With a gritty 3-2 win on Monday night, Switzerland secured a quarter-final berth, sending Norway to the Relegation Round. Anthony Rouiller got the late winner.
For the fifth straight year, Switzerland is guaranteed a top-eight finish. It has just one medal all-time, 1998's bronze.
"We’re very happy with this win," said Swiss forward Jason Fuchs. "A loss would be really tough. Now the tournament starts. It’s the fun part now. We’ll keep on working."
Norway will face either the Czech Republic or Germany in the best-of-three relegation series.
"It’s going to be tough, of course," said Norwegian captain Erlend Lesund. "We’re going to get two days off now and just change our mindset. We have to be ready for the two or three games that are coming up, and make the best of it."
Fabrice Herzog and Mirco Müller tallied the other goals for Switzerland. Kevin Fiala and Sandro Zangger both got a pair of assists.
Lesund had a goal and an assist for Norway, and Christoffer Rasch also scored.
"I’m sad now," said Norwegian coach Ørjan Løvdal. "We worked hard and tried all game. It’s tough right now."
Swiss netminder Melvin Nyffeler outdueled Norway’s Joachim Svendsen, with shots favouring Switzerland 38-26.
Both teams came out skating hard, Norway knowing this was its final shot at avoiding the Relegation Round. The last time the Norwegians didn’t get relegated immediately after promotion was 1989 -- they survived to play until 1991 at the top U20 level.
Norway scored first when Lesund grabbed the puck in the neutral zone, busted through a gap in the Swiss defence, and blasted a slap shot over Nyffeler’s glove at 9:27.
"I saw they had a bad change and I just jumped in on offence and fired the puck," Lesund said.
The Norwegians nearly went up by two goals on a late first period power play when a puck squeezed through Nyffeler’s pads, but it stopped next to the post and was swept away.
After Norway’s Endre Medby was sent off for interference at 17:16, the Swiss mounted heavy offensive zone pressure, but couldn’t capitalize. Fiala hit the goal post, and Svendsen slid across to stymie Rouiller.
The Swiss continued to be snake-bitten early in the second period, hitting another goal post in tight. The middle frame turned into a parade of mostly ineffective power plays, with Switzerland accounting for five minors to Norway’s four.
Switzerland finally ended its power play drought at 14:39. Working with a two-man advantage, Fiala burst down right wing into the Norwegian and lofted a high backhand pass toward the net, Herzog batting it in out of mid-air.
The Norwegians failed to convert on their own period-ending two-man advantage, coming close with assistant captain Mattias Nørstebø ringing one off Svendsen’s left post.
The third period was a see-saw battle.
Switzerland went up 2-1 at 6:17, as Sandro Zangger came down right wing and threw a shot on goal that Svendsen kicked out with his right pad, enabling a Johnny-on-the-spot Müller to put home the rebound.
At 9:00, Norway tied it up on Rasch's power play marker. But the boys in the polar bear jerseys couldn't celebrate their good fortune for long.
At 11:42, Rouiller restored Switzerland's lead for good with another power play goal, hammering a one-timer from the left faceoff circle on a sweet feed by Fiala.
"Offensively, we played very well," said Fuchs. "We put the pressure on them and we were a bit unlucky. We hit a few posts, but the important thing is to win the game, and we did it."
The Norwegians tried to make a late push, using their timeout in the final minute, but couldn't get the puck into the Swiss zone in the dying seconds.
This was just the third all-time meeting between Switzerland and Norway in IIHF World Junior Championship history. The Swiss won 2-1 on January 3, 1991 and 2-0 on December 27, 2005.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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