I think everyone thought this game would be pretty one-sided, but it was, surprisingly, and incredibly a close game throughout.
Yaroslav Kosov had a breakaway a little more than a minute into the game, but the 6’6” Eliot Antonietti denied him on a great defensive play on the backcheck. Switzerland’s strategy, like Germany’s, seemed to be to attempt to bully Russia by hitting them all the time…including away from the puck, which drew a penalty. Switzerland almost went on the board first on a shorthanded breakaway off a giveaway at center ice, but Andrei Vasilevski stretched the pad to keep the puck out. About 30 seconds later, Alexander Khokhlachyov scored on a weak shot to the weak side the probably should have been stopped Melvin Nyffeler, the Swiss goalie
Switzerland stayed with their gameplan of taking penalties away from the puck with a slash. But this time, it paid off for them, as Nikita Nesterov attempted a misguided drop pass five feet in front of his own net to Nail Yakupov, but the puck didn’t really go anywhere; Christoph Bertschy the Swiss captain, who also had that breakaway on the previous penalty, jumped on the loose puck and beat Vasilevski, who wasn’t ready and wasn’t expecting a shot.
A strange bounce in the corner led to a great Swiss chance, but Vasilevski came up big. Kirill Kapustin ended up taking a penalty, though. Soon after, another Swiss penalty gave Russia another PP chance, and they moved the puck extremely well, but Nyffeler came up big. Russia took the fifth penalty of the period, and the Swiss flubbed the one-timer on a wide-open net; it very easily could have been 2-1 Switzerland after the first period.
Almost like a replay of the first, Russia Nikita Kucherov had a breakaway, but the long reach of Antonietti again knifed the puck away, preventing any shot. But showing that he’s human (and that he plays for Switzerland), #29 failed to keep the puck in the zone and was forced to take a hooking penalty to prevent a 2-on-1 opportunity.
My favorite part of the game was five minutes into the second period when Kirill Dyakov was called for the Sean Avery Rule. To clarify, Dyakov stood in front of the goalie, facing him and following his every movement, waving his hand in front of his face to block his view. He was smacked in the face by Nyffeler for facing him without waving his arm in the first (no call either way), but Dyakov went off for interference for the extra arm movement the second. Danil Zhakarov got called for taking a Swiss player down in front of his net after the play, giving Switzerland a one-minute two-man advantage. I don’t think they practice the five-on-three powerplay, though, because they went offside (even in the longer ice surface) twice in 15 seconds and didn’t get a shot on net.
Mikhail Grigorenko, who has been outstanding throughout the tournament, “stole” a shot from Kucherov and glided to the other side of the net and scored on a pretty backhander. In what has been called a ridiculously tight game, Switzerland took a penalty, but Russia canceled that out right away by taking a penalty of their own before having a second of powerplay time. Russia goofed defensively on the four on four, leaving a player wide open in front of the net, who had all day to corral a rebound and score on a spinning shot.
Russia drew another powerplay with 5:30 left, most of which was spent with Ray Ferraro ranting and raving about how ridiculous it is to face the goalie in a screen attempt. They also hit a post on a great pass by Dyakov (who was facing the play and not the goalie, as Ray Ferraro reminded the audience at least seven times). Switzerland also hit a post shorty after penalty time. Oh, and, surprise, another penalty, against Anton Slepyshev this time. Also, apparently the officials interpreted the hip as a part of the knee, as #?? got called for kneeing on a clean hip-on-hip check, giving the Swiss another two-man advantage (again about a minute).
The penalties carried into the third, and Switzerland was a little better on the five on three, but Russia kept the puck out with some gutsy shot blocking. Vladimir Tkachyov showed a lot of heart by sliding all over the ice on his various penalty kills, blocking a few shots. Just as another Russia powerplay expired, Switzerland scored on a nice individual effort by Jan Neuenschawander, making in 3-2 in their favor.
Then all hell broke loose with two minutes left. A Swiss player came in all alone but was robbed by the goalie. On the ensuing rush, Grigorenko drove to the net and threw the puck in front to Slepyshev, who put the biscuit in the net, which was, unfortunately for Russia, a foot behind where it was supposed to be, as a sliding Grigorenko knocked it off its moorings just prior. After a review: no goal. Switzerland was called for slashing, though, giving Russia a late-game powerplay. Thirty seconds in, Grigorenko threw the puck at the net, and it bounced off a few defenders to an open Kucherov, who smacked it in, tying the game.
For those curious, the extra time rule is a 10-minute overtime of four-on-four sudden-death play, followed by a three-round shootout if necessary. A minute in, Switzerland took another penalty (don’t look so surprised), giving Russia the 4-on-3, but they couldn’t score. Both teams had some chances throughout the overtime period, especially Russia in the last couple of minutes, but neither team was able to score.
I can’t say I’m a fan of the shootout deciding a playoff game, especially an elimination game (or any game that matters, really), but those are the rules. (that’s a rant for another time). Worth noting if it’s tied after three rounds, teams may use ANY player they’d like as MANY times as they’d like, which is a bit strange. Switzerland went first and missed. Grigorenko was stoned by Nyffeler. Bertschy for Switzerland, who was the MVP of the game for them, was stopped by Vasilevski. Yakupov was also stopped. Sven Andrighetto for Switzerland had the puck poke-checked away. Kucherov was up next win the chance to win it, but he too was stopped. Now, in another strange rule I’ll have to have someone explain to me as to why it exists, after three rounds, in addition to letting any player shoot (including someone who’s already went), the order of shooters is flipped; meaning, that since Switzerland went first in the first three rounds, Russia was to go first for the next three rounds (or possibly for the rest of the shootout, but it didn’t get past three extra rounds). Grigorenko went again, and scored on a sweet move. Vasilevski needed to make the save for the win, but Alessio Bertaggia snuck it in off the post. Then it was Kucherov’s turn again, and he deked Nyffeler out of his pads, sliding it in. Bertaggia went again, but this time Vasilevski made the save, giving the win to Russia.
So Russia wins in the shootout to stay alive, but I don’t think that’s the way they wanted it to go down. Not to dismiss the Swiss, but Russia is the far-superior team and more skilled team and should have won in regulation. They still have work to do.
If you noticed, there were a lot of penalties – 17 to be exact, Russia going 2-for-8 and Switzerland going 1-7 (failing to score on two minutes of 5-on-3 time). In five games, Switzerland went to extra time in four of them, losing all four. Russia will play Sweden tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. EST.