International Ice Hockey Federation

Advantage: Switzerland

Advantage: Switzerland

Kohler's three points spark Swiss past French

Published 26.04.2018 14:27 GMT+5 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Advantage: Switzerland
MAGNITOGORSK, RUSSIA - APRIL 23: Switzerland's Gilian Kohler #27 celebrates with his teammate Nico Gross #16 after scoring on team France during relegation round action at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Steve Kingsman/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Gilian Kohler led the way with three points as Switzerland thumped France 5-2 in Thursday's relegation opener. The Swiss power play cashed in three times.

It was a beautiful day in Magnitogorsk as coach Thierry Paterlini's squad earned its first victory of the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. The Swiss have underachieved here, especially in the stunning 5-4 loss to newly promoted Belarus that put them into the best-of-three relegation series. This was a nice change of pace.

"The start was tough," said Swiss forward Matthew Verboon. "We had a hard time getting into the game, but as the game went on, we scored on the power play and we got on a roll."

Stephane Patry and Kyen Sopa tallied a goal and an assist apiece for Switzerland, and Jesse Tanner and Davyd Baradun added singles. Julian Mettler had a pair of helpers.

Of Kohler's goal and two assists, Sopa said: "Kohler is absolutely one of the best players in our team. He did a great job."

Timothe Quattrone and Hugo Allais replied for France.

Making his third start, goalie Luca Hollenstein was solid in the Swiss net, while his French counterpart Valentin Duquenne did his best under heavy pressure. Switzerland outshot France 39-22.

French backup goalie Adrien Vazzaz said: "I think we had a very good first period and very good third period with lots of desire and bodychecking. In the second period we let up a bit, and I think that led to our defeat today."

This was the first game between Switzerland and France in top-level U18 World Championship history. The two nations have a thriving rivalry at the men’s IIHF World Championship: while the Swiss have won 10 games all-time to France’s five, the French have prevailed in two out of the last three meetings, in 2012 and 2017.

Winless France came into this game with a goal difference of 4-30, and continued to struggle at both ends of the ice.

"What happened against Belarus, we should never have let it happen," said Verboon. "It was important to play good defensively and show that we can do it, even though we’re playing a weaker team in France."

The Swiss drew first blood at 2:40, just 38 seconds into their first power play. Defenceman Nico Gross fed Kohler for a one-timer from the right faceoff circle that whizzed past Duquenne’s glove.

France struck right back at 3:50 after the Swiss sloppily failed to get the puck out of their own zone. Baptiste Bruche put the puck off Quatronne’s body, and he recovered it, maneuvering around three Swiss defenders before roofing it past Hollenstein.

"They were trying to push us and create some flames between us," Verboon said of the French.

Les Bleus played with a gutsy, nothing-to-lose spirit to keep the score even through 20 minutes. But the good times wouldn't last.

In the second period, the Swiss power play clicked again for a 2-1 lead at 3:35. Kohler found Tanner at the side of the net, and the puck bounced in off him past Duqenne’s right skate.

At 8:29, Baradun made it 3-1 when Sopa sent a deft backhanded pass over on the rush and his high one-timer found the twine.

Midway through, the Swiss thought Mika Henauer had scored their fourth goal, but it was waved off since Sopa had committed a crease violation. It hardly mattered. At 11:58, just 12 seconds later, Patry blitzed over the French blue line on the left side and zipped one through Duquenne’s five-hole.

With 50 seconds left in the middle frame, Sopa put the game out of reach with the 5-1 man-advantage marker.

At 7:12 of the third, the French got multiple cracks at a loose puck down low before Allais banged it home to cut the deficit to 5-2. The goal was video-reviewed and ruled good. This was just the second time in the tournament that the French have scored twice in a game, the other being the 9-2 loss to the Czechs.

"We’ve got to get focused for the next game," said Vazzaz. "We’ll need to score more."

Game Two of the series goes Saturday (15:30) in Magnitogorsk.

"We need to go hard in the first period and score as many goals as possible," said Verboon. "We want to finish it in two games, for sure."

 

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