Traktor head coach Valery Belousov gave us his take on the third stage of the Eurotour.

How would you evaluate the performance of the national team at the Swedish games?
“There would be no sense in me commenting on specific games. At each stage Zinetula Bilyaletdinov is having a look at his players and over the four stages he’ll get to see everyone he wants in action. And he is doing the right thing, since there is no room for mistakes when you’re selecting players for the World Championship. The important thing is he has complete faith in the young guys who only yesterday were playing in the World Junior Championship. Bilyaletdinov has only just taken the reins as Russia’s head coach, so now his job is to get to know personally as many players as he can, and decide which ones to play in the present team and which ones to put aside for the future.”

Do you agree that we should bring the ideal roster for the World Championships to the final stage of the Eurotour in the Czech Republic?
“Certainly! In fact, Bilyaletdinov already has everything. I think the coaching staff has already decided who will go to both the final Eurotour stage and then to the Worlds.”

But isn’t an aggregate score of 1-8 from the last two games in Sweden a cause for some concern?
“It’s not a disaster if we lose in one of these stages. We just saw the Czechs lose 0-7 and they won the next game 4-0. There’s no need to react as if we’d lost everything. We could win every single game in the Eurotour and beat our chests with pride, and what would that give us? Should we use the very same players all the time? I think the national team’s coaches are focusing on the future.”

What do you have to say about the Traktor players in the national team?
“As for Anton Burdasov, his call-up was totally unexpected. It was a good lesson for him. To see the national team with his own eyes is invaluable for a young player. Obviously, I’d have liked him to play more, although Anton did a good job and as a coach I’d have no complaints. Evgeny Kuznetsov played to his level and Alexander Ryazantsev has gradually become an integral part of the Russian team. In general, all the guys got some good practice under their belts and got a little more used to playing under Bilyaletdinov’s regime.”

What’s your view of Kuznetsov playing as a center?
“For this Eurotour you have to look at players in various positions. The coaching staff tried having Kuznetsov in the center, out wide, in one combination and then another. We club coaches do the same over the course of the season.”

The whole hockey world was stunned by his goal against the Finns.
“That’s his usual playing style. He loves to skate around, then pick up speed and charge into the zone with the puck. Obviously, I wish he would score like that in every game for Traktor, but in the KHL the coaches are no mugs, and now the opposition players are more alert to Kuznetsov. So that goal did not surprise me at all.”

After the failures in Sweden some at the Russian Hockey Federation have started saying it is all the fault of the clubs and their training methods. How do you regard such criticism, bearing in mind that we were beaten by the Czechs and the Swedes – two teams full of players that train in those same clubs in the KHL?
“It depends who is blaming us. I guarantee Bilyaletdinov will never say anything of the kind, because he himself sometimes consults with us, the KHL coaches. For example, I had a chat with him just before the season at the tournament in Magnitogorsk. We talked about the need to stick to the policy of calling up young players to give them experience in international hockey, and where else can we blood them, if not in the Eurotour? As for the stuff about our training methods, I just don’t see the logic. At their clubs the coaching gets the players performing well, and with the national team they may only manage one or two training sessions. What’s wrong with our methods? It seems stupid to me after a single tournament to spread panic and scream that everything we do is bad. Losing matches can also be useful for a team, but the main thing is to learn the right lessons.”

Alexander Ryzhov, special to

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