Belarus, Latvia, Norway and Germany have seen their exits from the 2010 Olympic hockey tournament. With massive efforts from key players, each team provided scares to superior opponents with the exception of the Germans who easily had the worst showing despite carrying a few NHL representatives.
The Olympics can be used as a stepping stone for individuals to get their names out into the public or for proving why they were or are competing in the National Hockey League. And while they may be going home earlier than they had hoped, they made each game count giving their respective countries inspiration.
5) Andrei Mezin & Vitaly Koval (Belarus)
Each goaltender started twice and their work often kept the squad alive. Through four matches, the Belarussians were outshot 166-70 and yet they fell just short to Sweden, defeated Germany and took Switzerland to a shoot-out in the qualifying round.
Although their goals against averages were above three thanks largely to how many shots they faced, Mezin produced a .913 save percentage and Koval a .905. Outstanding goaltending can steal games and this combination nearly carried Belarus into the quarterfinals but fell one goal short in the break-away event. Who knows how badly the outcomes would have went had their netminding been below average?
4) Patrick Thoresen (Norway)
If you'll recall, Thoresen blocked a Mike Green slapshot nearly two years ago which nearly ruptured his testicle. The 26-year-old had a strong showing with five assists in four games and an impressive plus-one rating considering the Norwegians were outscored 23-8.
A two-way performer, he was thrown out on the ice in key offensive situations and penalty-kills doing everything his coach asked. The former Edmonton Oiler and Philadelphia Flyer forward has prospered in the KHL this season with 21 goals, 52 points in 53 games for Ufa Salavat Yulayev. Thoresen can return to North America someday with his talents.
3) Tore Vikingstad (Norway)
With an enjoyable last name to utter, this former St. Louis Blues draft choice competed relentlessly like the vikings of Norway's history. Vikingstad scored four times in the final two matches including a hat-trick versus Switzerland with his family in attendance.
Norway's level improved as the tournament progressed and Vikingstad was their lethal triggerman at the front of the line. Only Jarome Iginla has found the back of the net more at this point with Brian Rafalski and Dany Heatley also collecting four tallies. Vikingstad will be recognized for more than his last name now.
2) Aleksei Kalyuzhni (Belarus)
Kalyuzhni helped the next name on this list surprise opponents with an offense that was extremely opportunistic in sealing the chances they received. Leading the group in scoring (3), he struck two crucial goals in the 5-3 win over Germany during the group phase.
The 32-year-old added another goal in the near-upset with Switzerland and displayed a surprising offensive acumen. Belarus and Norway were the two most dangerous bunches out of the bottom four because of players like Kalyuzhni.
1) Sergei Kostitsyn (Belarus)
He's been associated with inconsistency and the mafia but Kostitsyn carried his country's front line. Belarus would've been a more sophisticated team were brother Andrei and Mikhail Grabovski available but the 22-year-old was amazing particularly with a four-point contribution marching them past Germany.
Overall, Sergei had five points tying the likes of Evgeni Malkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Whether or not he can build off of this when he returns to Montreal is unknown but the younger Kostitsyn displayed his full potential when his country needed it most.