Four power play goals get Switzerland the win they need. In all, special teams accounted for five goals on the evening.
Switzerland posted a decisive 6-2 win over Kazakhstan. First period goals by Dean Kukan and Denis Hollenstein and Reto Berra’s solid start in goal helps Switzerland avoid relegation.
With the loss Kazakhstan is relegated.
"It was an important win for us," said Luca Cunti. "We never thought about going down to pool B because everybody believed in this team and everybody knows what we can do. We didn't have much luck at times in the competition but we've got the win tonight."
The name of the game tonight was special teams. Exceptional special teams play earned Switzerland a shorthanded goal and four power play goals. Entering this game the Swiss had only two power play goals in five games.
As well, Switzerland had six different skaters on the scoresheet.
A year ago at this time, Switzerland was preparing for a semi-final game against the United States at the World Championship in Stockholm. Undefeated in the tournament, Switzerland advanced to the gold medal game against home side Sweden.
It is a year later and the circumstances different. Tonight’s contest at Minsk Arena was not a battle to advance in the Playoff Round but a battle for survival just to avoid possible relegation. Switzerland entered the game with four points and Kazakhstan with two in Group B of the 2014 World Championship.
Kukan’s shorthanded goal at 9:44 to start the game was all-important. With Dominik Schlumpf in the penalty box, the Kazakh power play went to work. A shot by Roman Savchenko was saved by Berra and the loose puck was picked up by Kukan who raced the other way and deposited a backhand behind Vitali Yeremeyev.
Switzerland would add a power play goal in the period. Hollenstein’s man advantage goal was scored when his shot found the tiniest of gaps between the pads and skates of Yeremeyev. The Swiss had staked themselves to a 2-0 lead.
While Switzerland may have had a difficult time solving Pekka Rinne last night, today they had Yeremeyev’s number very early. Seeing enough, Kazakhstan head coach Ari-Pekka Selin pulled his starter and replaced him with Alexei Ivanov.
Two more goals in the second period by Yannick Weber and Andres Ambuhl extended the lead to 4-0. Both goals would be scored as Kazakhstan was attempting to kill off penalties.
Switzerland controlled the great majority of this game. Kazakhstan skaters, including Nikolai Antropov and Roman Starchenko, ably attempted shots on Berra but were unable to score. With time winding down in the second Andrei Gavrilin received a pass in front of the net and got one good shot off but the Swiss netminder was perfectly positioned to make the save.
Luca Cunti scored another power play goal in the third and Eric Blum managed a Swiss first on the night with an even strength marker.
"It's tough when you're up 6-0 with 10 minutes to play," said Blum. "It's hard to stay focussed but Kazakhstan is a skilled team and they deserved those power play goals."
When Roman Josi was called for holding the stick at Kazakhstan went on the power play and finally solved Berra. Vadim Krasnoslobodtsev's power play goal put his team on the board. It was the first penalty called on the Swiss since the first period.
"We still have a chance to make the QF but it's not in our own hands," Blum said of their remaining tournament hopes. "Now we have two days off and we hope the other teams will play our way so we still have a chance to qualify, but of course we want to win our last game no matter what."