Switzerland beat Slovakia 6-3 in the third and deciding game of their relegation series in Umea. The Slovaks are relegated to Division IA for 2020.
It’s a big relief for Switzerland, which hasn’t been relegated since 2005. The U18 Slovaks haven’t suffered this fate since 2011.
"I think we all stood together as a group," said Swiss goalie Andri Henauer, who sparkled with 41 saves. "We showed a great team spirit and kept the level up over 60 minutes, and I think that was the key today."
Set up by Sebastian Bardh, Jannik Canova drew first blood for Switzerland against Slovak starter Patrik Kozel at 4:13. Then a flurry of goals ensued. Just 42 seconds after Jozef Hascak equalized for Slovakia, Noah Fuss made it 2-1 for the Swiss at 13:45, with Elvis Schlaepfer assisting. But at 16:40, Michal Mrazik beat Henauer with a power play goal and tied it up again.
With the teams taking a pair of minors apiece in the second period, Ronny Daehler put the Swiss up 3-2 with an even-strength marker at 17:21.
Switzerland ran away with it in the third. Joel Salzgeber made it 4-2 at 1:56 with his fourth of the tournament. With just under 10 minutes to play, Jeremy Zuercher gave the Swiss a three-goal cushion. And 33 seconds later, Simon Knak added the final Swiss tally.
There would be no wild Slovak comeback, even though Hascak cut the deficit to 6-3 with his second goal at 14:54. Frustration boiled over when Slovak star Maxim Cajkovic was assessed 25 minutes for a kicking infraction. The Swiss finished the game on the power play, and rejoiced when their survival for 2020 was confirmed.
Asked what the Slovaks could have done differently at these U18 Worlds, Hascak said: "We definitely should have kept the game much more simple than we did. We tried to do difficult things and it did not pay off. That was probably one of our biggest problems."
Slovakia, which hosts the IIHF World Championship in Bratislava and Kosice in May, must now set its sights on getting its U18 boys back to the top division for 2021.