Calgary, AB - In a most remarkable comeback, Slovakia scored four goals in five minutes in the third period against Switzerland to turn a 4-2 deficit to a 6-4 win. The Slovaks go to the quarter-final, while the Swiss face relegation woes.
The big Slovak hero was forward Matus Chovan, who after failing to collect a single point in his team's three first games, scored a hat-trick to take his team from constantly being behind to this sensational victory.
Chovan kept his team alive early in the game, but capped the comeback with the game winning goal, 5-4, 8:15 into the third period when he scored with a backhander from close range.
Swiss coach Manuele Celio tried to bring his team back into the game by replacing struggling goalie Lukas Meili with Tim Wolf, but defenseman Martin Gernat scored only 46 seconds after the substitution to make it 6-4.
By then, the Swiss were a broken group.
Slovakia goes on to play Finland in the quarter-final on Monday, at 15.00 against Finland. Switzerland opens the relegation round on the same day, at 11.00 against Denmark. Both games are in Calgary.
The Swiss players in this game will probably never forget the 2011 New Year's Eve in Calgary. And they will remember it for all the wrong reasons.
When everything was over, they found themselves at the losing end of a game in which they led 2-0 early, 3-1 midway through and 4-2 early in the third period.
What happened then can be called either a miraculous comeback or a staggering meltdown, depending on where one has his sympathies.
Swiss winger Tanner Richard displayed his best performance of the World Juniors when his team needed it the most. After two assists early on, his first points of the tournament, Richard got Switzerland ahead 4-2 only 47 seconds into the last period, and things looked rosy for his team.
But this was a game where the Swiss couldn't handle prosperity. Tomas Matousek gave the Slovaks a sense of contact with their third goal at 5.14 to start the team's third comeback for the afternoon.
All first period scoring came within two minutes and eleven seconds. Slovak goaltender Juraj Simboch lost Tanner Richard’s shot right in front of Joel Vermin’s stick and the Swiss had the entire net gaping for the opening goal at 6:09, his third of the tournament.
Switzerland doubled their lead on their next possession, only 67 seconds later when Alessio Bertaggio found Sven Andrighetto with a nice backhand pass from behind the net and Simboch was beaten again.
Just as the fans, and maybe also the Swiss, thought it would be easy, Slovakia responded 64 seconds after the 2-0 goal. But it was a careless clearance by a Swiss defender that allowed for Matus Chovan’s first goal of the championship.
The Swiss team never looked comfortable with the one goal lead in the second period, but they capitalized on a lucky break which saw them play with the two-man advantage midway through the game. Joel Vermin, definitely Team Suisse’s best performer so far, skated in from the point and rifled a high shot past Juraj Simbach for a 3-1 lead.
Vermin’s goal, however, did little to assert the Swiss defense. Nervous passing, tentative zone clearances and weak positioning continued. Poor communication behind the net left Matus Chovan all alone in front of goalie Lukas Meili and the Slovak had plenty of time to put the puck behind him and cut the score to 3-2, at 12:46.