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Switzerland edge France 1-0 in hockey opener

(Keystone)

Switzerland have defeated France with a score of 1-0 in their opening game at the 2009 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Bern.

Despite the victory, the French squad held the Swiss team, playing before a crowd of 11,417 people in Europe's largest arena, to a surprisingly close game on Friday evening.

A raucous crowd of flag-waving Swiss failed to embolden their jittery national squad against the 19th-ranked French, who ought to thank goalie Fabrice Lhenry for keeping them in the game. Lhenry stopped 41 of 42 shots.

Switzerland's Martin Plüss scored the one and only goal in the Swiss capital when he put a wrist shot into the top left corner of the French net at 11:33 in the first period. Defenseman Mark Streit assisted.

But Switzerland hardly put on a dominating performance for the rest of the period - or the game, for that matter - in front of a home crowd.

"We conceded too many penalties and therefore were not able to find the right rhythm [playing] five against five," Plüss said after the game. "We created enough dangerous opportunities"

The Swiss, ranked seventh in the world, controlled the rest of the opening 20 minutes after Plüss's goal but failed to capitalise on more power play opportunities.

The end of the first period finished with 14 shots on goal for Switzerland and six for France.

Close game

France were able to cause a bit of trouble in the Swiss end in the second period after Switzerland's Raffaelle Sannitz received a two-minute penalty at 4:14 in the second period for interference.

Switzerland sent a total of four players to the penalty box over the duration of that period, compared with France's three.

Switzerland would finish the second period with 11 shots on goal compared with France's three. By that time, however, the French had made their point: they would not roll over against the Swiss.

The same theme continued after the second intermission.

Third period

France's Mathieu Mille took a two-minute trip to the penalty box just 53 seconds into the third period for hooking. Switzerland did not benefit.

The home team was unable to capitalise on any French weaknesses for the rest of the period. Switzerland's Goran Bezina took a two-minute trip to the penalty box 13:42 into the third period with teammate Roman Wick following four minutes later.

France was able to hold the score despite a late push from Switzerland, a roaring Bernese crowd and a minor penalty with seven minutes left.

After the game, both goalies - Martin Gerber for Switzerland and Fabrice Lhenry for France - were named the best players of their respective sides.

Switzerland's coach confirmed that his squad entered the game nervous.

"We missed a little something in offense and in defense," said Ralph Krueger. "It would have been good for the fans to score more goals but the important thing was the victory."

Switzerland joined Russia as first-round winners in Group B. Defending champions Russia beat Germany 5-0 earlier in the day.

Switzerland will play next against Germany on Sunday, and Russia face France. In Zurich, Canada will face off against Hungary and Belarus play Slovakia.

swissinfo, Justin Häne at the PostFinance Arena in Bern

Slovakia vs Hungary

In Zurich, Slovakia beat Hungary 4-3 on Friday evening with a last-minute goal.

It was Hungary's first appearance in the top division in 70 years.

end of infobox

Team Switzerland

Goalkeepers
26 Gerber, Martin
66 Rueger, Ronnie

Defense
5 Blindenbacher, Severin
7 Streit, Mark
13 Du Bois, Felicien
31 Seger, Mathias
54 Furrer, Philippe
57 Belzina, Goran
90 Josi, Roman

Forwards
10 Ambühl, Andres
14 Wick, Roman
18 Deruns, Thomas
23 Paterlini, Thierry
28 Plüss, Martin
32 Rüthemann, Ivo
35 Jeannin, Sandy
38 Ziegler, Thomas
39 Sannitz, Raffaelle
51 Gardner, Ryan
67 Lemm, Romano
86 Sprunger, Julien
88 Romy, Kevin

end of infobox

Team France

Goalkeepers
1 Ferhi, Eddy
42 Lhenry, Fabrice

Defense
2 Bachet, Vincent
16 Quessandier, Benoit
27 Amar, Baptiste
29 Mille, Mathieu
38 Roussel, Thomas
44 Manavian, Antonin
71 Igier, Kevin

Forwards
7 Treille, Yorick
10 Meunier, Laurent
11 Rozenthal, Francois
13 Zwikel, Jonathan
14 da Costa, Stephane
18 Tardif, Luc
20 Raux, Damien
26 Lussier, Anthoine
28 Gras, Laurent
41 Bellemare, Pierre Edouard
77 Treille, Sacha
84 Hecquefeuille, Kevin
86 Fleury, Damien

end of infobox


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