Team Switzerland got back on track with a 5-1 win over France in the last day of preliminaries at the 2018 IIHF World Championships. At the same time, it took all tournament, but the US was dealt a blow going into the medal rounds by losing 6-2 to Finland, their first defeat of the tournament so far.
We will begin with the high note at Royal Arena in Copenhagen. Switzerland got the goal scoring kicked off 12:21 into the first period when Gregory Hofmann scored from Gaetan Haas and Mirco Mueller to make it 1-0.
At 15:09, the Swiss would double their lead when Enzo Corvi scored to make it 2-0. He got assists from Nino Niederreiter and Timo Meier. The end of the period would kind of set the tone for the game as the French got into some penalty trouble.
First, with four seconds remaining in the period, Hugo Gallet was called for slashing. Then, 5:36 into the second, Alexandre Texier and Kevin Hecquefeuille both received hooking minors at the same time to put the Swiss up on a 5-on-3 man advantage. But the penalties did not hurt the French until the 15:22 mark when Valentin Claireaux was called for tripping. On the power play, Ramon Untersander converted to make it 3-0 Switzerland. Corvi and Roman Josi had the assists.
In the third period, Kevin Fiala scored just 2:21 in to make it 4-0 Switzerland and the rout seemed to be on. But France would get one right back when Guillaume Leclerc scored at 3:10 from Florian Chakiachvili and Jordann Perret to cut the Swiss lead to 4-1.
The Swiss would then get into some penalty trouble of their own when, at 9:39, Noah Rod took an elowing minor. That was killed off and at 12:09, Corvi went off for goalie interference. That would prove the final dagger for the French though, as Simon Moser scored shorthanded at 13:46 from Joel Vermin and Mueller.
That made it 5-1 and, though the French would get another shot on the power play when Mueller went off for high sticking with about a minute left in the game, that was it. Five to one was your final and the Swiss end the prelims on a winning note.
Swiss goaltender Leonardo Genoni made 19 saves on 20 shots while French goalie Florian Hardy stopped 29 of 34 Swiss shots on goal. Of note was that dressing as the backup for the Swiss in this game was Devils prospect Gilles Senn. It was his first time dressing in the tournament.
As for a Devil who did play, Mirco Mueller had the two assists for two points and was a plus-4 in 18:16 of total ice time, over 33 shifts.
Since the top two teams in Group A (Russia and Sweden) are playing each other later today, it should not have much bearing on the Swiss. They should get into the medal rounds with 12 points (three regulation wins, one overtime win, one overtime loss and two regulation losses and a 25-19 goal differential). The Swiss will likely play Finland in the first part of the medal rounds. Finland, as we shall see, won Group B with a win over the Americans.
Meanwhile, over in Herning, the Americans had a crucial game with the Finns to determine who would win Group B. It would come down to number of regulation wins in this tightly contested group.
The Finns got off to a quick start courtesy of Sebastian Aho. He struck first at 10:17 into the first period, beating Keith Kinkaid off an assist from Veli-Matti Savinainen. He would then connect almost seven minutes later when he scored from Markus Nutivaara at 17:15. By the end of the first period, it was 2-0 Finland.
The second period was cleanly played with no penalties, but the Finns did add a goal to their lead to make it 3-0 when Mikko Rantanen scored from Nutivaara and Mikael Granlund. This would set up a chaotic third frame.
It began 5:15 in when the US was given a too many men on the ice bench minor. Marko Anttila converted on that power play from Sakari Manninen to make it 4-0 Finland. Things were not looking good for the Americans.
At the ten minute mark, though, Miika Koivisto went off for tripping and the US was on the power play. 1:18 later, they pulled Kinkaid for the 6-on-4 man advantage and it paid off when Patrick Kane scored to make it 4-1. Charlie McAvoy had the lone assist.
The Americans dug their hole a little bit deeper, however, when Dylan Larkin was called for tripping at 12:06 and Kasperi Kapanen scored on the power play to make it 5-1. Eeli Tolvanen and Savinainen had the assists.
The US would get one right back, though, less than a minute later when Derek Ryan scored from Kane and Chris Kreider. That made it 5-2 and the Americans pulled Kinkaid again at the 15:16 mark of the third.
Unfortunately, Aho struck once more, netting an empty net goal and completing the hat trick at 16:45. He got and assist from Tommi Kivisto. That madee it 6-2 and that was your final.
The Americans took consecutive penalties with time running out, Blake Coleman was called for goalie interference at 17:13 and at 19:11, Neal Pionk went off for high sticking, killing off the US chance for a comeback.
Keith Kinkaid made 30 stops on 36 Finnish shots while Harri Sateri made 35 saves on 37 shots against.
Will Butcher had two shots on goal and was a minus-2 over 18:39 of time on ice spread over 23 shifts. Blake Coleman had the goalie interference minor, two shots on goal and was an even plus/minus over 9:25 of ice time with 13 shifts. Brian Gibbons had two shots on goal and was an even rating in 8:28 of TOI over 13 shifts.
The Americans will finish in second place in Group B with 16 points (the same as Finland) with four regulation wins, two overtime wins, no overtime losses and a regulation loss. The Finns win the group due to having one more regulation win than the US, despite both teams tying in the points ledger.
With the first part of the medal rounds being crossover between groups, the US will likely play the Czech Republic in their next game, who finished third in Group A.
The quarterfinals for both the Swiss and the Americans get underway on May 17.
One final order of business: congratulations to Devils prospect and Swift Current Bronco Colby Sissons. The Broncos won the Western Hockey League and will now be playing for the Memorial Cup. Their first game is against the QMJHL champion Acadie-Bathurst Titan on May 19 at the Brandt Centre in Regina. We will have coverage of the Memorial Cup and the two teams featuring Devils prospects (the Hamilton Bulldogs and Marian Studenic are the other) right here for you.