Swiss hockey team through to second round

Swiss fans celebrate Monday's win over Belarus Keystone

Switzerland's ice hockey team have qualified for the second round of the world championships after beating Belarus 5-2 in Monday's crunch game in Cologne.

This content was published on April 30, 2001 - 18:23

The Swiss team got off to a great start against the Belarussians, with Julien Vauclair scoring just over a minute into the match, the Lugano defender sweeping in the loose puck after Ambri's Alain Demuth had narrowly failed to connect.

The Swiss celebrations lasted less than two minutes though, with Belarus grabbing a well-worked equaliser through Vasily Pankov in the third minute of the game.

After that explosive start, twelve tense minutes were to follow before Switzerland were able to get themselves back in front, Edgar Salis firing in a long-range effort and making up for his 'own goal' in Saturday's 3-1 defeat by Germany.

This time, Ralph Krueger's men refused to allow the Belarussians back into the game. Two more powerful strikes from Patric Della Rossa and Flavien Conne either side of the first break saw Switzerland extend their lead to 4-1.

A second Belarus goal from Oleg Antonenko was quickly cancelled out by Kloten's Martin Plüss who bundled in goal number five for Switzerland with two minutes of the second period remaining.

The Swiss fans inside the Cologne Arena would not have needed reminding that their team had held a three goal lead over Belarus at last year's championships before eventually losing 5-3. Fortunately, any fears of a repeat occurrence were allayed by a strong Swiss showing in a final goal-less period.

While Monday's win guaranteed Swiss participation in the second round, the match also ensured that Belarus would drop into the relegation playouts. Under the world championship format that means Switzerland will not take any points from Monday's game into the second round, further increasing the significance of Tuesday's last preliminary game against reigning world champions the Czech Republic.

by Mark Ledsom, Cologne

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