MANNHEIM – Needing a win in regulation time to have any chance of advancing to the quarter-finals, Norway came out and played an inspired game, beating an uninspired Switzerland by 3-2 to move into a tie for third place in Group F with six points. Switzerland and Sweden remain on top with nine points each, and they play tomorrow to decide top spot. Canada is also qualified for the quarterfinals following Norway’s win.
Norway, meanwhile, has played all its games and needs help from other games to advance. If Latvia beats the Czechs in regulation tonight, Latvia is in and both the Czechs and Norwegians are out. And, in the two remaining games the Czechs have to play – against Latvia and then Canada – they can’t get more than three points, or else Norway is eliminated again.
"I knew that it's always difficult to play the sixth game well," said Norway coach Roy Johansen. "But we knew that if we had a good start and played good defence, we had a chance. We played three periods with heart and soul and it paid off."
Norway got its three goals in an active first period. The line of Anders Bastiansen and Lars Erik Spets counted two of those goals and, with linemate Mathis Olimb, six scoring points, while Mats Zuccarello Aasen got the other goal.
The Swiss held a considerable edge in shots, 45-15, and both teams incurred only two minor penalties each.
"They played a fantastic game, especially in the defensive and neutral zones," said Switzerland's coach, Sean Simpson. "They deserved to win. They were hungrier than we were."
Norway drew first blood on a routine-looking play. Lars Erik Spets carried the puck in over the blueline on the right wing and stopped hard, drilling a hard pass to Olimb as he did. Olimb spotted Bastiansen and he split the defencemen and made a nice shot over the outstretched Martin Gerber to give the Norwegians a surprise 1-0 lead at 3:55.
Three minutes later, they struck again. This time, Bastiansen took the puck out from behind the net and spotted Spets in front, unguarded. Spets had only to redirect the perfect pass to the back side of Gerber to count a second Norwegian goal. It was Paul Savary, who missed his check on the play.
The Swiss got one back quickly, though, less than a minute later. Damien Brunner walked out on front and took a quick shot that went weakly through Pål Grotnes pads and in.
Norway reclaimed the two-goal lead near the end of the period when Ole-Kristian Tollefsen came in on a 2-on-1 with Zuccarello Aasen. Tollefsen fired a hard pass across and Zuccarello Aasen had only to smack it into the open side of the net for another pretty goal. Despite being outshot 19-5, Norway led 3-1 after 20 minutes.
"It wasn't too hard to get up for this game," said Anders Fredriksen. "We just had to start over and forget about what happened. We had a lot to play for. It was good for us."
The second period was as uneventful a period as these championships have seen. Norway played stifling defence around Grotnes and Switzerland lacked all energy and punch that gave it 4-1 and 3-2 wins over Canada and the Czechs, respectively, in their two previous games. The only highlight was a breakaway by Zuccarello Aasen which Gerber stopped with routine effort.
Norway was more aggressive in the third period as Switzerland pressed a little more, but in the end it was Norway’s day for hope and Switzerland’s day to rest up for a much bigger game tomorrow night. Julien Vauclair ended the scoring late in the third period with a slapshot down the left wing that eluded Grotnes.