Switzerland remains Group B’s only perfect team with 12 points after four games following a 4-2 victory over Slovakia. The Slovaks, however, were by far the biggest test the Swiss have faced so far, and scored the first two goals against them. With four points, Slovakia sits fifth in the group.
Switzerland dominated in shots on goal 36-13, but Samuel Hlavaj had another solid game in the Slovak net. Both teams bosted multiple roster additions in this game and got offensive contributions from them.
“It’s always great to get good players into the team. They are leaders and we’re happy they’re here,” Swiss forward Denis Malgin said about the additions of Nico Hischier and Jonas Siegenthaller from the New Jersey Devils. “It was a solid win. I mean, we had chances to score more goals and we didn’t, but we won and that’s the main thing.”
“We didn't play our best game,” Slovak forward Oliver Okuliar figured. “It was really tight and I think we can be proud about how we battled against them. They're one of the best teams in the tournament. But we spent too much time in our end. Their offence controlled the game too much, but we had our chances.
“It was tied 2-2 after the second period. Still, we have to play better.”
In his first game at this year’s Worlds, Siegenthaller opened the scoring for Switzerland just past the five-minute mark. From a faceoff in the Slovak zone won by Hischier, Malgin feathered a pass into his wheelhouse for a one-timer just inside the blueline that beat Hlavaj through heavy traffic.
“It wasn’t easy, I’m gonna be honest,” Siegenthaller said about playing right after flying overseas. “But after I scored the first goal ... it’s always good to help the team in that way. Overall, we stuck together and played a pretty good game.”
Switzerland went up 2-0 early in the second period. On a 2-on-1 rush, Andres Ambuhl fed Nino Niederreiter, who made no mistake.
But Slovakia responded just 21 seconds later. After picking up a loose puck along the boards, Milos Kelemen carried the puck into the Swiss zone and fed Andrej Kudrna, who one-timed it past Robert Mayer in his first game of the tournament.
That was the first goal scored against Switzerland all tournament, ending the team-record shutout streak at 205:08.
The Swiss had a couple of chances to restore their two-goal lead on breakaways in the second period. First it was Malgin, who was stopped by Hlavaj, and then while shorthanded it was Dario Simion, who was hooked from behind by Richard Panik, drawing a penalty shot. Kevin Fiala was chosen to take the shot and tried to make a move before shooting stick side but Hlavaj made a blocker save.
With 30 seconds to play in the middle frame, Slovakia tied it. Okuliar’s shot his Mayer’s blocker but the puck fell beside him, where Pavol Regenda kicked it up to his stick and tapped it across the goal line.
The teams traded chances early in the third, with Mayer making a big glove save off Marek Hrivik from point-blank range, but then the Swiss went on the attack and barraged the Slovak net.
With 13:09 to go, Switzerland regained the lead. Hlavaj protested that the puck had been played by a high stick but, upon video review, it was shown that Christian Marti’s rising shot from the point hit the glove of Slovak defender Michal Ivan and deflected in.
After that, Slovakia never seriously threatened to tie the score as Switzerland dominated in terms of puck possession and kept the play mostly in the Slovak zone. The Slovaks did get Hlavaj to the bench with 1:30 to go but that only resulted in a Gaetan Haas empty-net goal with 34.2 seconds to play.
Slovakia is back in action tomorrow against Kazakhstan while Switzerland gets a day off before a first-place showdown on Saturday.
“We’ve played against good opponents so far and every game has been close, so hopefully next game we can win,” said Regenda.
“The next game’s going to be against Canada, right?” Malgin correctly guessed. “It’s going to be an interesting game but we’ll be ready.”