The Swiss won because of superior speed and puck movement, better goaltending, and a more determined, disciplined team effort, plain and simple.
Timo Meier and Gregory Hofmann led the way with two goals each.
"The key was a solid team performance," Meier noted. "There were some ups and downs in the game, but we stuck with it, played a detailed game. We defended well. We had a goalie playing really well for us tonight. And then obviously special teams where we capitalized, which is really important in a tournament."
Indeed, it was a game between two teams that have been heading in opposite directions since 2013. The Swiss have made it to two gold-medal games in that time, winning silver twice, while the Czechs have made it only as far as the bronze game (three times) but have yet to reach the podium, their longest medal drought in team history.
"It’s the start we wished for," said Swiss forward Andres Ambuhl. "It’s exciting to start with a win. It was a great team effort, and the power plays helped us today. We worked on it a lot in practise, and today luckily it worked out and it’s the reason we won the game."
"I play in the Swiss league and I know how many good teams they have," said Czech captain Jan Kovar, who was the MVP in the National League this past season. "They've been getting better every year, so I don't think they were the underdogs. I think they're one of the favourites in the tournament. The penalties made the difference. We played a lot on PK today, and that’s a mistake."
It was also a game that featured a fresh Swiss team, playing for the first time this tournament, against a Czech team that lost a disheartening 4-3 decision to Russia yesterday.
The Swiss are back at it tomorrow against Denmark while the Czechs now get a day off before facing Belarus.
They managed to get the first goal thanks to a power play. Kovar made a nice pass in front to Filip Chytil, and his shot beat Leonardo Genoni to the short side as the goalie moved too far over to cover the middle of the net.
Two minutes later, the Swiss tied it on their own man advantage. This time a long point shot from Hofmann beat Simon Hrubec over the glove at 17:09. In the final minute, Hrubec kept the game 1-1 with a great left-pad save off a deflection from Vincent Praplan in front.
The Czechs had their best chance of the second period early on a Swiss power play when Dominik Kubalik broke in alone, but Genoni stayed with him on the deke and made the save. The Swiss went ahead 2-1 at 4:14 with another power-play goal, this thanks to a sensational cross-ice pass from Nico Hischier to Meier. Meier ripped a one-timer over Hrubec’s glove.
The period was end-to-end entertaining, both teams getting decent chances and a fair share of possession in the offensive end. The Swiss went ahead by two goals with less than two minutes remaining when Praplan hit a streaking Tristan Scherwey with a breakaway pass. Despite being hounded by Libor Sulak, Scherwey managed to lift the puck over Hrubec’s shoulder, giving the Swiss an impressive and well-earned 3-1 lead.
Coach Filip Pesan gave goalie Roman Will the tap for the third period and the Czechs started to forecheck more aggressively knowing they needed two goals. But the Swiss remained resilient and drew two power plays during the middle part. They didn't do much on the first one, but they connected on the second.
The goal came at 10:27 and was another one-timer for Meier, who beat Will high off a perfect cross-ice pass not from Hischier but rather Enzo Corvi. The Czechs got some life five minutes later when a quick wrist shot from the point by Chytil was tipped in front by Jiri Smjekal, making it a 4-2 game.
But a lazy Czech penalty – their seventh of the game – gave the Swiss a late power play, and they converted for the fourth time. This time it was Hofmann with his second, on an identical cross-ice pass and one-timer that beat Will over the shoulder.
"I think we're based on speed and having the puck, creating great rushes and playing solid defence with great goalies," boasted Hofmann, describing not Canada or Russia, not Finland or Sweden. Switzerland. Get used to it.