BERNE – In Sunday's key battle of neighbouring rivals, Swiss captain Mark Streit scored on the power play at 1:18 of overtime to give the host nation a 3-2 victory over Germany.
Taking a pass from Martin Pluss, Streit teed up a howitzer through traffic that beat German goalie Dimitri Patzold high on the glove side and sent the red sea of Swiss fans into a frenzy. The goal came 37 seconds into the man advantage, with German defenceman Michael Bakos off for holding Severin Blindenbacher in the German zone.
"I don’t think the goalie saw it," said Switzerland's Ryan Gardner, who screened in front on the play. "That’s my job, and that’s what the coach says: 'Get in front of the net.' The French goalie saw a little too much [in the first game], but it went better today."
In many ways, this was the most anticipated game of the tournament for the two Group B nations. The result enhances Switzerland's chances of securing a quarter-final berth. The Swiss have made the Qualifying Round regardless of how they fare Tuesday versus Russia, while Germany needs a win over France that day to avoid the Relegation Round.
As expected, this was a low-scoring, tight affair, and the mesh that rippled most often was the protective netting hung at either end of the rink. Roman Wick and Mathias Seger scored in regulation time for Switzerland, while Christoph Ullmann and Christoph Schubert replied for Germany.
"It was a very exciting, emotional, and hard-fought game," said German head coach Uwe Krupp. "My team played even with the Swiss team in the first two periods. We had our chances but didn’t capitalize. At the end, the score reflects how the game was played."
The result extended the host country's World Championship winning streak against Germany to three games. The Germans haven't beaten Switzerland in IIHF World Championship play since a 3-0 win on April 28, 2002 in Sweden.
"For me, it was the best game between Switzerland and Germany in the 12 years that I have experienced them," said Swiss head coach Ralph Krueger. "It was a great hockey game, and there was great aggression in a positive sense. Everybody played hard. I don’t think there was anybody on either team that
didn't give their best."
Germany drew first blood on the power play at 6:26 when Ullmann collected a loose puck at the side of the net and, with Swiss goalie Martin Gerber already committed at the top of the crease, jammed it into the open cage.
At 8:36, the flag-waving Swiss fans were reenergized when Romano Lemm grabbed the puck behind the German net and centered it to Wick, who beat Patzold cleanly. Wick nearly repeated his feat on an identical set-up from Julien Sprunger during a subsequent Swiss man advantage.
With the score tied 1-1, the teams settled into more of a defensive groove in the second half of the period. Gerber had to be sharp to stymie the Germans on close-range chances during a penalty to Thomas Ziegler.
In the second period, the Swiss came out storming with physical and offensive zone pressure. In the opening minute, Switzerland's Thierry Paterlini shook up Michael Hackert with a solid hit inside the German blueline. Shortly afterwards, Goran Bezina drew the ire of the German bench with a crunching check that was nearly from behind. Chants of “Hopp Schwitz!” shook PostFinance Arena.
At 3:35, with a delayed penalty coming up to Germany, Seger stepped into a slapshot from the center point that blew past Patzold for a 2-1 Swiss lead.
The Germans buzzed Gerber's net on a mid-second period power play, but couldn't get the puck past the NHL-seasoned veteran. But at 13:02, Germany's Schubert got loose on a shorthanded breakaway and scored on his own rebound to make it 2-2.
As the middle frame wound down, it was the turn of the German fans to exult with chants of “Ole, ole, Super Deutschland!”
Switzerland got a big opportunity early in the third period, enjoying a two-man advantage with Schubert and Moritz Muller in the sin bin. Yet the Germans worked hard to block PP quarterback Streit's drives, and the Swiss only got a couple of decent chances from inside the left faceoff circle.
Only in overtime would Streit deliver the relief the vocal Swiss crowd craved. Switzerland outshot Germany 38-22, including the only two shots in the extra session.
"The team was tested mentally when Germany went up by 1-0, and then when we gave up a painful shorthanded goal in the third period," said Krueger. "But in the end, we deserved the win, the way the third period and the overtime went."
On a curious note, Germany's Hackert suffered damage to his #33 jersey during the game and replaced it with a #55 jersey with no name on the back. Bakos, who got cut over the right eye from a hit in Germany's 5-0 loss to Russia, returned to the lineup wearing a face shield.