Swiss start with victory over Norway
by Andy Potts|10 MAY 2024
Switzerland's Gaetan Haas (#92) and Tristan Scherwey (#60) celebrate their team's fourth goal on Norway at the 2024 IIHF World Championship in Prague.
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Andrea Cardin
Switzerland enjoyed a comfortable win to start its 2024 IIHF World Championship campaign. Nino Niederreiter and Romain Loeffel had two-point games while the ageless Andres Ambuhl began his 19th Worlds with an assist in a 5-2 victory.

"I feel like we had some great looks at the start of the game," Niederreiter reflected. "But we didn't like ending the first period the way we did.

"Overall, we showed some good hockey and there were times where we could sharpen up."

In recent seasons, the Swiss have started strong in World Championship play. In the last two tournaments, Patrick Fischer’s team has topped its group and it 2021 it was second in the qualifying round. However, Switzerland could not clear the QF in any of those events.

Norway, meanwhile, has finished 13th in its last three championships. Last time, scoring was a problem: nine goals in seven games was a tournament low, tied with relegated Slovenia. To fix that, veteran forwards Mats Zuccarello (Minnesota Wild) and Patrick Thoresen (ex-Oilers) returned to the first line after several years away from international play.

For much of the first period, Switzerland dominated the play but found Norwegian goalie Jonas Arntzen in solid form. At the other end, Norway’s veterans posed problems: Zuccarello’s stretch pass offered a great chance for Eirik Solsten on the counter before Swiss pressure told.

The breakthrough came after 11 minutes when great work from Nino Niederreiter set up Sven Andrighetto for an instant wrist shot that ripped past Arntzen. However, Norway continued to battle and tied the scores thanks to that experienced top line. Zuccarello’s determination kept the play alive before Thoresen produced a great pass out of the corner for Markus Vikingstad to score. Then Thoresen had a great chance to make it 2-1 just before the intermission, but he squeezed a shot narrowly wide after a good look from the right-hand circle.

"At that time it was a close game," Vikingstad said. "They started way better than us, but we fought back at the end of the first period. Unfortunately it wasn't enough today."

In the middle frame, Switzerland turned its puck possession into goals. Four minutes in, Romain Loeffel unleashed a shot from centre point. His effort evaded Thomas Berg-Paulson’s attempted block and dinged the post on its way into the top corner. The Swiss D-man then made a key intervention at the other end, getting in front of a shot from Stian Solberg as the young defender dithered when well placed.

That miss was not forgiven: Roman Josi’s run around the back of the net disconcerted Arntzen, inviting Sven Senteler to shoot home from the slot. Then Gaetan Haas jumped on a loose clearance, grabbing the puck in centre ice and sending Tristan Scherwey clean through to make it 4-1.

Josi's contribution, on and off the ice, did not go unnoticed. "He's one of the best defensive players in the world and we're very lucky to have him," said Niederreiter. "He's a great guy off the ice as well as a terrific player. It's really something when a guy like that shows up for your country. It means a lot to everyone else and it shows that he really wants to play for team Switzerland."

With the game effectively done, the third period saw more Swiss dominance. There was brief respite for Norway with its first power play early in the final stanza, but the extra man was not enough to trigger a revival. Later, Switzerland showed how it should be done, converting its third PP of the game when Niederreiter made it five.

"It's always big to have start on the right foot," concluded Andrighetto. "We knew it wouldn't be easy but we focused on our game. They came into it a little bit, but we took over in the second period and won it."

Norway had the final word, combining hockey heritage with the country's future as a late power play saw Zuccarello and Thoresen combine to set up 18-year-old Michael Brandsegg-Nygard for a vicious shot the flew past Leonardo Genoni to offer something for his country to build on.

"That goal felt really nice," he said. "I had two other shots, one that hit the post and another that went right over the goal, then the third went in. But it was already 5-2, and just 30 seconds left.

"We met a really good Swiss team and made too many mistakes that cost us goals."
Switzerland vs Norway - 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship