BUFFALO – Switzerland got goals from four players in the first 14 minutes of the opening period and hung on for a 4-3 win over Germany to begin the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship at HSBC Arena in Buffalo.
It was the first non-exhibition meeting between the two teams at the U20 level since 2007 when Switzerland won 5-3 in a relegation round game that sent Germany to Division I for 2008 and kept the Swiss in the top level.
Switzerland plays Finland on Tuesday while Germany plays Slovakia tomorrow as Preliminary Round play in Group A continues.
"We were flying in the first period but took it too easy after that," Swiss captain Nino Niederreiter conceded after. "But the main thing now is we got the victory."
"We were nervous in the first period and lost all the battles for the puck," Germany's Norman Hauner admitted. "Eventually the team woke up and we got back to our game plan."
Inti Pestoni got the opening goal of the tournament at 4:31 after a terrible line change by the Germans. He controlled the puck deep in the German end, outwaited goalie Philipp Grubauer, and slid the puck into the open net for an early 1-0 lead.
Niederreiter, the 18-year-old who has played some games with the New York Islanders this season, got the second goal on a nice individual rush, and then Romain Loeffel and Luca Camperchioli scored on long shots that eluded Grubauer.
"I got the puck at our net and kept skating, and got some speed," Niederreiter said of his goal. "No one came at me so I kept going, and I was lucky to snipe it at the end."
Coach Ernst Höfner substituted goalies late in the period, Grubauer coming out and Niklas Treutle coming in. It was an odd time to make the change, to be sure, but the Germans flipped a switch for the second period.
They got on the board at 4:22 of the middle period on a power play when Swiss goalie Benjamin Conz failed to control a point shot during a German power play. Marcel Noebels was Johnny-on-the-spot to knock in the rebound. Conz made up on the next shift when he stopped Norman Hauner point blank.
Germany dominated the period, though, but weren’t rewarded with a second goal despite a substantial advantage in puck possession and territorial play. In the third, the Swiss regained their composure and took play to their opponents once again, only to find a plucky German side.
Matthias Plachta made it 4-2 on a lucky bounce in front, and then things got tense when Corey Mapes made it a one-goal game after finishing off a play started by a shot from Hauner.
"This is intense, high-level hockey, and we have to learn to keep going," Niederreiter said. We were lucky at the end." Indeed, the Germans held a decided advantage in shots over the last two periods, 30-11.