International Ice Hockey Federation

French thriller!

French thriller!

Da Costa scores only goal of shootout

Published 09.05.2017 23:24 GMT+2 | Author Andrew Podnieks
French thriller!
PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 9: France's Kevin Hecquefeuille #84, Laurent Meunier #10, Jordann Perret #72 celebrate with Yohann Auvitu #18 after scoring against Finland during preliminary round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
France twice rallied, forced overtime, and won in a shootout on a goal by Stephane da Costa. Both goalies made crucial saves to send the game to shots.

The win gives France five points in Group B, one behind the Swiss. Both teams have two wins and a loss. Norway also has six points, and all teams trail Canada, with nine.

Da Costa had two goals for the winners while Vincent Praplan scored twice for the Swiss.

It was only France's fifth win all time against the Swiss in 15 meetings, and it was accomplished before an incredible crowd of 6,747 that chanted and cheered all night long.

"It feels great," enthused Johann Auvitu. "It’s a big two points for us. It’s very special to win against Switzerland. It’s kind of our derby, you know? We have a lot of guys playing in Switzerland, so I’m happy for them. We’ve got a positive spiral, and we’ve got to keep going on that one. We’ve got to focus on the next game already."

"At the end, if you score but lose, it doesn’t really matter," Praplan offered. "Sure, it feels good to score, but if you lose, it’s tough. We’ll look forward to tomorrow and hope to get three points."

Players picked up on the intensity, and there were more scrums after whisltes around the goalies than usual. We may be only three games into the tournament, but the French clearly have something special going on, both with their fans and with their performance.

The game went to OT only because of a great pad save by Cristobal Huet in the final minute, and the game went to a shootout only because Leonardo Genoni made a great save on a clear chance in front by Kevin Hecquefeuille in the OT.

Despite being badly outplayed and outchanced, France came out of the first period with the only goal. And it came short-handed, to boot.

It started with a stick manufacturer’s nightmare. Romain Loeffel was in the middle of the ice, the only man at the point, when he took a shot on goal. His stick broke, though, and Auvitu picked up the puck and went up ice on a two-on-one.

Auvitu opted to shoot, and Leonardo Genoni made the save. But the puck immediately hit Loeffel’s skate and rolled into the goal at 2:53.

"I saw the opportunity," Auvitu recounted. "Their D-man broke his stick and I just jumped up. To be honest with you, it’s a lucky goal, but I’ll take it. I’m happy for the future of the tournament."

The Swiss generated several chances throughout the period but had poor finish and were stymied by Huet. Pius Suter made a great deflection, but the puck rolled just wide. Thomas Rufenacht had a great chance, but Huet snapped out the glove for a fine save. Cldy Almond had a semi-breakaway but couldn’t get off a good shot.

The Swiss carried their fine play into the second period and were rewarded early with two quick goals from Vincent Praplan. On the first, at 1:22, Huet looked behind the net one way as Denis Hollenstein passed it in front the other way. Praplan, wide open, fired into the net to tie the game.

The next shift for the pair saw a similar play but in front of the goal. Again a nice Hollenstein feed behind the play gave Praplan an open net, and at 3:48 the Swiss had a lead. 

France tied things up early in the third with the extra man. Stephane da Costa stepped in to the top of the faceoff cirle and snapped ashot to the far side of Genoni at 3:02 making it 2-2 and leaving the game's result open once again.

Andres Ambuhl put the Swiss up again at 13:14 off a turnover in centre ice. He went in alone and wired a shot over the glove of Huet. 

France was not going to call it quits, though. Nicolas Ritz hit the post with a shot, and then at 15:41 they tied it again off a faceoff. Laurent Meunier won the draw back to Anthony Rech, and while everyone thought Rech would drop the puck to his defenceman, he turned and fired, catching Genoni by surprise and hitting the short side.

The Swiss play Belarus tomorrow while France has a day off to prepare for a massive tilt against Canada on Thursday night beofre what is expected to be a large crowd at AccorHotels Arena.

"It’s going to take the same cocktail as we used against Finland," Auvitu suggested. "We were intense. We were not scared. We didn’t respect them just because it’s a big nation. It’s a special game against Canada. It’s never the same as against the others. But we’re ready. We’re happy we’re at home, and we have the crowd with us. We’re going to have to use that advantage."


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