Friday, February 22, 2002
Mezin knocked back to reality by Canada
By Eric Adelson
ESPN The Magazine
WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- Do you believe in miracles? No!
As if Saturday night's USA vs. Russia Olympic semifinal was not enough to remind hockey fans of 1980, this year's potential team of destiny -- Belarus -- played like a bunch of no-name college kids in a wince-inducing 7-1 loss to Canada.
Poor Andrei Mezin. The Belarus goalie knew this wasn't his day when Theo Fleury rang one off his mask just after the opening face-off.
"Today was not a great game for me," Mezin said.
At five minutes into the first period, Canada had fired six shots to Belarus' zero.
"I didn't see the team winning this game," Mezin said.
At six minutes, Mezin sweetly poke-checked a loose puck away from the onrushing Joe Sakic ... right to Steve Yzerman, who scored.
"I wasn't really saving the team," Mezin said.
At 10 minutes, the Belarussians got credited for their first shot on goal.
"We didn't show anything," Mezin said.
At 12 minutes, Belarus went with the tried-and-true keep-four-men-back-and-hope-these-guys-don't-run-us-over method. It looked like a bad game of Red Rover.
"It was impossible against those guys. It was their decision whether they beat us or not," Mezin said.
At 13 minutes, a flicker of hope: Belarus' blueliner Ruslan Salei scored on a one-timer from the high slot. A 1-1 tie! But at 17 minutes, Mezin knocked a loose puck into his own net. Canada's game winner.
"We made mistakes little kids don't make," Mezin said.
And at 20 minutes, Mezin heaved a sigh and doubled over like he was about to vomit. Shot total: 17-3. Thirteen minutes into the second period -- two goals and 10 more shots later -- Mezin was lifted for Sergei Shabanov, who may be the only goalie in history to wear No. 2.
"The coach did the right thing. I might have killed myself," Mezin said.
We'll spare you the rest of the details. Let's just say Mezin watched three more Canadian goals, heard his coach tell him to be ready for Saturday's consolation game, and then spent more time between press tape recorders than he spent between the pipes.
"I hope the other teams get really tired tonight," Mezin said. Hey, maybe the penalties in the other semifinal will be lopsided in favor of Team USA, and the Russians will just pack up and leave Belarus the bronze.
"Then we'd have a shot at a medal," Mezin said.
But that would really take a miracle.
Eric Adelson writes for ESPN The Magazine.