2020 WJC: Slovakia vs. Switzerland Takeaways

Both Switzerland and Slovakia needed a win to take 3rd place in Group A as both had a defeat in their last game. While Switzerland lost 5-2 to Sweden, Slovakia lost 8-1 to Finland.

2020 IIHF World Junior Championship

The Slovaks had a hard time getting into the game. Switzerland took control of the game from the beginning and played like there was no tomorrow. They seemed to have had learned their lesson from the game against Sweden. They made almost no mistake from puck drop until the end of the game. It was all Switzerland all game, partly because of the stellar goaltending from Luca Hollenstein. If you take away his mistake in the second period, he played outstanding.

Gilian Kohler Fired Up

Gilian Kohler got his second and third goals in the tournament early into the game. With his two goals, he paved the way for the victory. He started hot right from the beginning, as did the rest of the team. After some good chances in the first five minutes, the Swiss forward from EHC Biel had the second goal of the tournament at the 7:55 mark of the first period. His third came just a little bit after the 10-minute mark. From that point on, the Swiss never loosened their control on the game.

Talking About Speed

Whilst in the last game against Sweden, the Swiss did not have enough speed to keep it up with the “tre kronor team.” However, in this game, it was Switzerland who outplayed the opponent with speed and stickhandling. Nothing pointed to the bad game against Sweden two days back. Everything looked smooth. There was no stumbling and bad decisions. Even while shorthanded the Swiss had some good chances, but missed those opportunities. Nevertheless, while the Swiss didn’t score shorthanded, they had three power play goals in the game.

Luca Hollenstein With Key Mistake

In the second period, EV Zug goalkeeper Luca Hollenstein made a rare mistake. The Swiss were playing on the man advantage. Slovakia cleared the puck out of their own zone and chased it. Hollenstein had the puck under control when Slovakian forward Oliver Okkuliar skated straight at him. Hollenstein missed his clearing attempt, and passed the puck to Martin Fasko-Rudias who scored the first goal for Slovakia at 18:34 in the second frame.

Switzerland goalie Luca Hollenstein Russia's Kirill Slepets
Switzerland goalie Luca Hollenstein (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Usually, these mistakes don’t show up often in Hollenstein’s play. Good for him that his teammates fought back, and Sandro Schmid reestablished the four-goal lead with five seconds left in the second period.

Switzerland Closing the Gap Between the Top 5 Nations

In this decade, Switzerland closed the cap with the top five nations (Canada, United Stated, Russia, Sweden, Finland) a bit. While they have still problems winning against the big five, they have created separation between they and the Eastern European countries. It is no surprise to me, that the Swiss senior team played twice in the final at the World Championships. And both times lost against Sweden.

Calvin Thuerkauf, Patrick Fischer
Switzerland’s player Calvin Thuerkauf and Switzerland’s Head Coach Patrick Fischer, from left, during a friendly international ice hockey game between Switzerland and Norway, in Biasca, Switzerland, on Saturday, April 21, 2018. (KEYSTONE/Ti-Press/Samuel Golay)

At the junior level, the Swiss development program is getting closer to the big five and has a chance to be the darkhorse in this tournament. It would not surprise me if they pull out a victory against Finland in their last preliminary round-robin game tomorrow. And you need definitely to watch that game.