The surprising Swiss team won three of their four games at the World Junior Championship (WJC). But because they were all in overtime (OT), they lost three points and ended up fourth in the standings, horns locked with the almost equally incredible Czechia team. Czechia won the Group A standings over Canada and Sweden by beating Canada and losing to Sweden in OT. Although Czechia looked like the stronger team, the Swiss team beat teams considered stronger than them the entire tournament. Here are the three good and bad things that went down in the quarterfinal matchup.
1 Up: Czechia’s Aggressive Attack
Czechia used an aggressive attack to maintain control of the puck during the game and keep the pressure on the Swiss team. They constantly hampered the Swiss defenders and forwards from moving the puck by staying hard to the bodies and clogging any passing lane the Swiss had. Defensively, they gave no room to the Swiss players to make any plays or headway and held them to only 18 shots on goal.
Czechia balanced their attack using their defence to help initiate the offence and maintain zone pressure throughout the game. The cycle was very efficient and kept the Swiss team chasing the puck and creating critical errors that led to goals for Czechia. Offensively, they moved quickly and outskated the Swiss defence, creating several two-on-ones and breakaways throughout the game.
1 Down: Swiss Goaltending
The Swiss started the game quickly by taking a one-goal lead on their first shot, then, minutes later, Czechia tied the game on a weak shot that Swiss starter Kevin Pasche should’ve had. It was all downhill from there, and with the Czechs dominating the possession game, much of the play was in the Swiss end. Pasche allowed four goals on eleven shots, putting the Swiss behind by three early in the second.
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Pasche was replaced after the fourth goal early in the second, and backup Alessio Beglieri didn’t fair much better, as he allowed five goals on 17 shots, though he did make some big saves in the third period. The Swiss goaltending was solid in the round-robin play and was a huge reason they won three OT games. But in the game that counted, they were more like the famous cheese that comes from their home country, allowing more savable goals than they should have.
2 Up: Czechia Defence
The Czech defence played an incredibly tight game; they allowed the first goal but then tightened up, making it difficult for the Swiss to create any momentum. The defence played hard on the body and took away any shooting or passing lanes the Swiss opened, making it hard for them to get a quality shot or chance against Czechia.
They were not only stifling defensively, but they also helped lead the attack offensively. Their defence scored one goal and set up five others while helping keep control of the offensive zone from the blue line. Czechia’s defence has been the biggest reason for their success; led by David Jiricek and Stanislav Svozil, it is well-balanced offensively and defensively and proved against the Swiss that when it works right, it can lead to a dominating game for Czechia.
2 Down: Swiss Decision Making
The Swiss played an intelligent round-robin, which guided them to three OT victories and only one regulation loss. They played solid defence and made smart plays to move the puck and create offence. They rarely made critical errors and always knew where to put the puck to avoid danger. They also played a solid game against Czechia in the preliminary round before the WJC officially started.
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This time against Czechia, the Swiss seemed lost, throwing pucks at Czechia players, making bad passes and poor communication by the defence. They had a two-on-one shorthanded, but the Swiss player decided to spin around and pass behind his linemate instead of forward or shooting himself, nullifying the opportunity. During board battles, they would gain possession of the puck, but instead of passing to an open player, they took too much time and got tied up, or they would win the battle and pass the puck back to the Czechia team.
3 Up: Czechia’s Physicality
Czechia started soft, but after going down by a goal, they quickly turned up the heat and started bullying the Swiss. They used their size and speed and muscled the Swiss off the puck every chance they could. They were more physical along the boards and dominated the board battles. Their physicality created a sense of urgency in the Swiss and made them rush their plays or overthink their next move and take the swiss off their game.
3 Down: Swiss Special Teams
The Swiss special teams were atrocious against Czechia. They went 0-3 on the power play, allowed a shorthanded goal on their first power play and a breakaway opportunity on their third. They generated zero shots and kept little control in the offensive zone with the man advantage. They were only shorthanded once, and although Czechia didn’t score, it wasn’t for not having chances, as they held the zone for almost the entire man advantage, which was shortened due to Czechia already having a man in the box.
Switzerland picked the worst possible time to have their worst game of the tournament, especially after such a successful round-robin. The only hope now is for them to take this experience into next year’s WJC and improve on the success they had.