitch channel, the winner will advance to the quarter-finals against Sweden or Italy.