The Last Tie
by Andrew Podnieks|29 DEC 2021
Reto Berra was the hero for Switzerland in the last tie in World Juniors history.
photo: Jeff Vinnick
The date, January 4, 2006, is an important one in the history of the World Junior Championship. For the medal teams it was a day off before the final day of competition. Finland was taking on the United States for bronze, and then Canada-Russia would play for gold. But for Switzerland, Slovakia, Latvia, and Norway, it was the day when two teams would qualify for the 2007 World Juniors and two teams would be demoted to Division I.

The tournament was played in British Columbia. Vancouver was the main city because Hockey Canada wanted to use it as a test event for the Olympics four years later. But other games were played in nearby Kamloops and Kelowna. The relegation round back then consisted of four teams playing a round robin, with the one previous result from the preliminary round carried over to this new standings. 

On the final day, it was, in fact, already clear that Latvia and Norway would be relegated, so the two games were meaningless in the standings. Nonetheless, the games had to be played. Latvia beat the Norwegians, 4-0, to finish 9th overall, but both teams were nonetheless demoted. 

The other game, Switzerland-Slovakia, ended in a 3-3 tie, and the next year the IIHF went to a three-point system and shootout, ending tie games forever. That was nearly 16 years ago. Julian Walker opened the scoring for the Swiss on a power play midway through the first period, and Stephan Moser made it 2-0 less than two minutes later. 

Marek Bartanus got one back for the Slovaks, but Julien Sprunger restored the two-goal lead in the second. In the third, it was all Slovakia. Stanislav Lascek made it 3-2 at 12:37, and then Marek Horsky tied the game on a power play with just 3:48 remaining. At the end of the third period, teams shook hands. There was no three-minute break. No ice scraping to prepare for a shootout. Just a good, old-fashioned tie. One point each in the standings.

That was Horsky’s only goal of the tournament, and he never represented Slovakia again in any major IIHF competition. Appropriately he celebrates his 35th birthday today, probably unaware of his place in history as the man who scored the last ever tying goal in U20 play. He was playing in the OHL this 2005-06 season with the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors, but he never made it to the NHL, instead playing in the Slovak league for several years before retiring in 2018.

And the two goalies to earn that final tie? Reto Berra (SUI) and Michal Valent (SVK).

Today, Slovakia and Switzerland renew their U20 rivalry. We don’t know what the score will be, but we do know there will be a winner.