FÜSSEN, Germany – The last game of the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship Division I became a real showdown between host Germany and Switzerland, which clinched the tournament win. The point from the 3-2 loss in overtime was exactly enough to earn promotion.
The Swiss will next year play in the top division of the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship in the United States.
Switzerland went into the last game undefeated while Germany needed a win in regulation time after a loss against France earlier this week.
"For us it was helpful to know that a tie [in regulation time] would be enough,” said Swiss Olympic bronze medallist Alina Müller, who became the tournament’s scoring leader and was selected as best forward by the tournament directorate.
Germany was first on the board when Emily Nix scored an early goal at 3:21 but Switzerland capitalized on a power play three minutes before the first intermission and tied the game with a goal from Janine Müller.
The second period ended scoreless and although both teams earned chances to score in the last twenty minutes, the Swiss dream seemed to become true. Then came the shock for the Swiss when 98 seconds before the end of regulation time Alena Hahn made it 2-1 for Germany – a score that would bring the hosts back to the top division where it came from.
But the Swiss used the little time remaining to strike back. A bad pass of a German player in her own zone gave Alina Müller the chance for a shot with 55 seconds left and the puck went in through the German goalkeeper’s five-hole.
The 2-2 tie after 60 minutes was enough for Switzerland to win the tournament and that the Swiss lost the game in overtime became nothing more than a small note. While celebrating the success after 60 minutes before going to overtime, the Swiss received a minor penalty for delaying the game that led to Nicole Eisenschmid’s power-play goal after 33 seconds.
"We had a very difficult time preparing for this championship due to a number of injured players,” explained Switzerland head coach Georgios Mourouzidas. "It was not our goal to win and advance to the top division this year. We only wanted to play our best in each match. But the team improved from game to game and grew together as a team."
Alina Müller and Dominque Rüegg were the big difference makers for their team. The two forwards finished the scoring table of the tournament on the top with twelve and ten points respectively followed by French forward Maëlle Rioux with six.
It was a great tournament for 15-year-old Alina Müller a few weeks after winning Olympic bronze as the youngest hockey player in Sochi.
"For me it was another highlight after the Olympics. I wasn't tired after Sochi, I went on preparing for this tournament. Although I already play on the senior team, this team is really mine,” she said.
“With my experience on the Olympic squad, I have to be a leader on this team. This is a great pleasure for me and I think I did it well. I am so happy!" she added with a big smile on her face.
Captain Reica Staiger is another player with senior national team experience. Although she was cut from the roster before the Olympics she explained how she and the team learned from the senior team: "It is unbelievable. It is hard for me to find the words. For me it is consolation for not making the Olympic team for Sochi. But our Olympians showed us that with hard work and serious dedication, you can be successful. It was great motivation for us to do the same here. We tried to follow their example and we were successful, too.”
The third player "making the difference for us", as Swiss coach Mourouzidas noted, was goalie Andrea Brändli, who won the Best Goalkeeper award.
Although Germany took the extra point, they did not end in second place and had to settle for bronze. It was France who earned silver instead. With both teams having 11 points, they finished in front of the host nation because of the surprising 3-2 victory in the head-to-head game on Wednesday.
"Our girls had to accept the ugly face of sport today," Benjamin Hinterstocker, the German head coach, commented on the last minutes of the final match versus Switzerland. "But in general we can be proud of our team. The girls showed the last 12 days the character of champions. But today we weren't able to achieve the victory after 60 minutes we needed and we were hoping for."
The team from Norway, last season close to the championship and promotion to the top division, started into the tournament with the games against Switzerland and Germany – and lost both 3-1 and 3-2 respectively with no points. Their biggest issue was scoring against top teams at this level. They also lost the last game to France but as a consolation had the Best Defenceman of the tournament with Anniken Olafsen.
"We are not so satisfied with the performance of our team here,” resumed Slovak assistant coach Gabriela Sabolova after the team’s fifth-place finish. "We have been the youngest team here, but looking at the results this season, we expected more than winning only one game. We wanted to play our best hockey, but our experienced players haven't been able to do so and couldn't lead the young ones as it would have been necessary. So we only ended up with the minimum goal, staying in this division."
Captain Kristina Obercianova emphasized the missing experience: "Three games we lost with a difference of only one goal. But at least our young players were able to learn a lot for their future career."
The Great Britain players learned a lot, too. Already in the first game against Germany they were faced with the gap between them and the top teams in this group and lost 10-0. Eventually the British finished without any point and a goal difference of -27 to be demoted to next year’s Division I Qualification. Click here for scores, stats and photos.