BUFFALO – Tuesday was the day for the placement games for the teams that didn’t make the semi-finals. Switzerland was the best of the rest, defeating Finland to claim fifth place. The Czechs finish seventh after winning against Slovakia while Norway ended the 18-game losing streak beating Germany.
Finland – Switzerland, 2-3 PS
In the fifth-place game Switzerland seemed more motivated than Finland. The Swiss took the game to them and forced the Finns back into their own zone for large parts of the game. Nevertheless, Finland twice had the lead thanks to goals from Teemu Pulkkinen and Erik Haula, but Switzerland responded equally via Inti Pestoni and Nino Niedereiter to make it a 2-2 game after two periods.
No goals were scored in the third period nor in overtime meaning penalty shots had to bring a decision. The Swiss showed to have the coolest nerves. Yannick Herren was the lone player to score in eight shootout attempts to deliver Switzerland the victory. For the Swiss it was their first time since 2002 that they accomplished a win over Finland at the World U20 Championships after five defeats in a row.
Switzerland outshot Finland 31-23.
Czech Republic – Slovakia, 5-2
A repeat from last year’s game for seventh place, the Czech Republic beat Slovakia cleanly again. After a 5-2 victory in Saskatoon last time, the Czechs beat their rivals with the same score in this year’s edition as well.
Slovakia’s four-goal hero against Norway, Richard Panik, had promised Slovakia would do everything to beat their neighbours. However, right from the first drop of the puck it was clear that the Czech Republic excelled in every area of the game. They ran out to a 4-0 lead including two goals in the first minute of the second period before Slovakia could get on the board via a power play goal of Richard Panik. He also scored Slovakia’s second goal to tie Brayden Schenn for the tournament lead in goal scoring with seven.
In total five different players scored for the Czech Republic who now have failed to make it to the medal round games for six straight years.
Germany – Norway, 1-3
Norway completed the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship in Buffalo on a positive note. A 3-1 victory over Germany not only meant their first win this tournament. It also ended an 18-game losing streak that dated back to 1990.
In today’s game honour was on the line for both countries which had already learned their fate two days ago when they were relegated back to Division I. Before the game, Norway’s Sondre Olden announced his team would approach it seriously, and he and his team mates backed it up. Nicholas Weberg’s first-period goal was erased by Germany’s Tom Kühnhackl early in the second period. Despite being heavily outshot throughout the game Norway regained the lead midway through the final period thanks to Hans Kristian Hollstedt. With just nine seconds to go, the Norwegians could finally celebrate at Dwyer Arena when Petter Røste Fossen hit the empty net to make it 3-1. Norway’s goaltender Steffen Søberg finished with 41 saves as Germany outshot the Norwegians 42-25.
For Germany the loss follows a heart breaking last-minute defeat against the Czech Republic earlier in the relegation round series. It marked the fifth straight time the team is relegated the year after earning promotion. If the trend continues, they get another shot at staying up in 2013.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)