Ambuhl leads Swiss to huge win
by Andrew Podnieks|21 MAY 2023
Andres Ambuhl scores his second goal of the second period on a nice deflection between the goalie's pads.
photo: Matt Zambonin / IIHF
Andres Ambuhl, the 39-year-old wonder of the Swiss team, scored two goals less than five minutes apart in the second period to break a 1-1 tie and send his team to a 4-2 win over Czechia in Group B action tonight.

The win ensures the Swiss will finish in first place and will play a quarter-finals game against the fourth-place team in Group A. They now have a perfect 6-0 record and 18 points, while Czechia stays in second place, five points behind, with a 4-0-1-1 record.

Switzerland trailed 1-0 early in the game, but for the second straight night they turned a deficit into a win. Last night it was Canada; tonight Czechia. 

Roman Cervenka had a goal and assist for the Czechs. Both teams went 1-for-2 on the power play in a game that was fast-paced and entertaining from start to finish.

"I think we did a lot of good things," said Swiss captain Nino Niederreiter. "We faced some adversity early on, being down again 1-0, but we did a good job playing our game and keeping to our system and we got the win. I think today was a good step in the right direction. [Ambuhl] is unbelievable. It’s his 18th World Championship and he goes out there and scores two goals. A lot of people dream of playing in just one, so it speaks to what a great career he’s had. He knows how to win hockey games, and that’s why we have him here."

"It was pretty tough," offered Czech goalie Marek Langhamer. "Switzerland has a really good team and some great individuals, but it can give us confidence that we know we can play with a team like that. I think we tried our best. We were trying to push, but Switzerland pushed back in the second period. They really started flying around us and spent a lot of time in our zone. Plus we took some penalties. And then in the third period they were playing really well defensively; they didn’t give us that much, and they scored a goal. A really experienced team, and they played really well."

Both teams have one game left, on Tuesday. The Czechs play Canada in the early game to decide second place in the group, followed by a Switzerland-Latvia tilt, which will have massive implications for the hosts, who also hope to advance to the playoffs.

The game started with some caution but opened in due course to produce the most exciting period Riga has seen this tournament. Play went up and down, chances and misses and saves at both ends. The Czechs opened the scoring off an horrendous giveaway by Dario Simion. He lost the puck in front of his goal, and Cervenka was right there to snap it in before Robert Mayer could react.

That gave Czechia some momentum, and they dominated for several minutes until Radan Lenc took an interference penalty to stifle the flow. Switzerland pounced. Romain Loeffel’s long shot from the point went all the way, tying the game at 12:41 and sending the Swiss fans into celebration mode. 

The Swiss dominated the middle period from start to finish, overwhelming the Czechs in the offensive end and playing almost flawless defence. It all started with Ambuhl, who took a pass from Enzo Corvi and wired a shot just as a Czechia penalty expired, at 3:59.

Then, at 8:37, Ambuhl was stationed in front of the Czech goal and made a clever tip off a Kevin Fiala pass-shot, giving the Swiss a lead. Then followed one scoring chance after another as the Czechs were on their heels and the Swiss flying high. Marco Miranda whipped a shot high from in front; Nico Hischier was stopped by Langhamer on a partial breakaway; Sven Senteler wired a shot off the post.

At the other end, the Czechs had one genuine chance, that when Mayer was caught out of position and Ondrej Beranek deflected a long shot off the post. The puck bounced in front, but Mayer dove back to cover the puck before any damage could be done.

Things were going along well for the Swiss in the third, but midway through Denis Malgin took an unnecessary roughing penalty after the whistle, and the Czechs made him pay. Cervenka set up Dominik Kubalik for a one-timer, and he snapped his tournament-best 8th goal at 12:14, giving the Czechs new life. The pass was made all the more special because Vladimir Sobokta was between passer and shooter and let the puck go through his legs, a la Mario Lemieux 2002 vintage. 

But the no-panic Swiss played on as if nothing had happened, and three minutes later they got that one back. Janis Moser made a sensational no-look pass to Tanner Richard who was wide open, staring at an open net as Langhamer had committed to a Moser shot. Richard snapped it home at 15:40 to seal the victory.