No bending
by Erin Brown|12 JAN 2023
Talina Benderer stopped 21 shots to earn the shutout.
photo: Andrea Cardin / IIHF
Talina Benderer never broke.

The goaltender made 21 saves, backstopping Switzerland to a 5-0 win over Japan in the first of a best-of-three relegation series.

"The Japanese are a very tough team, very persistent. They go all the time," Switzerland coach Melanie Haefliger said. "We know we need a strong defensive zone and a good goalie in the net. We're happy Talina showed us what she can do and held us in the game."

Elena Gaberell and Leoni Balzer each scored a goal and an assist.
Switzerland vs Japan (Rel. 1) - 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship
SUI JPN 12 JAN 2023
Japan dominated first-period play with relentless speed to the point where Switzerland's players could be seen bending over from exhaustion halfway through the period.

A lucky bounce in the final minute gave them much-needed breathing room.

With 54 seconds left in the opening period, Naemi Herzig fired a shot from the right circle which Japanese netminder Madoka Sekiguchi stopped. But the puck took a weird bounce and slid through the crease, hit the skate of a Japanese player in front and slowly crossed the goal line.

"The first goal is always important, for the team and the spirit of the team," Swiss captain Elena Gaberell said.

"The start of this game was not bad," Japan coach Yujiro Kasahara said. "In the next game, we need to play like the first period of this game and get a win (to force a third game)."

After a scoreless second period, the Swiss pulled away with a pair of goals in the third period. Gaberell doubled Switzerland's lead 1:03 into the period by redirecting a pass by Balzer from the left side of the crease.

Laure Meriguet provided an insurance tally at 4:52 when her shot from the left point hit Sekiguchi's stick awkwardly, went over the goalie's shoulder and into the net.

For the first 10 minutes of the second period, the Japanese appeared deflated, registering just one shot. But they regained momentum after killing off a 1:40 5-on-3 after miscues for too many players on the ice and a delay of game penalty.

But Japan could not get one past Benderer, who ended up stopping eight shots in the first period, six in the second and seven in the third. She came up with a big save on a scrum in front with 3:52 left in the game to preserve the shutout.

Japan pulled Sekiguchi twice for an extra attacker in the final five minutes, leading to empty net goals by Balzer and Alizee Aymon.

Both teams will have an off-day on Friday.

"We will analyze (the game tape) and usually we have to do a lot of little things better," Haefliger said. "The Japanese are going to come at us like a hurricane in the next game, I am absolutely sure. We have to be ready from the start."

The teams meet again Saturday at 18:00. If a third game is necessary, it will take place Sunday at 14:00.

"We don't practice tomorrow so we can be fresh for the next game," Kasahara said.

The Swiss, who are facing relegation for the second consecutive year, have extra incentive to win this series. They will host the IIHF U18 Women's World Championship in 2024.

"We learned last game, but today we won," Gaberell said, referring to Switzerland's 2-1 win over Japan to close out round-robin play. "It's so important. We hope Saturday is the last game."
Switzerland vs Japan (Rel. 1) - 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship