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German hopes alive

Win neighbouring clash with Switzerland 2-1

Published 09.01.2018 20:31 GMT+4 | Author Martin Merk
German hopes alive
DMITROV, RUSSIA - JANUARY 9: Germany's Naemi Bar #5 celebrates with Lilli Welcke #23 after scoring a first period goal against Switzerland during preliminary round action at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship. (Photo by Steve Kingsman/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Recently-promoted Germany got its second win in three games, 2-1 against Switzerland. But whether that’s enough for the quarter-finals depends on the Czechs.

After their overtime win against the Czech Republic and the 2-1 regulation-time win against Switzerland the Germans now have five points from two games. That’s one more than the Czechs, who have one game against the undefeated Finns left and need a win to take over again for a top-two placing and send the Germans to the relegation round against the winless Swiss.

“We provided today a tough battle over 60 minutes. Especially on defence all players pulled together and blocked many shots while playing shorthanded. The special teams showed an outstanding performance with one power-play goal and by not conceding a goal while playing shorthanded,” said German captain Celina Haider.

“In the next games we have to create more pressure to the opposing net, need to shoot more often and capitalize on our opportunities.”

Germany outshot Switzerland 30-25 but it was a game of two halves. The Germans had a better start into the tournament than the Swiss as they did in the game. While the Swiss served a penalty for too many players on the ice, Naemi Bar gave Germany the lead at 4:56.

However, it didn’t stay much longer than two minutes and Rahel Enzler tied the game to finish the first period with a 1-1 score.

The 15-year-old Welcke twins took care of the second German lead early in the middle frame. Luisa Welcke gave the helper for Lilli Welcke’s 2-1 marker and after Switzerland’s third straight penalty in the game the Germans continued to determine the direction in the game until the Swiss started to become stronger towards the end of the period and in an attempt to tie the game outshot the Germany 11-2 in the third frame. But Johanna May stayed strong in the German net, made 24 saves for a 96% save percentage and the 2-1 lead for Germany stayed until the final buzzer.

“We played well and dominated [in the end] but we have had bad luck at this tournament. Goal scoring is our problem. We usually only score on the power play, today was the first goal at equal strength,” said Swiss captain Stefanie Wetli.

Switzerland may be the defending Olympic bronze medallist in women’s senior hockey but has never qualified for the final round in the IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship, several times despite two wins in three games, this time with zero wins. To stay in the top division they will have to beat either the Czechs or the Germans in the best-of-three relegation round.

“We have now to battle that we won’t be relegated. We will battle for our life,” Wetli said. “I hope we will play the relegation round against Germany because we know how they play and are well prepared for them. They play as a team while the Czechs have good individual players we don’t have. We said we will not talk about hockey this evening and have a pizza evening for team building. Tomorrow we will wake up and focus on the relegation round and on the opponent.”

The tournament will continue fast for both teams as the quarter-final games between the bottom-two teams of the “upper” Group A and the top-two teams of Group B will be played tomorrow when also the Relegation Round will start.