Andres Ambühl scored two goals and Martin Plüss added another to lead Switzerland to an impressive 3-2 win against the Czech Republic at SAP Arena tonight. Winning goalie Martin Gerber stopped 30 of 32 shots.
“We were very excited, very ready for this match,” said Swiss defenceman Félicien du Bois.
The win gives Switzerland first place outright in Group F with a perfect record of 3-0-0 for nine points, three clear of Canada and Sweden. It also disproved any suggestion that the team’s last game, a 4-1 win over Canada, was a mere fluke.
“We had a bad start to the game,” Czech coach Vladimír Růžička admitted. “The Swiss were faster, and we made a lot of mistakes.”
The incredible play of the Swiss continued right form the opening faceoff as they clearly held the edge in play. They were rewarded at 4:13 when a Goran Bezina shot could not be controlled by Czech goalie Tomáš Vokoun. Plüss was right there to snap the loose puck into the open net to give Switzerland the early lead.
The defining moment of the night came with just under six minutes left in the opening period. Jiří Novotný controlled the puck inside his own blueline but he was knocked to the ice by Ambühl, who immediately passed to Thibaut Monnet. Monnet passed to Damien Brunner, who was streaking hard to the net, but as soon as he got the puck he passed across the grain to Ambühl, who moved to the net after hammering Novotný. He took the pass from Brunner and roofed it over a sprawled Vokoun who clearly thought Brunner would shoot.
It was the kind of tic-tac-toe play only a team playing with the greatest of confidence can make, and it proved once and for all in this tournament that the Swiss are a genuine playoff team with an excellent chance for a medal. Their last World Championship medal was a bronze in 1953 when only three teams participated.
The Czechs came out a lot more determined to start the second and were rewarded with a goal to get them back in the game. Jakub Voráček made a nice pass from behind the goal to Jan Marek at the top of the blue ice, and Marek made no mistake with his quick release between Martin Gerber’s pads to make it a 2-1 game at 4:07.
Ambühl got his second of the night at 11:47 on another fine play. He came down the right wing on a 2-on-1 with Monnet, stickhandling as if he clearly wanted to pass the puck. But instead he fired a low shot between Vokoun’s pads as the goalie was readying to play the pass. It was a smart goal, a goalscorer’s goal, and it put the Swiss back in control of the game.
Three minutes later, though, the Czechs got a lucky one. Roman Červenka won a faceoff in the Czech end and Miroslav Blaťák snapped a quick shot from the point. It wasn’t moving fast, but it was redirected off the stick of Plüss and into the top corner past a helpless Gerber.
The Swiss dodged a bullet late in the period when they ran into penalty trouble. But even though the Czechs had a 5-on-3 for 1:17, they couldn’t tie the score and the period ended 3-2 for the Swiss.
“We got back into it a bit in the second period, but we didn’t score on our 5-on-3,” Růžička noted with disappointment.
If the Swiss were more enthusiastic and creative in the first period, they were more determined and persistent by the third. They got to the puck first and hemmed the Czechs in their own end for long periods, frustrating their opponents to no end and preventing any razzle-dazzle play by their opponents off the rush.
Both teams are back in action on May 17 when Switzerland faces Norway in the afternoon and the Czechs play Latvia at night.
Said Julien Vauclair about facing the under-manned Norwegians: “I think up to this point we’ve been very well-prepared by our coaching staff. We’ve got to keep our feet on the ground. The most important thing for us now is to recuperate and get ready for this match.”
IHLC: With the win, Switzerland retains the International Hockey Lineal Championship it captured from Canada three days earlier, who entered the tournament with the IHLC, defeating Italy and Latvia before dropping the title. Switzerland, in their 11th IHLC reign, last played the Czechs for the title in a two-game exhibition series in April 2001, a series split with one win each, but resulting in the Czechs leaving with the IHLC. Switzerland now moves on to face Norway in Qualifying Round play with the IHLC on the line.
04:13 – GOAL – Plüss (Bezina, Rüthemann)
14:07 – GOAL – Ambühl (Brunner, Monnet)
24:07 – GOAL – Marek (Voráček)
25:21 – PEN – Barinka, tripping
27:15 – PEN – Rachůnek, roughing
31:47 – GOAL – Ambühl (Helbling)
32:28 – PEN – Klepiš, high sticking
34:41 – GOAL – Blaťák (Červenka)
36:15 – PEN – Seger, hooking
36:59 – PEN – Monnet, roughing
43:07 – PEN – Koukal, holding
W: Gerber (30-32)
L: Vokoun (21-24)
SHOTS ON GOAL
13+6+5 = 24
8+15+9 = 32
Goaltenders: Martin Gerber, Tobias Stephan. Defence: Goran Bezina, Félicien du Bois, Timo Helbling, Steve Hirschi, Roman Josi, Mathias Seger (C), Julien Vauclair. Forwards: Andres Ambühl, Damien Brunner, Thomas Déruns, Paolo Duca, Marcel Jenni, Romano Lemm, Thibaut Monnet, Nino Niederreiter, Martin Plüss (A), Kevin Romy, Ivo Rüthemann (A), Paul Savary, Morris Trachsler.
Goaltenders: Ondřej Pavelec, Tomáš Vokoun. Defence: Michal Barinka, Miroslav Blaťák, Petr Čáslava (A), Petr Gřegořek, Tomáš Mojžíš, Ondřej Němec, Karel Rachůnek, Michal Rozsíval. Forwards: Roman Červenka, Petr Hubáček, Jaromír Jágr (A), Lukáš Kašpar, Jakub Klepiš, Petr Koukal, Jan Marek, Jiří Novotný, Tomáš Rolinek (C), Martin Růžička, Petr Vampola, Jakub Voráček.
Article Credit: IIHF