VANCOUVER – Switzerland defeated Slovakia, 5-2, in the late game at UBC Thunderbird Arena tonight. The win places the Swiss in third position in Group A standings.
Both teams will go to the placement round which starts on February 20, but La Suisse has the advantage of having to play the fourth-place team in Group B while the Slovaks will play the third-place team. China and Russia will be the other teams in the placement round.
Click here for the photo gallery of the game.
"To score that goal against Canada was more important than the win tonight," Lehmann admitted, "because we've been chasing that for eleven years. We said coming into the tournament that no matter what, we are going to score this goal. Of course it was great to win tonight, but what we did last game [against Canada] was history."
The story tonight was, once again, the tall and exciting Slovakian goalie, Zuzana Tomcikova. Despite playing for a weak team, she has performed brilliantly in the preliminary round, and tonight was no exception.
"We knew she was a good goalie, but we thought if we could take a lot of shots, we could win," said Stephanie Marty, who had a hat trick for the winners. "Tonight was more difficult for us because usually we are the underdog, but now we were the favourites. In the end, it was tricky."
Nicol Cupkova made a great play to start the Slovakians’ first goal. She outwitted two Swiss players in the corner and made a nice pass to Janka Culikova in the slot. Culikova took a low shot to the far side that snuck under the blocker of goalie Florence Schelling for a 1-0 Slovak lead.
Switzerland had a great opportunity to tie the game when it had a lengthy 4-on-3 power play, but Tomcikova stood large for the Slovaks. The best scoring chance of the period for the Swiss came late. Stephanie Marty great pass in tight to captain Kathrin Lehmann who made a nice deke but was bettered by Tomcikova.
Although the Slovaks led 1-0 after 20 minutes, they could give their goalie for most of the credit for the slim lead. The same could be said for the start of the middle period. Slovakia could not have had a worse start, incurring three penalties in quick succession which led to two 5-on-3 situations, but the penalty killers stood tall and Tomcikova made several fine saves to keep it a 1-0 game.
Having survived this early pressure the Slovaks rallied to play the best hockey of the tournament so far. Although they aren’t the most fluid skaters or fanciest stickhandlers, they nudged the puck ahead effectively and created several odd-man rushes, taking the play to the Swiss and giving a real sense that they could add to the lead.
The Swiss never panicked, though, and as the period wound down they tied the score on a nice steal along the boards by Lehmann. Stephanie Marty picked up the loose puck and beat Tomcikova to the short side under the arm to make it 1-1. She hit the post in the final minute with another great shot, but the second period ended in a tie.
Spurred by their great two periods, the Slovaks came out and took the lead again just 19 seconds into the final period on a great two-on-one conversion. Jana Kapustova carried the puck down the right side and slid a pass to Culikova who tucked the puck past Schelling after a nice fake.
The period became exciting as both teams went up and down, creating scoring chances and keeping up an impressive pace. Stephanie Marty tied the game at 10:35 when she skated into the Slovak end and when three defenders came at her she let go a screen shot that found the top corner.
Just 43 seconds later, the Swiss took the lead for the first time. This time it was Sara Benz who found a loose puck just outside the crease and lifted it high over a sprawling Tomcikova.
The game was far from over, though. Kapustova had a great chance to score but couldn’t lift the puck over Schelling, and soon after the Slovaks had a power play but couldn’t convert. Lehmann and Marty got late goals to put the game out of reach.
"When they scored first, it reminded us of the game against Sweden when we were behind, but you could see when we took the lead we played with a lot more confidence and energy," Lehmann noted.