With a 4-3 overtime victory over Switzerland on Monday, the Czechs moved on to the Playoff Round. Tomáš Hertl scored the winner at 1:39 of the extra frame.
Dmitrij Jaškin cunningly bounced a pass off the back boards to Hertl, who quickly came off the goal line to tuck the puck past Swiss goalie Melvin Nyffeler.
The Czechs now have eight points in Group A, good for second place, pending the results of the Sweden-Finland round-robin finale.
“It was the most important game, because we were playing for everything,” said Czech defenceman David Musil. “If we won, we’d make the playoffs.”
The Swiss could still make the Playoff Round if the Swedes beat Finland in regulation time.
Switzerland heroically rallied from a 3-1 third-period deficit to send the game to extra time. But it wasn’t enough. Swiss coach Sean Simpson said he was proud of his players despite losing in extra time for the third straight game.
“I’m very proud that we could take all three of those teams [Sweden, Finland, and the Czech Republic] to overtime,” said Simpson. “There was a little bit of bad luck. How often does a team play three games in a row, go to overtime three times, and lose three times?”
For the Czechs, Michal Švihálek added a goal and an assist, and Matěj Beran and Tomáš Hyka also scored.
A true standout was Jaškin, who totalled three assists with passes worthy of Wayne Gretzky or Peter Forsberg.
“They were pretty sick,” said Musil. “They were big passes that resulted in big goals for us at big moments.”
Christian Marti potted a goal and an assist, and Christoph Bertschy and Dario Simion also scored for the Swiss.
“We didn’t quite come out the way we wanted to,” said Switzerland’s Tanner Richard. “I feel the Czechs came out with more energy. We weren’t quite ready. But we showed great character in the third and we came back. We just fell one shot short.”
The Czechs are hoping to win their first medal at this tournament since 2005’s bronze.
Goalie Patrik Bartošák made his third start for the Czechs, posting 26 stops. Nyfeller did likewise for the Swiss and recorded 27 saves.
At 3:46 of the first period, the Czechs took a 1-0 lead when Švihálek fanned on his shot off the rush and Beran hustled to the goal crease and tucked in the loose puck.
The Czechs couldn’t capitalize during a mid-period two-man advantage that lasted 1:15, fanning on attempted point shots repeatedly as the Swiss maintained their cool.
Switzerland made it 1-1 with 5:40 left in the first period. Marti stepped into an enormous drive from inside the blue line that beat Bartošák through traffic.
The Czechs went up 2-1 at 3:58 of the second period on a beautiful play. Jaškin swooped behind the goal line and put a no-look, backhand pass in front of the net, where Švihálek converted it.
Jaškin continued to make an impact, hammering Tanner Richard into the boards in the Swiss end. Moments later, the 19-year-old Russian-born winger played set-up man again, taking a pass from Radek Faksa on the rush, and then backhanding it blindly through two Swiss defenders in front for Tomáš Hyka to put home for a 3-1 lead at 6:46.
Bartošák looked sharp three minutes into the third period, gloving down a quick shot off the rush by Bertschy, the Swiss captain.
Czech defenceman Petr Šidlík blocked a shot near the seven-minute mark and threw down his gloves and stick, crumpling to the ice and crawling off in pain. However, he would stay in the game.
The Swiss cut the deficit to 3-2 on the power play with 8:25 left, as Bertschy circled into the middle of the Czech zone and fooled Bartošák with a high shot.
Nyffeler did his best to give his team a chance, stopping Beran in close on a 2-on-1 feed from Czech captain Lukáš Sedlák with four and a half minutes remaining.
Marek Hrbas took a delay of game penalty for putting the puck over the glass in his own zone, and the Swiss capitalized. Marti’s blast from the line went in off Dario Simion’s chest area, and after video review, the 3-3 goal at 17:59 was ruled good.
But the Czechs rebounded in overtime, and are moving forward.
“I try not to think about how deep [we can go],” said Musil. “We just have to focus on the game in the quarter-finals.”
Swiss forward Lukas Rieber did not play, serving his one-game suspension for an illegal check on Finland’s Ville Pokka on December 28.
IHLC: With the win, the Czechs win their third straight in their 18th and current International Hockey Lineal Championship reign, which they won from Finland and retained yesterday against Latvia. This is only the fourth IHLC meeting between these nations in history, and the win improves the Czechs to a 3-1 record, in their first meeting in a decade, the last being a 7-5 pre-Worlds victory in Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada. The Czechs will now await their playoff fate, although it is clear they will enter the medal rounds with the IHLC in hand.
03:46 – GOAL – Beran (Švihálek)
06:43 – PEN – Kukan, interference
07:29 – PEN – Ness, tripping
14:20 – GOAL – Marti (Balmelli, Ness)
15:19 – PEN – Šidlík, tripping
23:58 – GOAL – Švihálek (Jaškin, Šidlík)
26:46 – GOAL – Hyka (Faksa, Jaškin)
36:30 – PEN – Frk, elbowing
45:48 – PEN – Hertl, high sticking
49:12 – PEN – Zangger, slashing
50:40 – PEN – Šidlík, interference
51:45 – PP GOAL – Bertschy (Bertaggia, Andrighetto)
57:39 – PEN – Hrbas, delay of game
57:59 – PP GOAL – Simion (Guerra, Marti)
61:39 – GOAL – Hertl (Jaškin)
W: Bartošák (26-29)
L: Nyffeler (28-32)
SHOTS ON GOAL
9+12+10+1 = 32
6+12+10+1 = 29
Goaltenders: Patrik Bartošák, Matěj Machovský. Defence: Marek Hrbas, Štěpán Jeník, David Musil (A), Tomáš Pavelka, Petr Šidlík, Jan Štencel, Patrik Urbanec. Forwards: Matěj Beran, Petr Beránek, Radek Faksa, Martin Frk, Tomáš Hertl (A), Tomáš Hyka, Dmitrij Jaškin, Petr Koblasa, Erik Němec, Lukáš Sedlák (C), Michal Švihálek, Vojtěch Tomeček, Jakub Vrána.
Goaltenders: Luca Boltshauser, Melvin Nyffeler. Defence: Eliot Antonietti, Phil Baltisberger, Samuel Guerra, Cedric Hachler (A), Dean Kukan, Christian Marti, Mirco Müller. Forwards: Sven Andrighetto (A), Lukas Balmelli, Alessio Bertaggia, Christoph Bertschy (C), Mike Kunzle, Robin Leone, Lino Martschini, Martin Ness, Jan Neuenschwander, Tanner Richard, Dario Simion, Sandro Zangger.