Swiss ease past Great Britain
by Andy POTTS|15 MAY 2024
Switzerland's Nico Hischier (right) slots home the opening goal in his country's victory over Great Britain in Prague.
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Andrea Cardin
After a pair of nerve-jangling battles, Switzerland enjoyed a more straightforward evening against Great Britain. After jumping to a 2-0 lead in the first period, the Swiss had little difficulty holding off a hard-working British performance to post a fourth successive victory in Prague.

Nico Hischier’s fourth goal of the competition got things started and Dean Kukan doubled the lead in the 14th minute as the Swiss dominated the opening frame. After that, Britain improved, but the Alpine avalanche of power play goals continued: Nino Niederreiter late in the second period put his team up 3-0, and the Swiss PP at 8-for-16 in the tournament. Last year, the Czechs’ eight power play goals led the competition; Switzerland got there in four games.

"We played really well in the first period,” said Roman Josi, who assisted on two of the Swiss goals. “In the second they got some momentum, they had some chances and we didn’t execute as well with the puck. But they’re a tough team, it’s hard to get to their net, hard to get pucks through."

For Britain, Liam Kirk drew some positives despite another loss. "We definitely played a lot better than against Finland," the forward said. "Switzerland is a helluva team, they're top of this group for a reason. You can see how they play, how detailed they are but we gave a lot of pushback. There’s some areas to work on for us."

There was drama from the start. After just 90 seconds Britain’s Nathaneal Halbert repeatedly hooked at Hischier as he got on a breakaway. Kevin Fiala was entrusted with the penalty shot after scoring in Monday’s shoot-out, but this time Jackson Whistle made the save. It was the start of another busy night for Whistle, who put in another solid shift after a good performance in the opener against Canada.

"He's been huge for us," offered Cade Neilson. "Right from the get-go against Canada he's been incredible. All credit to him."

However, the Swiss were undaunted and went ahead on 3:48 when Roman Josi fired in a Leo Draisaitl-style shot from the right-hand goalline. The puck went via Whistle’s shoulder and the post onto Hischier’s stick for a simple finish into an open net.

The British defence was allowing too many breakaways and inviting pressure onto itself in a first period that the Swiss controlled effortlessly. That pressure brought a second goal when Kukan flipped in a wrister that went through Whistle’s glove and dropped into the net. By that point, 14 minutes into the game, the Brits had managed just 14 seconds in the Swiss zone and seemed destined for a repeat of Sunday’s 0-8 thrashing against Finland.

In the second period, GB improved. Ben O’Connor tested Akira Schmid in the Swiss net with a couple of long-range efforts, Neilson, celebrating his 23rd birthday, danced through the defence but could not find a telling pass and Robert Lachowicz fired narrowly wide.

However, there was always a feeling that the Swiss had another gear if necessary. Towards the end of the period, Patrick Fischer’s team stepped up the tempo and earned another power play. Niederreiter added a third goal, squeezing a shot off the post and past Whistle.

Josi assisted on that play as well, moving to a tournament leading 8 (2+6) points from four games. He's promising more to come. "I feel good," he added. "I really like my game so far but I think there's still potential. "I think I can still get used to our system and try to get better and better with each game, but I'm happy with the wins."

Team-mate Jonas Siegenthaler is also enjoying his captain's contribution in all areas. "Everyone can see what he's doing out there," the defender said. "He's world class and we're glad to have him here, he brings so much to the table.

"When he talks, you listen; he knows what he's talking about."

With the outcome settled, the third period was a quieter affair. While the Brits wanted a goal to avoid a second successive shut-out, there was little change out of a solid Swiss defence. At the other end, that imposing power play went close when a shot cannoned off Josh Batch’s skate and into the post but the British PK held on in a goalless final stanza.

"These teams are all really good," admitted Kirk. "We need to find ways to get to the paint and be more direct, but it's hard. We did better today but we still only have two goals in this tournament."

Both teams will face Denmark in the next game. Britain is back in action on Friday, with Switzerland facing the Danes a day later.
Switzerland vs Great Britain - 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship