International Ice Hockey Federation

Advantage: Switzerland

Advantage: Switzerland

Wins first relegation-round game vs. Belarus

Published 02.01.2016 19:29 GMT+2 | Author Risto Pakarinen
Advantage: Switzerland
HELSINKI, FINLAND - JANUARY 2: Switzerland's Timo Meier #28 gets a shot off on Belarus' Ivan Kulbakov #31 with Pavel Vorobei #3 in front during relegation round action at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Switzerland is a step closer to staying in the top division, thanks to their 5-1 win over Belarus in the first relegation round game.

Yes, there's an "i" in both Timo and Meier, but it's not capitalized. Team(o) captain Timo Meier's line scored two important goals in the second period.

Meier and his linemate Denis Malgin scored one and collected two assists each. Malgin scored the game winner off a breakaway in the second period. 

"We haven't won anything yet. The game tomorrow is going to be huge for us, and we want to play our best game then," Meier said. 

"We'd played against  them before so we knew what to expect. And they haven't given up now," he added. 

Switzerland outshot Belarus 41-21 in the game. 

Dmitri Buinitski scored Belarus's lone goal. 

Belarus had never beaten Switzerland at the World Juniors. The goal difference in their five previous games was 20-7 to Switzerland, but on the other hand, their latest battle had been in 2006. These were not only two new teams, it was a whole new generation. 

Sometimes desperation is a good thing as it helps you get the best out of you. You can’t accuse either team of lack of trying in the tournament earlier, either - Switzerland pushed Canada to a shootout, and Belarus was close in most games it played in the preliminary round - but both teams really stepped up when their spot in the top division was on the line.

"It's not fun to play in the relegation round, we wanted to play in the quarterfinal but the motivation is still here, we have to save Switzerland from being relegated. That was enough motivation for us," Meier said. 

"We played well in the first period and scored the first goal, but they got their first goal fast afterwards," Vadim Malinovski said. 

Belarus got off to a great start when Jonas Siegenthaler took a slashing minor just 30 seconds into the game, giving Belarus their first power play opportunity. The Swiss penalty kill unit did a good job with keeping Belarus out of the scoring areas, but at 1:59, Buinitski simply skated into the Swiss zone and blasted a slap shot from the point to give his team the lead. 

They hadn’t had a lot of time to get used to the smaller rink at the Helsinki Ice Hall, but if anything, it seemed to benefit the Belarusian team whose tight defence is good at keeping the opponent on the outside. 

Five minutes after the Belarusian goal, Noah Rod refused to stay on the outside, and instead, drove hard to the net and beat Kulbakov with a backhander through the five-hole to tie the game. 

Belarus got two more power-play opportunities in the first period, but couldn’t convert them. 

In the second period it was Switzerland who got to play extended periods of time on power play, but Belarus could kill back to back penalties to start the period and one after that when Ruslan Vasilchuk got 2+10 for checking to the head. Even that one they could kill, but the penalty kill took a toll on their energy levels and gave Swiss the keys to the game.

"We lost our energy and it was so hard to create something in the offensive zone," Malinovski said. 

As the period went on, Switzerland took the game over completely, outshooting Belarus 20-6 in the second period, and outscoring them 2-0, with two similar goals by the same Swiss line. 

"We didn't come out with the right mind-set, and maybe that was a little bit of frustration of not making the quarterfinal showing there, but we got away with," Meier said. 

First Damien Riat sent a long stretch pass to the offensive blue line to team captain Timo Meier, who sent it quickly to Denis Malgin, who was all alone against Kulbakov. He deked to the left and fired the puck top-shelf, and the Swiss had taken the lead for the first time. 

The second goal came in the line’s next shift, this time Meier and Malgin got the assists when they sent Riat on a breakaway that he finished with style. Switzerland had the puck bounce the right way as Malgin’s long pass to Riat got deflected to Riat off a Belarus defenceman’s skate. 

Switzerland also had three goals disallowed, two after video review when the puck was kicked into the net, and once when a player was in the crease before the puck had crossed the line.

With 8:55 remaining in the game, Julien Privet put the game to bed when he scored on a third rebound after a mad scramble around the Belarus net. Kulbakov could have used a little help from his defencemen. 

And 61 seconds before the end, Meier sealed the final score on power play. 

Game 2 of the relegation round will be played tomorrow at 12:00. 

"We just have to play our game, keep it simple, and play with our strengths. Tomorrow want to come out much stronger than we did today," Meier said. 

Belarus is going to have a team meeting tonight. 

"Switzerland controlled the game completely. We had many guys who have never been in a situation like this and we must understand that the whole team has to pull together," said Belarus coach Alexander Beliavski. 

"Of course we have to win tomorrow. We don't have a choice," Malinovski added. 


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