Dynamo Minsk will make its second Spengler Cup appearance this year. The Belarusians seem to like this tournament: They won the title during their first appearance in 2009.

Belarus is a proud ice hockey nation. Hockey is the most popular sport in the country, that gained its independence in 1991; and since the Belarusians hosted the World Cup in 2014 and received perfect reviews in regard to infrastructure, organization, and enthusiasm, everyone in the hockey world is aware of that. So it was even more painful when the national team lost the Olympic qualifier against Slovenia on home ice in early September. It was the first major defeat of the year – not just for the Belarusian federation, but also for their flagship team Dynamo Minsk; the KHL team Dynamo has no fewer than 14 national team players on its roster.

Truly, Dynamo Minsk - founded in 2004 from Tivali Minsk, which had been disbanded 3 years prior – is considered somewhat of an unofficial national team. Since the KHL was founded in 2008 the club has represented the country in its neighbouring brother country Russia. Dynamo plays at Minsk arena, which opened in 2010 and holds 15,000 spectators, making it one of the biggest and most modern arenas in the KHL. The on-ice success has been limited. In eight seasons, Minsk qualified for the playoffs just three times (2011, 2012, 2015) and was eliminated in the round of 16 each time.

They came, saw, and conquered

However, is their track record at the Spengler Cup is quite different: Dynamo Minsk’s first and last appearance was in 2009 – immediately winning the tournament. Its squad then included hockey stars such as the two Finns Ossi Väänänen and Ville Peltonen, and the Slovak Richard Lintner. Aside from the Belarusian national title in 2007, it was that biggest success in their young club history.

Obviously the team would like to repeat that success. But it will not be able to count on any experience. Not surprisingly there are but four players remaining of the winning team: defenseman Ilya Shinkevich, the forwards Yevgeni Kovyrshin and Alexander Kulakov, and the former goaltender Andrey Mezin (now goaltending coach). Thus the face of the team now looks completely different, with stars such as Canadian goalkeeper Ben Scrivens, tenured defensive giant Lukas Krajcek, and former SC Bern offensive defenseman Marc-André Gragnani as well as Belarusian star forward Sergey Kostitsyn. Craig Woodcroft, who experienced the Spengler Cup last year as the assistant coach of Adler Mannheim, now coaches the team. All in all the Canadian can rely on a solid team that looks to figure in the middle of the KHL standings. Time will tell if that is sufficient to reach for the stars between Christmas and New Year. Yet it is certain that the former title winner is to be reckoned with.

Team players

Number Position Age Height Weight Nationality
Kevin Lalande 35 Goalie 1987 181 86 Belarus
Ben Scrivens 30 Goalie 1986 188 82 Canada
Marc-Andre Gragnani 17 Defence 1987 188 91 Canada
Kristian Khenkel 18 Defence 1995 186 93 Belarus
Pavel Kazakevich 68 Defence 1993 186 96 Belarus
Dmitry Korobov 24 Defence 1989 189 108 Belarus
Evgeny Lisovets 14 Defence 1994 183 91 Belarus
Ilya Shinkevich 8 Defence 1989 187 85 Belarus
Kirill Gotovets 2 Defence 1991 180 80 Belarus
Roman Graborenko 92 Defence 1992 194 105 Belarus
Dmitry Ambrozheichik 15 Forward 1995 174 78 Belarus
Sergei Drozd 13 Forward 1990 182 82 Belarus
Matt Ellison 10 Forward 1983 181 83 Canada
Nikita Komarov 19 Forward 1988 188 100 Belarus
Danila Karaban 22 Forward 1996 179 77 Belarus
Evgeny Kovyrshin 88 Forward 1986 177 78 Belarus
Alexander Kitarov 77 Forward 1987 190 98 Belarus
Rob Klinkhammer 12 Forward 1986 189 98 Canada
Alexander Kulakov 11 Forward 1983 182 91 Belarus
Stanislav Lopachuk 81 Forward 1992 180 80 Belarus
Alexander Materukhin 28 Forward 1981 183 91 Belarus
Alexander Pavlovic 71 Forward 1988 184 90 Belarus
Andrei Stas 23 Forward 1988 189 90 Russia
Andrei Stepanov 61 Forward 1986 178 98 Belarus
Artyom Volkov 85 Forward 1985 181 84 Belarus
Aaron Palushaj 21 Forward 1989 183 85 United States of America
Fredrick Pettersson 9 Forward 1987 175 80 Sweden