Swiss win at last

Romy downs GER, lifts SUI off the bottom

14.05.2014
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Switzerland players celebrate after a second-period goal against Germany. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images

It was often nervous, but Switzerland produced the moments of classy hockey to snap its losing streak and overcome Thomas Oppenheimer's two-goal show.

It took a while for Switzerland to get going in this game, but two well-worked goals in the second period proved enough to down a dogged German team and earn a much-needed 3-2 win at Minsk Arena.

Denis Hollenstein and Kevin Romy posted markers within five minutes of one another as the Swiss finally sparked into life and began to demonstrate the additional class that would take them past a two-goal show from Thomas Oppenheimer that lifted the Hamburg Freezers man's personal goal tally to four in four World Championship games.

The Swiss finally clicked into gear midway through the game, at last adding a cutting edge to their game. A neat interchange between Reto Schappi and Andres Ambuhl set up Hollenstein for a shot that drew a fine stick save from Rob Zepp.

That was a dress rehearsal for Switzerland's next play, which followed a similar pattern as Luca Cunti and Roman Josi combined to set up Hollenstein for a one-timer from between the hatchings that gave the goalie no chance.

Then Brunner's backhand feed from the red line was met by Romy to stretch the lead to 3-1 and get the Swiss flags flying proudly around Arena Minsk.

Game-winner Romy identified the second period as the turning point in the game - and possibly even the tournament: "Scoring those two goals in the second were huge for us. The offence got going, for sure, but we got a lead that held up in the end.

"When we play our game and put Germany under pressure we are faster and more skilled than they are. This was a better effort by our side and a return to the things that we've done well in the past."

Germany wasn't ready to yield, though. Oppenheimer got his second of the game as the intermission approached. The Swiss defence gravitated towards the near post, leaving Oppenheimer all alone at the back to slide Kai Hospelt's pass beneath Reto Berra.

The scoreless third period saw Switzerland contain the Germans fairly comfortably although Alexander Barta might have done better when Frank Mauer gave him a clear sight of goal with five minutes to play.

Then in the last minute, moments after Etienne Froidevaux missed an empty net that would have settled the outcome for the Swiss, Barta hit the crossbar from close range as Swiss nerves finished all a-jangle.

Josi reflected on that dramatic finale: "We had a great chance for a fourth goal then they came straight back down the ice and hit the bar. Everything went so fast. I saw [Barta] in front of the goal and thought 'please don't score'. Luckily he put it on the crossbar."

That excitement was in stark contrast to a first period of decidedly limited hockey. Switzerland, runner-up a year ago, has suffered a kind of reverse alchemy in much of this tournament so far and turned precious metal into lumpen, leaden performances as it slumped to an 0-3 record in Sean Simpson's last tournament behind the bench.

With the pressure bubbling over in the build-up to this match-up, the Swiss seemed anxious in an opening stanza that was disappointingly light on coherent hockey.

Neither side created a great deal around the net, and aside from a flurry of action midway through the session there was little to excite either set of fans.

Switzerland did open the scoring on the power play in the 13th minute when Damien Brunner's slapper went through Zepp and evaded Marcus Kink's valiant efforts to hook the puck to safety as it dribbled over the line.

But the lead lasted just 100 seconds: Oppenheimer, Germany's matchwinner against both Kazakhstan and Latvia, got his third of the tournament, hustling to the post to touch home a Hospelt shot.

Victory lifts Switzerland off the foot of the Group B table, sending Kazakhstan into the relegation place. And, for Brunner, there are still hopes of a place in the quarter-finals.

"We found ways to score goals out there and ways to win the game," he said. "Of course we have a chance to get to the quarters if we win our next three games. It's going to be tough be we can do it."

ANDY POTTS

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