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Switzerland Avoids Demotion, Beats Belarus In Relegation Round At The 2016 World Junior Championships

It was a terrible World Juniors for the Swiss. They finished last in Group A, the tougher of the two divisions, with Sweden, United States, Canada, and Denmark all winning at least one game.

The tournament began with a 8-3 trouncing at the hands of the Swedes. Netminder Gauthier Descloux allowed six goals on 17 shots. For the remainder of the games, Detroit Red Wings prospect Joren van Pottelberghe would tend goal.

The next day, in a game they should have won, the Swiss found themselves on the losing end of a 2-1 matchup against Team Denmark, a team that would go on to have an outstanding tournament.

Game 3 was their best, as they pushed the mighty Canadians to a shootout. Canada had just defeated the Danes 6-1 the night before, but had trouble with the Swiss, having just played. Switzerland took advantage of their sluggish play and nearly upset the tournament favorites. Von Pottelberghe stopped 32 of 35 but the potential upset was thwarted by shootout goals from Brayden Point and Matthew Barzal.

And in the final preliminary round game, the Swiss gave little effort in a 10-1 blowout by the Americans, by far the widest margin of any of the games.

With a single point having lost in the shootout, the Swiss found themselves facing relegation, which is a round that occurs in every tournament in every division in the IIHF, where the worst team drops to the division below, in this case Division 1, Group A.

The World Junior Championship for Division 1 took place from December 13th to the 19th, in which it was determined that Team Latvia would be promoted to the top division, replacing either Team Switzerland or Team Belarus.

The relegation round is a best-of-three format.


Game 1: Saturday, January 2nd

Switzerland dominated the play from the drop of the puck, outshooting Belarus by a total of 41-21 in the game.

Star forwards Timo Meir and Denis Malgin each scored a goal and two assists, with the latter scoring the game-winner on a breakaway.

The Swiss showed true desperation and resilience in the contest, having three goals disallowed. You read that right. Three, plus the actual five.

Other goals were scored by San Jose draft pick Noah Rod, and undrafted forwards Damien Riat and Julien Privet.

Game 2: Sunday, January 3rd

The Swiss’s confidence showed on Sunday.  They took control immediately, scoring the game’s first goal before the four-minute mark on the power play. Pius Suter scored with assists from Meier and Malgin. Suter added a second nine seconds later. Nine seconds. According to the IIHF website, it tied the World Junior record for fastest two goals by one player (Dave Gagner), which was set on December 28, 1983 when (coincidentally) Team Canada won 12-0 over Team Switzerland.

At this point, Belarusian goalie Ivan Kulbakov was pulled in favor of Vladislav Verbitski.

Suter completed the hat trick while still in the first period, with assists from Rod and Malgin.

However, Belarus would fight back into the game in the final five minutes, scoring twice in 1:24 on goal from Dmitri Buintski and Dmitri Filippovich.

But a trio of goals from Rod, Calvin Thurkauf and Dario Meyer (not to be confused with Timo Meir) would solidify the 6-2 win, thus keeping their spot in the top division of the IIHF U20.

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Kevin Sporka

Kevin Sporka

Kevin Sporka is the Senior Media Analyst and Detroit Red Wings beat writer at HOHM. He is also the author of the Fantasy Hockey Fridays, In Retrospect, Milestone Monday, and Legends By the Number segments.
Kevin Sporka

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