By Josh Ferguson
Switzerland will play the United States in the quarterfinal on Wednesday after a 3-2 shootout win over Belarus in the first qualification match of four at Canada Hockey Place.
Belarus opened the scoring just a minute into the first when Swiss keeper Jonas Hiller mishandled a flakey dump on his goal that trickled right to a streaking Aleksei Kalyuzhny. Hiller thought he had the puck frozen under his pads on Kalyuzhny’s first attempt, but the Belarusian made a desperate jab at Hiller’s pads that knocked the puck in. The play was reviewed, but the goal stood to get Belarus on the board early.
After Julien Sprunger collected his second goal of the tournament to tie the game on Switzerland’s first power play of the match, Hnat Domenichelli gave the Swiss the lead on their second power play of the game. A blocked point shot went right to Domenichelli at the side of the Belarusian goal where he hit the post on his first swing, but made good on his second crack at the loose puck to put it past Andrei Mezin.
The Belarusians answered with a power play goal of their own after Mathias Seger was called for holding with five minutes left in the second. Aleksei Ugarov fired a point shot that Hiller mishandled before Konstantin Zakharov found the rebound and buried it into the open cage. Despite being outshot 26-11 through two periods, the Belarusians found themselves in a tie going into the third.
Both Mezin and Hiller stood tall for their teams through the third period. A flawless 10-minute, four-on-four overtime then sent the do-or-die game into a shootout.
With the Swiss players linking arms in support of their shooters, Thomas Deruns and Romano Lemm beat Mezin on Switzerland’s first two shots of the shootout.
Dmitri Meleshko scored for Belarus on their second shot and after Ivo Ruthemann missed on what would have been the game-clinching goal for Switzerland, Sergei Kostitsyn had the final shot to push the skills competition into extra shooters. Kostitsyn fumbled the puck, though, and barely got a shot off that Hiller easily handled to send the Belarusians packing from the 2010 tournament.
In a game where the Swiss vastly outplayed their opponents, Mezin was solid for Belarus, making 40 saves on 43 shots. Despite mishandling the puck a couple of times, Hiller was good enough to squeak out the win and made 20 saves on 22 shots.
Wednesday’s quarterfinal match will be the second meeting of the tournament between Switzerland and the United States. In the first preliminary game, the Americans beat the Swiss 3-1