The relegation match at the 2016 World Junior Championship will not require a third game, with Switzerland beating Belarus 6-2 on Sunday to clinch a spot in the 2017 World Junior Championship in Toronto and Montreal, where they will compete in the group playing in Montreal, according to the IIHF.
Swiss Not Expected in Relegation
It’s not an entirely surprising outcome, as many thought the Swiss wouldn’t even be facing the possibility of relegation. They brought a solid team to the tournament, including a number of NHL prospects, looking like they should be able to best Denmark coming out of Group A. The Danes wound up being one of the great stories of the tournament, beating the Swiss and giving Russia, Canada and the U.S. some good competition.
The Swiss had a couple of San Jose Sharks prospects in Timo Meier and Noah Road — who took a puck to the groin and had to be taken to the hospital (Update: he escaped serious injury) — as well as solid players like Pius Suter, Denis Malgin, Calvin Thurkauf and Jonas Siegenthaler, which makes their appearance in the relegation round all the more surprising.
Dario Mayer, who scored in Sunday’s game, told the IIHF website following the game, “We had a tough group with Canada and America, but we had also Denmark. We were able to play against Sweden. We could have beaten Canada. So we had a good team, but it’s still disappointing to be in these relegation games.”
It’s not hyperbole that the Swiss could have taken Canada, who was eliminated in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1998. The Swiss took Canada to a shootout, grabbing a point in the game. It was the first time the Swiss have ever earned a point against Canada in the World Juniors, which is in itself an accomplishment for the underdogs.
Highlighting Sunday’s game was a hat trick by Suter, formerly of the OHL’s Guelph Storm, that included scoring a pair of goals just nine seconds apart in the first period, tying Dave Gagner’s tournament record set in 1983.
After being informed of the record following the game, Suter said, “I didn’t know that – I just realized that now. It’s pretty cool!”
The Swiss continue to put together tough teams and avoid relegation and they should continue that trend with a steady crop of talented players coming up through their program, including 16-year-old Nico Hischier, who was on the team this year. He put up just a pair of assists and one shot on goal in limited ice time, but he’s considered to be one of the top prospects entering the 2017 NHL draft and should be a factor for the team at next year’s World Juniors.
He also played for the Swiss team at the Ivan Hlinka tournament this year, scoring three goals and six points in four games.
Switzerland named Rod, Simon Kindschi and Suter as their best players of the tournament. For Belarus, it was Ivan Kulbakov, Vladislav Goncharov and Artemi Chernikov.
Moving into Belarus’s spot in the 2017 tournament will be Latvia, who won the World Junior Championship Division I Group A in December. They have been outside of the top group for the last three years.
Dustin Nelson writes about news and the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.