Well, nobody’s perfect. Switzerland ended Slovakia’s streak of three straight regulation wins with an 8-1 romp on Thursday. Coach Patrick Fischer’s opportunistic team cashed in with five power-play goals.
"We have two units that work really hard," said Gregory Hofmann, who led the way offensively with two goals and two assists. "We’ve practised that a lot the last couple days and weeks. We have a lot of skill and it’s working pretty good."
It was a huge response to adversity from the Swiss, who fell 7-0 to Sweden in their previous outing, and another big step toward the playoffs at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Riga. The Swiss are tied with Slovakia and the ROC team, Switzerland's next opponent on Saturday, with nine points apiece atop Group A.
Romain Loeffel chipped in two goals and an assist and Sven Andrighetto had a goal and two assists. Swiss captain Raphael Diaz and Philipp Kurashev also both stepped up with a goal and an assist.
"We all know how good we can be when we play like that," Loeffel said. "For sure, winning the first two games and then losing against Sweden, we kept our confidence. It's not because we lost against Sweden that we lost everything. I mean, we know what we are capable of doing on the ice. And now we're going to keep going for the next games."
Appearing in his 111th career Worlds game, Swiss veteran Andres Ambuhl passed Soviet legend Alexander Maltsev for second place in all-time games played. The leader is Germany’s Udo Kiessling (119). Ambuhl added a pair of assists versus Slovakia.
About his latest milestone, Ambuhl said: "To be honest, I didn't know that! But yeah, it's nice to see those numbers. But I guess probably if you're retired and you start to see those numbers, you think, 'Oh wow, that's a big accomplishment.' But at the moment, I don't think too much about those numbers. I just want to play and win games."
The Swiss emphasized quality over quantity, as they only outshot Slovakia 28-24.
"We have to throw this game behind us and just get ready for the next one," said Slovakia's Martin Gernat.
In net, Slovak head coach Craig Ramsay came back with Julius Hudacek, who shone in the 3-1 upset over the ROC team. For Switzerland, Reto Berra, who set a Worlds record for fewest saves (4) in a shutout in his 2021 debut in the 1-0 win over Denmark, returned between the pipes.
Pospisil, who has two goals so far in Riga, was kicked out with a five-minute major and game misconduct for a gratuitous offensive-zone charge on Switzerland’s Andres Ambuhl. The 37-year-old Ambuhl, who is playing in his 16th IIHF World Championship to tie countryman Mathias Seger’s tournament record, was not injured.
"I was in the corner and tried to bring the puck behind the net," Ambuhl said. "And then he was coming. Maybe he jumped a little bit and got right in my head. I think it was the right call."
Moments after Slovakia’s Matus Sukel missed an empty-net chance shorthanded, Diaz opened the scoring during the five-minute power play at 9:47. The veteran defenceman hammered a slap shot that deflected in off penalty-killer Marian Studenic’s stick.
It marked the first time Slovakia has trailed at these Worlds. This was also the first Swiss PP goal since capitalizing four times with the man advantage in the opening 5-2 win over the Czech Republic.
"It’s always bad when you lose a player for most of the game," said Slovakia's Michal Kristof. "We had to rotate forwards which isn’t good for the players’ rhythm, but those things happen."
The Slovaks carried the play overall in the first period, outshooting their opponents 12-4. But Berra, the Fribourg-Gotteron starter who played 76 games for four NHL clubs, stood his ground.
The power play remained a weapon for Switzerland in the second period. Just 25 seconds in, Andrighetto potted his first goal of the tournament with a rising blast to make it 2-0 Switzerland. Ambuhl provided an excellent screen in front.
"To me, the second goal was poorly played," Ramsay said. "We got stagnant in our end, gave them time to wind up and take the big shot, we didn’t have pressure, and that’s not the way we want to play. That really hurt us."
At 5:17 Loeffel beat Hudacek for a 3-0 lead with a one-timer from the right faceoff circle that nicked off the goalie’s glove and in.
The Swiss maintained their opportunistic mindset. Untersander came out of the box after serving a mid-game slashing minor and got a breakaway, but rang his chance off Hudacek's left post.
At 16:11, Hofmann made it 4-0. Enzo Corvi sent a short pass from behind the goal line to Hofmann, whose one-timer squeezed past Hudacek on the short side for his third goal of the tournament.
In the third period, Timo Meier scored his team-leading fourth goal with a nice power-play tip of Santeri Alatalo's shot from the blue line. At 4:44, Kurashev's high blocker-side shot gave Switzerland a 6-0 lead.
At 5:12, Kristof finally spoiled Berra's unblemished save percentage at these Worlds, beating the Swiss netminder high to the glove.
With under nine minutes remaining, Mislav Rosandic dug an even deeper hole for Slovakia by taking a spearing major. Both employing powerful slap shots on the man advantage, Hofmann scored at 12:39 and Loeffel at 14:03.
On Saturday, Slovakia looks to get back in the win column against Denmark.
"We have to forget about the score and just focus on playing our game but without taking penalties, because we’ve got three games left and we’re not going to win them if we don’t stay out of the box," said Kristof.