While the Grand Forks Border Bruins’ season will end in February, one of their players will be seeing action in April.
Forward Artsiom Kalashnikov will represent his native Belarus at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s (IIHF) Division I World U18 (Under 18) Championship in Maribor, Slovenia in April – the Belarusians are in Group B and are scheduled to play their first game against the home country Slovenians on Apr. 10.
“It’s exciting; the international experience is always fun,” said Kalashnikov when asked about playing at the U18 world championship.
“It will be great, the world championship will be a great and fun time.”
Kalashnikov said that his family was contacted by Team Belarus back in November and he was invited to take part in an exhibition tournament over the Christmas holidays.
“For this tournament, they go with guys that play in Russia, Canada, the States, wherever guys play abroad, and they just call them,” explained the Border Bruins’ forward.
“We had a tournament, we got to know the system, meet the coach and your teammates and then after the tournament, (the coach) said he’s going to call me and they’ll tell me what time I should go back.”
Having to travel back to Belarus took a toll on Kalashnikov because he was still on Pacific Standard Time but the coaches knew this and allowed Artsiom to become acclimatized.
He said that the first few days were hard for him and he skated on the fifth line but when the tournament started, Kalashnikov was placed on the second line, with some players that he was quite familiar with.
“They put me on the second line with my good friends, with whom I had played before, and we had decent chemistry but before the world championship, we’ll have more time to play together.”
While the U18 will be played on an international ice surface – Kalashnikov estimates it is 12 to 13 feet wider – Grand Forks’ No. 18 said that there were some skills he has learned in North America that will be transferable.
“I’ve learned how to make faster decisions, how to hustle more, how to battle for the puck and protect it,” Kalashnikov said.
Border Bruins Head Coach Jesse Dorrans has also noticed an improvement in the Belarusian forward’s play and thinks that the growth will be beneficial come April in Slovenia.
“Obviously the offensive part of his game has gotten better but I think the real improvement has come in the defensive side,” Dorrans said.
“Having done a few hockey camps in Europe, it’s a pretty wide-open game and there’s not much emphasis on your own zone and the one thing Artie has really focused on is being better in his own zone and adding a physical element to his game.”
The Border Bruins’ bench boss said that Kalashnikov has improved in his back checking, defensive zone coverage and overall, has become a lot more responsible in his own zone.
Along with Belarus and Slovenia, the Division I U18 world championship field is rounded out with teams from Latvia, Hungary, Japan, Kazakhstan, Great Britain, Italy, Denmark, Poland, France and Korea.