International Ice Hockey Federation

Suter’s shots bury Belarus

Swiss stay up, Belarusians go down

Published 03.01.2016 16:26 GMT+2 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Suter’s shots bury Belarus
HELSINKI, FINLAND - JANUARY 3: Switzerland's Pius Suter #24 jumps on a loose puck to score a first period goal on Belarus' Vladislav Verbitski #25 during relegation round action at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo by Andrea Cardin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
In relegation play, Pius Suter got a hat trick, including two goals in nine seconds, to lift Switzerland to a 6-2 win and send Belarus to Division I for 2017.

Suter's two quick first-period goals on Sunday tied Canadian forward Dave Gagner’s 1983 World Junior record for the fastest two goals by an individual (28 Dec. 1983 in a 12-0 win over Switzerland).

"I didn’t know that – I just realized that now," said Suter. "It’s pretty cool!"

The Swiss also won the first game in this best-of-three relegation series 5-1 on Saturday at the Helsinki Ice Hall. They will participate in the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship where they will play in the group in Montreal, which seems appropriate since they’ve had a French-language goal song at this tournament (Black M’s “Sur Ma Route”).

Finishing ninth under coach John Fust for the second consecutive year isn’t a dream scenario for the Swiss. However, it’s better than being relegated. The last time Switzerland played in Division I was 2009.

"We were so close to making the quarter-finals, but in the end we didn’t make it," said Swiss defenceman Jonas Siegenthaler. "We were a little bit disappointed. But we knew we wanted to win this relegation round in two games, and we did it."

Switzerland's chances of success in this tournament were hurt when three of their players were suspended for incidents in the 8-3 opening loss to Sweden. This will serve as a learning experience.

Noah Rod and Calvin Thurkauf added a goal and an assist apiece, and Dario Meyer also scored for Switzerland. Denis Malgin racked up three assists, and Tino Kessler had two assists.

Reflecting on the tournament, Meyer said: "We had a tough group with Canada and America, but we had also Denmark. We were able to play against Sweden. We could have beaten Canada. So we had a good team, but it’s still disappointing to be in these relegation games."

Dmitri Buinitski and Dmitri Filippovich replied for Belarus.

Swiss starting goalie Joren van Pottelberghe earned his second win of the tournament. Switzerland outshot Belarus 44-23.

In Helsinki, Belarus made its first U20 top division appearance since 2007. The only period during which the Belarusians have managed to stay up for more than one year was between 2001 and 2003.

Belarus played well at times in this tournament, hanging tough into the third period in both a 4-2 loss to Slovakia and a 5-3 loss to the Czech Republic. But it wasn’t enough. Latvia will take its place at the 2017 World Juniors.

"Actually, I don’t know what happened today," said Belarus forward Vadim Malinovski. "We started the period and we were not bad. Then we just lost a couple of goals. Then we came back in the game, but still we lost the game."

Here, it took the Swiss just 20 seconds to capitalize on their first power play. With Belarus goalie Ivan Kulbakov sprawling, Suter buried a rebound from the slot at 3:41.

Suter zipped back down and beat Kulbakov with a low-glove side shot to make it 2-0 at 3:50. Belarus coach Alexander Beliavksi had seen enough and substituted backup goalie Vladislav Verbitski.

At 12:43, Suter completed his hat trick with an easy goal for a 3-0 lead.

Suter, 19, is among the Swiss NLA's top rookies. He is currently third in goal-scoring (10) for the ZSC Zurich Lions. That club is also home to Auston Matthews, currently third in tournament scoring for the U.S. (11 points) and the prospective #1 overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, and several other Swiss U20 players. Suter took an unusual path to success for a Swiss player, spending two seasons with the OHL's Guelph Storm before coming home.

The Belarusians called a time-out to regroup. It paid off at 15:20 as Buinitski struck back to cut the deficit to 3-1 with his second goal in as many relegation games. The goal was video-reviewed at length and deemed good.

Temporarily reenergized, Belarus made it 3-2 just 1:24 later. Filippovich zipped a high shot from the hash marks over the Swiss goalie’s glove.

Midway through the second period, Verbitski initially appeared to have made a great glove save on Rod. But after a review, it was ruled a power play goal at 8:18, and Switzerland took a 4-2 lead.

Thurkauf put the game out of reach with his 5-2 goal at 11:52. Meyer banged in a rebound to make it 6-2 at 15:21.

"I think there are no positive things in this tournament for us," said Malinovski. "We lost."

The third period was literally rough for the Swiss. Near the five-minute mark, Rod was shaken up on a hit in the Belarusian end. The stretcher was initially brought out for the Swiss assistant captain, but he managed to get up and skate to the bench.

However, Rod was injured again, blocking a shot with under seven minutes to play and Belarus on a 4-on-3 man advantage. This time, he left the game. Bizarrely, on the sequence, he also got a tripping minor, which was served by Nico Hischier.

Asked to identify a tournament highlight, Suter pointed to the 3-2 shootout loss to Canada: "The Swiss team never got a point against Canada [before]. I think that was our best game."

The three best players of the tournament for each team were honoured. For Switzerland, it was Noah Rod, Simon Kindschi, and Pius Suter. For Belarus, it was Ivan Kulbakov, Vladislav Goncharov, and Artemi Chernikov.

Belarus has never defeated Switzerland in World Junior action. This was its seventh straight loss dating back to 26 December 1998.