Swiss blank Norway for first win
by Lucas Aykroyd|21 APR 2023
Switzerland's Nic Balestra and Norway's Elias Vatne compete for the puck during the 5-0 Swiss win in 2023 U18 Worlds action at St. Jakob Arena in Basel.
photo: Matt Zambonin / IIHF
The house was rockin' and the home team was rollin'. Switzerland landed its first win of the 2023 U18 Worlds on Friday night, downing Norway 5-0 in front of an enthusiastic St. Jakob Arena crowd.

"It feels great, especially to get the first win here at home with our fans," said Swiss assistant captain Eric Schneller, who got the fourth goal.

In terms of putting pucks on net, it was a case of quality over quantity for the Swiss. After mustering just 18 shots in their 4-2 opening loss to Finland, the Swiss only outshot Norway 23-20.
"You can always get more shots on goal, that's for sure," said Schneller. "I think that's one aspect where we're trying to get better. And we will."

Ewan Huet, making his second consecutive start in goal for Swiss coach Marcel Jenni, delivered a solid performance to earn his first shutout and, more importantly, three points in Group B.

Huet reflected on following in the footsteps of his father, two-time Olympian Cristobal Huet, who backstopped France in senior IIHF play from 1997 to 2017: "I grew up watching him play with the national team. It was a different nation, but I think the values and the competitiveness are the same. I'm getting a little closer to him, but he was unbelievable, so I can never compare it to him. It was another level."

This was newly promoted Norway’s first top-level U18 Worlds game since finishing ninth at the 2011 tournament in Germany. Coach Christer Nylund's boys battled, but clearly face a tough road to avoid being relegated again.

"It means everything," said Norwegian captain Felix Granath. "You know, we've working hard for this since we got down to [Division I]. It's just about enjoying the momen. We are proud to be in the top division again."

Switzerland had a strong first period. At 7:58, Andro Kaderli opened the scoring thanks to some determined work by Rico Gredig. The HC Davos prospect carried the puck through the right faceoff circle and managed to centre it to his linemate, who beat Norwegian netminder Marius Bjornsgaard.

On the power play, Leo Braillard’s quick wrist shot went in off Rafael Meier to make it 2-0 Switzerland at 12:51.

Against the Finns, the Swiss dug themselves a hole with too many penalties. They totalled seven minors versus Norway, but this time, their foes simply weren't able to make them pay.

In the second period, Jan Dorthe gave Switzerland a three-goal lead at 7:30, zooming into the left faceoff circle and beating Bjornsgaard cleanly through the five-hole.

At 11:04, Schneller's centre-point wrister eluded Bjornsgaard through traffic to make it 4-0. Nylund challenged the goal for a possible offside, but it was video-reviewed and ruled good. The Norwegian coach elected to yank his starter in favour of Martin Lundberg at this juncture.

Schneller described his goal: "I just got the puck at the blue line and tried to get it by the shot-blocker. There was an unbelievable screen in front of the goal, and I was lucky enough that it went in."

The Norwegian effort wasn't lacking, as they outshot Switzerland 13-7 in the second period, but couldn't find the range. It was too bad for the constantly cheering cluster of Norwegian fans at one end of the arena, five shirtless with "NORGE" spelled across their chests in red and blue letters.

The Swiss kept on grinding in the third period to preserve Huet's goose egg. Swiss forward Jamiro Reber was hooked on a clean break and Braillard was chosen to take the ensuing penalty shot with 6:16 left, but Lundberg denied his shot in tight.

Matteo Wagner added his second goal of the tournament off the rush in the final minute to make it 5-0.

Huet summed up the Swiss vibe: "The team was unbelievable and the crowd was buzzing. I can't describe it. It feels really good."

Switzerland owns a perfect 4-0 record against Norway at the U18 Worlds. Previous Swiss wins were 7-2 (2002), 7-3 (2009), and 4-1 (2011).

Norway faces the Americans next, and Granath spoke about what awaits his team: "We know they're a good team with the puck and without the puck. So we have to be good in the D-zone and take our opportunities to be more deadly when we get the chance to score."
Norway vs Switzerland - 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship