International Ice Hockey Federation

Belarus bliss, Swiss miss

Belarus bliss, Swiss miss

Alistrov with five points, Swiss into relegation

Published 23.04.2018 19:12 GMT+5 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Belarus bliss, Swiss miss
MAGNITOGORSK, RUSSIA - APRIL 23: Belarus's Ilya Kazyanin #15 celebrates with his teammate Vladislav Koliachonok #5 and Artyom Borshyov #4 after scoring on team Switzerland during preliminary round action at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Steve Kingsman/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Vladimir Alistrov scored with 12 seconds left to give Belarus a 5-4 win over the Swiss. Belarus makes the quarter-finals, while the Swiss will play relegation.

It was Alistrov's fifth point of the night, and it was a beautiful play. The 17-year-old winger accepted Ilya Kazyanin's centering pass from the corner and had time and space in front before beating Swiss goalie Luca Hollenstein to the stick side.

Belarus still has one game left against the defending champion Americans on Tuesday. This is a stunning success for the newly promoted former Soviet republic. Belarus hasn't managed to stay in the top division for more than one year since its run of 2002-04.

"I am the most happy human in the world!" said Belarus forward Pavel Azhgerei. "My parents probably died after this game! It was the closest game. We’re going to play in the quarter-finals. It’s cool."

The Swiss will face France, the other winless nation, in the relegation round, which kicks off Thursday (11:30) at Magnitogorsk’s Arena Metallurg.

Switzerland squandered its chance to finish in the top eight at this tournament for the 12th straight year. Under current coach Thierry Paterlini, they came eighth in 2016 and 2017.

"We had a good start but obviously not the result we wanted," said Paterlini. "Now we want to get the relegation done as fast as possible and secure our place in the top division."

This was an entertaining, crazy battle with Hollenstein and Belarus goalie Nikita Tolopilo looking sharp at times and iffy at others. Switzerland led 2-0 after 20 minutes, but Belarus fought back and went up 3-2 early in the third period. The Swiss were up 4-3 with just over 10 minutes left, but Belarus pulled it out in the final 1:16.

Kazyanin had a goal and three assists for Belarus, and Vladislav Koliachonok had a goal and an assist. Azhgirei and Kirill Levshunov added singles.

Valentin Nussbaumer had a goal and an assist, and Nico Gross, Stephane Patry, and Mika Henauer also scored for Switzerland. Jesse Tanner had two assists.

"We turned the game around again in the last period, but in the end we might not have played with enough focus," said Henauer.

The Swiss had the best early chances. Gilian Kohler swooped in off the left side and slid one through the goalie’s legs and just past the post. Midway through the period, the towering Tolopilo stopped Mettler on a breakway.

At 12:37, Nussbaumer broke the scoreless tie on the rush. The Biel-Bienne product cut to the slot to thwack Jesse Tanner’s backhanded feed over Tolopilo’s glove.

Switzerland went up 2-0 at 16:38. Gross, the Swiss captain, pinched in to finish off a nice passing play, banging Luca de Nisco's backhanded cross-ice feed past the goalie’s stick.

"In the first period, it was a failure for us," said Azhgerei. "We played not well. But in the second period, it was like the Red Machine."

Belarus came out of the gate with increased energy in the second period and made it 2-1 at 7:00. In a wild goalmouth scrum, Vladimir Alistrov flipped the puck over to Hollenstein’s right post and Kazyanin whacked it over the line. At 10:02, Koliachonok’s rising left point drive beat Hollenstein through traffic to make it 2-2.

Moments later, Swiss assistant captain Keijo Weibel had a glorious chance, cutting around the Belarusian defence to the net, but couldn’t finish it off.

The third period was even wilder. At 4:56, Alistrov circled behind the Swiss net and fed a cheeky back pass to Azhgirei, who put it into the wide-open side.

At 8:20, Switzerland struck back with the equalizer. Nussbaumer found Patry at the hash marks, and he took his time teeing it up before squeezing a shot through Tolopilo.

Just 46 seconds later, Henauer's shot from the high slot deflected past the Belarus goalie to put Switzerland ahead 4-3.

Still, Belarus was relentless as the clock ticked down. Levshunov pinched into the right faceoff circle and pulled a nice drag-and-drop move, using the defenceman as a decoy and firing it over Hollenstein's glove to tie it up with 1:16 left. That set the stage for Alistrov's final heroics.

"It’s the biggest win of my life right now," said Azhgerei. "I’m losing my voice."

 

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