Switzerland 3 - Slovakia 3
SWITZERLAND FINISHES SEVENTH AFTER TYING SLOVAKIA
By Lucas Aykroyd | Box Score
Switzerland led 3-1 halfway through the last Relegation Round game January 4 at the Pacific Coliseum, but a third-period Slovak rally tied it up at 3-3. With the result, Switzerland wound up in seventh place and Slovakia claimed eighth.
The Swiss had the edge due to their superior goal differential (10-5, compared to Slovakia’s 14-10), even though the two teams both finished with five points.
“To end the tournament with a tie and stay in seventh place, it’s pretty good for us,” said Swiss Head Coach Jakob Kolliker. “Unfortunately, we let the Slovaks come back in the third period with two goals. Normally, we’d have to win the game, but it’s OK. We had a really good tournament. We got points in four games.”
Both Switzerland and Slovakia will return to compete in the 2007 IIHF World Junior Championship in Sweden.
Julian Walker and Julien Sprunger added a goal and an assist apiece for Switzerland, and Stephan Moser also tallied for Switzerland. Marek Bartanus, Stanislav Lascek, and Marek Horsky scored for the Slovaks, and Andrej Sekera had two assists.
In goal for Switzerland, Reto Berra made 26 saves in his sixth straight tournament start. Michal Valent answered with 27 stops for Slovakia.
“It was very difficult for all the guys in the dressing room to get motivated for this game,” said Lascek. “You’re playing for seventh and eighth place, and it’s hard to say: ‘Hey guys, we’ve got to play very, very good.’ But we just wanted to play nice hockey for the people here, and the Swiss guys were very good too.”
In the first period, the Swiss continued the gritty approach they’ve shown throughout this tournament, and had to kill off three Slovak power play chances. But their opponents also took three minors, and the young men in red and white would capitalize.
Julien Sprunger got a fabulous chance to put Switzerland on the scoreboard but Valent gloved down his rebound attempt off a Raphael Diaz point drive at 12:29. Under a minute later, with Slovakia’s Marcel Ulehla off for hooking, Sprunger grabbed the puck after a faceoff in the Slovak end and dished it to Walker, who fired it home for a 1-0 Swiss lead.
At 14:59, Stephan Moser went hard to the net and converted a Dario Burgler pass to make it 2-0 Switzerland.
Thirty seconds later, the Slovaks answered right back as Marek Bartanus was left all alone by Berra’s right post to take a Michal Korenko pass from behind the goal line and flip the puck into the net.
The teams sparred inconclusively in the early stages of the second period. In the eighth minute, Marek Zagrapan tried to spark the Slovaks with a dazzling rush down right wing, but his hard shot was turned away by Berra.
On another Swiss power play, Walker and Sprunger teamed up again at 11:56 to increase the lead to 3-1. This time it was Walker sliding a perfect pass from the slot to Sprunger in the faceoff circle for a one-timer that the goalie had no chance on.
“Our line didn’t play badly,” said Sprunger. “And we managed to get some goals, which is important.”
“The first two periods, we were a little slow,” said Slovakia’s Lascek.
In the eighth minute of the third period, Sprunger, looking like a Swiss answer to Dave Andreychuk, muscled his way out from behind the net and tried to tuck in a backhander, but Valent stuck out his right pad to block it.
Tempers flared at 8:28 with a post-whistle skirmish in the corner to Valent’s left, and the Slovaks got the worst of it penalty-wise, incurring two minors plus a misconduct to Zagrapan, while Switzerland took just one minor.
At 12:37, Lascek took a long stretch pass from Andrej Sekera at the Swiss blueline, walked into the attacking zone, and, with one Swiss defender to beat, coolly zinged a long shot past Berra to cut the deficit to 3-2.
“It was an awesome pass,” said Lascek. “I could maybe even have gotten a breakaway, but I was surprised that the pass was so good. I just made a little move and shot, and it went in.”
With under four minutes remaining, the Slovaks got a 2-on-0 break, and Tomas Petruska raced in alone to deke Berra, forcing the Swiss goalie to make a great left pad save. Off the ensuing faceoff, Marek Horsky collected the puck off a Sekera rebound and flung it home to tie the game 3-3 with a power play goal at 16:12.
“We made some individual errors, and that’ll cost you dearly at this level,” said Sprunger. “But we
managed to hang on.”
The Slovaks recognized that they underachieved in this tournament.
“We learned that we have to be more like the other teams,” said Lascek. “When they play for their country, they play more with their heart, and probably we were missing a little bit of that. We took so many stupid penalties. We had a lot of PKs, and we can’t do that in a tournament like this.”
The Swiss were pleased with their ability to play physically on the smaller North American ice surface.
“With this team, we may be not be so good [in terms of] skills, but everybody works hard, and that was a key for us,” said Kolliker. “Next year, we’ll have to fight to reach the 4-6 spots. We’ll build up the next team and we hope to stay in the top group, at least. We had a great time here at the championship. The organization, hotels, venues are great. We enjoyed it very much.”
“Canada is a beautiful country,” said Sprunger. “Hockey is gigantic here. It was great to play in rinks like these. The only regret I have is not getting to play at GM Place.”
Sekera was Slovakia’s Player of the Game and Mathias Bieber was chosen for Switzerland.
PREVIEW: SWISS - SLOVAKIA
By Lucas Aykroyd
Switzerland: Before the 2006 World Juniors kicked off, some Swiss hockey journalists were saying this could be the worst team their nation had iced since 1991. That year, Switzerland scored five goals and allowed 48 en route to a seventh-place finish. Ironically, if Head Coach Jakob Kolliker’s troops beat Slovakia in their final game of the tournament, seventh is precisely where they’ll finish. But as it happens, the Swiss have not embarrassed themselves at all. Prior to this concluding game with Slovakia, they’ve amassed the tournament’s second-best power play conversion rate (25.7 percent) and the top penalty killing (90.6 percent). Reto Berra has played very well in goal, and the Swiss really competed physically in a narrow loss to Canada and a tie with the Americans, something you wouldn’t have seen in the past. The overall consistency in their game could well earn them a victory today, even if they lack the caliber of snipers that Slovakia can put out there.
Slovakia: If forwards Stanislav Lascek and Marek Zagrapan of the QMJHL’s Chicoutimi Sagueneens ventilate the Swiss goalie and defenceman Boris Valabik crushes smaller opponents while also delivering on the power play, the Slovaks have a chance. But they never really got their game back in this tournament after losing 6-2 to Russia on December 28 (and even their opening 7-4 win over Latvia was pretty sloppy). Highly touted goalie Michal Valent failed to step up and claim the number one job, posting a .760 save percentage and 7.24 GAA in just under 100 minutes of action. At least a little secondary scoring has emerged in the form of Igor Bacek and Juraj Gracik, who enter today’s action with four points apiece. In the big picture, Slovakia is a better hockey nation than Switzerland, but it won’t necessarily play out that way at the Pacific Coliseum.
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André Brin Director, Communications | Directeur, communications