It was a much closer game than the one a year ago, when the Czechs won easily, 6-3, and were the dominant team. "I think last year they had about 40 shots and maybe 15 for us, but today the shots were 27-27," noted Swiss coach Christian Wohlwend. "We're very happy with how we played today."
The Swiss turn around and play hosts Canada tomorrow while the Czechs get a day off before playing Russia on Friday.
Both teams have endured lengthy medal droughts in World Junior play. The Czechs last reached the podium with a bronze in 2005 while the Swiss took a bronze back in 1998.
Kvasnicka's goal was a sigh of relief for a Czech team that was lucky to get to the short fourth period.
"It was a pretty tough game for us," admitted Czech forward Filip Zadina. "We fought through. It's not a bad start for us."
Today, much of the game was played between the blue lines and when it wasn’t it was often a five-on-four during the first two periods. The two referees whistled a total of 12 penalties in the first 40 minutes (but only one more in the third).
A ragged opening period, advantage Czechs, failed to produce a goal, but that was in large part thanks to goalie Luca Hollenstein who stoned two Czechs from in close. He robbed Krystof Hrabik with a back-side pad save, and moments later robbed Jachym Kondelik on a first-rate chance during a four-on-four.
The Swiss opened the scoring at 7:45 of the second on a power play. Sven Leuenberger made a great slap pass to captain Eggenberger to the side of the crease, and the captain made no mistake on a quick one-timer.
The Czechs tied the score just 77 seconds later, though. This time it was Martin Kaut to the side, taking a pass from captain Martin Necas, and firing a quick shot that squirted through Hollenstein’s equipment. It was a shot the goalie would certainly like back.
Perhaps the most entertaining part of the game came late in the second period when the Czechs had a man advantage. During extended possession in the Swiss end, not one but two Swiss players broke their sticks, leaving only two skaters fully able to defend. The Czechs failed to capitalize, though.
The Swiss had a two-man advantage to close out the middle period but some brave shot blocking by the Czechs kept it a 1-1 game through two periods.
The Swiss had the decided advantage in the third, generating more good chances and driving hard to the net, but the best chance came off the stick of Hrabik, who drilled a shot off the post past Hollenstein's glove. Soon after, Philipp Kurashev was sent in home free, but his deke was deftly stopped by Czech goalie Lukas Dostal.
As the game headed to overtime, Necas was almost the goat--and then almost the hero. He took a needless cross-checking penalty with 2:52 left, giving the Swiss a great chance, but the penalty killers were that much better. And then, with but a few seconds remaining, Necas let go a quick shot, forcing Hollenstein to make a sensational pad save.