Swiss punch QF ticket
by Andy Potts|15 MAY 2018
Switzerland's Nino Niederreiter with a scoring chance against French goalie Florian Hardy.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Switzerland secured its place in the quarter-finals with 5-1 victory over France. First period goals from Gregory Hofmann and Enzo Corvi set the Swiss on the way to a win that extinguished Slovakia’s hopes of snatching fourth place in Group A, while tallies from Ramon Untersander, Kevin Fiala and Simon Moser added gloss to the scoreline. Guillaume Leclerc got the French reply.
For Team France, too, this was a significant day. Although the team had an outside shot at making the quarters if it could win here and Belarus upset Slovakia later in the day, this was always likely to be the final game behind the bench for head coach David Henderson and his assistant Pierre Pousse. Winnipeg-born Henderson, a loyal servant of the Amiens club before joining the national program, has overseen a transformation of the nation’s hockey fortunes in his 14 seasons as head coach. In 2007 he led France to promotion to the Elite Pool and the country has remained there ever since, enjoying memorable victories over the likes of Canada and Russia during 11 uninterrupted seasons among the best in the world.

After the game, Henderson and Pousse left the ice to a guard of honour from both sets of players in respect of their achievements in raising French hockey to new heights. The travelling French fans waved their tricolore flags and held a sign reading 'Bravo et Merci'

Henderson commented: "There's lots of emotion for us. Pierre and I have been working together for a long time. We played together, I coached him. He's another very, very, very important part of this team. We've done this together." 
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However, his team was unable to give him a winning send-off. Switzerland knew just what it had to do and duly executed. The first session saw the Swiss working hard to boss the game in centre ice. The top line of Corvi, Timo Meier and Nino Niederreiter was especially effective at forcing turnovers before France could get into the offensive zone and created the springboard for several dangerous raids on Florian Hardy’s net.

That early pressure finally paid off in the 13th minute. Gaetan Haas put in the hard graft behind the net and popped the puck out to the left-hand circle where Hofmann was waiting to launch a slapshot that gave Hardy no chance.

Switzerland added a second after forcing yet another turnover in centre ice. Meier’s poke check on Kevin Hecquefeuille released Niederreiter. The two NHLers exchanged passes before Niederreiter’s shot looped back off Hardy. Corvi was on hand to sweep the rebound into the net.

"We played solid," said Swiss captain Raphael Diaz. "We got the puck deep, we made some plays if we had to, if we got some room. Otherwise we kept it pretty simple. I think it was a big team win here."

Hopes of a French recovery took a hit in the second period when two separate hooking calls sent Hecquefeuille and Alexander Texier to the bin and gave Switzerland two minutes of 5-on-3 play. A flurry of Swiss offence saw six shots on Hardy but the goalie stood up to the barrage and kept the score at 0-2.
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Switzerland vs. France
Switzerland's two goals in the first proved to be the fire they needed to punch their ticket to the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship quarter-finals. 
15 MAY 2018
Later the French PP got a chance to show what it could do, but found Switzerland’s PK in good form. France was able to move the puck nicely around the Swiss zone but never really found away to get inside the defence and test Leonardo Genoni between the piping.

Another French penalty late in the middle frame saw Switzerland wrap it up. HC Bern defenceman Untersander potted his third of the championship when he smashed home a one-timer off Roman Josi’s feed to make it 3-0.

The teams traded quick goals early in the third period. First Fiala claimed his first goal since arriving in Denmark at the weekend. The Predators’ forward was looking for a pass to the slot and got lucky when Hugo Gallet’s outstretched stick turned the puck into his own net.

France responded almost immediately and scored its first goal within a minute. Florian Chakiachvili smashed in a point shot and Leclerc battled with Untersander in front of the net before getting the decisive touch to take it past Genoni and put Les Bleus on the scoreboard.

Switzerland was unwilling to allow the opposition to have the final word, and added a fifth with six minutes left when Moser raced on to Joel Vermin's pass to wrap up the scoring with a short-handed goal.

Regardless of today’s other results, Switzerland’s fate is clear. Patrick Fischer’s team heads to Herning for a quarter-final match-up against Group B winner Finland.

"They won against the States, and against Canada 5-1," Diaz added. "But in the end, it’s a new game. It’s 0-0. I think we have to go and play our game from the first second, and pressure as well. Nobody likes the pressure. We have a lot of speed and I think we have to do that from the start."

France will take sixth place in Group A, comfortably surviving another season in the top division. For Henderson, that represents a successful finale as head coach.

"We needed to stay up and we did," he said. "There’s a little disappointment that we couldn’t get another victory, either today or in another game but it’s a successful season for us. I’ll be looking forward to watching them, following the French team in the future."

The leading French players in the tournament were named as goalie Florian Hardy, defenceman Kevin Hecquefeuille and forward Damien Fleury.
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Switzerland vs. France