International Ice Hockey Federation

Swiss second in Group B

Swiss second in Group B

Victory over Czechs, Sweden next in QF

Published 16.05.2017 18:57 GMT+2 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Swiss second in Group B
PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 16: Switzerland's Dominik Schlumpf #27 avoids a bodycheck from Czech Republic's Tomas Zohorna #79 during preliminary round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Vincent Praplan, Reto Suri and Damien Brunner scored as the Swiss got second place in Group B and a quarter-final berth in Paris with a 3-1 win over the Czechs.

Coming off this solid group finale against an accomplished opponent, the Swiss will play Sweden from Cologne's Group A in the quarter-finals on Thursday.

"We wanted to have a good feeling going into the quarters," said Switzerland's Thomas Rufenacht. "We didn't know what Russia-USA were doing, but we want to build. We were lucky enough to get points in every game. It may have been a little unexpected by people from the outside and what they were thinking of us, but it shows we have character."

Roman Cervenka replied for the Czechs, who had been undefeated since their opening 4-1 loss to two-time defending champions Canada.

"We wanted to win the game and stay in second place," said Michal Repik. "We had the motivation, and it's the World Championship, so we don't want to lose any game ever. You have to give credit to the Swiss. They played a tough, fast game. They blocked a lot of shots, so we couldn't get much to the net and couldn't get much possession in their end."

Swiss goalie Niklas Schlegel, a 22-year-old who plays for ZSC Lions, earned the win in his IIHF World Championship debut. The Czechs outshot the Swiss 24-21.

Schlegel only found out this morning before practice that he would start. "The players supported me well today," said Schlegel, who admitted he was nervous. "They blocked so many shots. They did a great job in front of the net. All I can say is thank you to them. They made my life easier."

With defenceman Philippe Furrer injured, Dominik Schlumpf saw his first action of 2017 on the blue line, and chipped in an assist. Swiss coach Patrick Fischer also rested defenceman Ramon Untersander and forwards Cody Almond and Dennis Hollenstein ahead of the quarter-final.

It was a tight-checking, cautious affair as the two sides jockeyed for playoff position. The Swiss got off to a good start, outshooting the Czechs 8-3 in the opening stanza.

"They'd block a shot and come back up ice," said Repik. "They played hard, and we need to be better."

Just 1:42 in, Praplan corraled a loose puck from captain Raphael Diaz’s long blast and slid it through Czech goalie Petr Mrazek for his team-leading fourth goal of the tournament. With under eight minutes left in the first, Mrazek had to stone Denis Malgin on a breakaway.

At 8:36 of the second period, Suri made it 2-0 on a slapper from the blue line that Mrazek misplayed. He got a piece of it with his glove, but it trickled over the line.

The Czechs cut the deficit to 2-1 at 14:08, swarming the Swiss net. David Pastrnak slid a pass to Cervenka at the side of the net, and he took it off his skate, pausing before coolly lofting it over the fallen Schlegel.

Midway through the third period, Schlegel made a great pad save to deny Repik. Moments later, at the other end, Mrazek stretched out and stopped Rufenacht on a 2-on-1. But he couldn't stop Brunner at 12:09. The former NHLer pounced on a giveaway in the Czech zone and hammered home a slap shot from the top of the right faceoff circle for a 3-1 lead.

That was all it would take. The Swiss thus have a shot at their first medal since 2013's silver, and make the quarter-finals for the first time since 2015.

"It's like a quick season," said Rufenacht. "It's a process. We had to learn really quickly that you can't shut down after playing one good period [in the 5-4 shootout win over Slovenia]. We also had an exhibition game against Canada, and that was a big learning experience."


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