Swiss start with W
by Andrew Podnieks|27 APR 2021
photo: Ryan McCullough / HHOF-IIHF Images
Lian Bichsel and Liekit Reichle scored first-period goals to lead Switzerland to a solid 4-2 win over Latvia tonight in Plano, Texas. The win gives the Swiss a leg up in their quest for a playoff berth for the first time since 2017.

Switzerland has now won four meetings in a row against Latvia, their only loss coming in their first ever meeting back in 2012.

The Swiss went 1-for-6 on the power play, but Latvia held a decided edge in shots, 41-29. 

"We were nervous at the start, but we scored some goals in the first period," said Swiss coach Marcel Jenni. "In the second we had too many turnovers, but this is part of the precess. We have to learn how to compete at this level. I'm really happy for the win, but we can play better."

"We're here to try to go as far as possible, so even though we lost today we're keeping our heads up and moving forward," said Latvian captain Martins Lavins. "Twice we allowed two quick goals, and that just can't happen, but the willpower was there, the chances were there, but we didn't score enough goals, and that's the most important thing in hockey."

Tonight’s game was a game of shot blocking. Players from both sides helped their goalies plenty, getting in lanes, getting in front of shots, and collapsing around the blue ice. Appropriately enough, the game’s best scoring chance early came off a blocked shot. Nicolas Perrenoud got in the way of a point shot, chased down the loose puck, and had a good chance against Karlis Mezsargs.

The Swiss opened the scoring on the power play at 12:02 when Bichsel’s pint shot went all the way through traffic. Just 24 seconds later, they made it 2-0. Louis Robin made a sensational cross-ice pass in the offensive end to Reichle, and his quick shot from the back side beat Mezsargs cleanly.

The Swiss got two more quick goals early in the second to take a commanding lead. Biasca again started the play, getting the puck to Bichsel at the point. He walked around Roberts Cjunskis and fired a short side shot high over Mezsargs glove at 4:42.

Just 24 seconds later, Louis Robin got to a rebound in front to make it 4-0. Latvia coach Olegs Sorokins called a timeout and made a goalie change, inserting Marks Slavinskis, but the Latvians promptly took two quick penalties to give Switzerland a lengthy 5-on-3. The penalty killers shone, however, and that gave the team some life.

Latvia scored its first goal with only 2:10 remaining in the period when Dans Locmelis banged home a loose puck. Using this momentum, they continued to press and were rewarded. Bogdans Hodass took a shot from a bad angle, but Kevin Pasche failed to control the puck and Anri Ravinskis was right there to convert with only 51 seconds left. That cut the lead to 4-2 and gave Latvia some life heading to the dressing room.

To their credit, though, the Swiss came out and played stifling defence for the third, giving Latvia precious few chances to complete the rally. The result was an impressive and solid victory.

"The coach told us to keep it simple, go back to our game plan the way we talked in the pre-season and before the game," said Sidler. "It was a much better period for us."

"We have to respect our opponent," Jenni added. "We didn't complain. We focused on being mentally strong and working ourselves back in the game."

Latvia now has a day off before facing Canada on Wednesday while the Swiss are back at it tomorrow, playing an afternoon game against Belarus.
Latvia vs Switzerland - 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship