Swiss hockey team undone by Czechs
Switzerland will begin the second round of their world championship campaign without any points after losing 3-1 to the Czech Republic in Tuesday's final preliminary match.
Ralph Krueger's men were unlucky to come away from the Nuremburg arena with nothing to show for their efforts after competing on level terms with the reigning world champions for much of the game.
The first period of the match had begun with some fairly frantic Swiss defending as the Czech team went in search of an early goal.
But with 15 minutes gone it was Switzerland who took the lead. Mark Streit continued his impressive start to the world championship campaign with a perfect pass into the Czech goal crease for Martin Plüss to flick in.
That was enough to send the Swiss into the first break with a 1-0 advantage. But another furious start to the second period saw the Czech Republic strike back thanks to an individual goal dribbled, dummied and finally fired in by Robert Reichel.
In the minutes that followed, Switzerland had two good chances to regain the lead. First Streit threaded a pass through to Flavien Conne who managed to hit the Czech goalframe despite being illegally brought down by David Moravec.
Then Thomas Ziegler succeeded in finding the net, only to see his effort disallowed after Alain Demuth was judged to have entered the Czech crease.
Switzerland's pressure was more than matched, though, by their strong Czech counterparts, and in the final period it became apparent that Josef Augusta's side had managed to find an extra gear.
Within five minutes of the restart it was 2-1, Viktor Ujcik firing in a Thomas Vlasak pass from close-range. More Czech pressure followed and although the acrobatics of Swiss goalkeeper Martin Gerber kept his team in contention, there were few chances for Switzerland to draw level.
With just seconds of the match remaining Gerber was pulled off the ice as Switzerland attempted an all-out attack. But the tactic misfired with Reichel taking possession and shooting the puck into an empty Swiss net for his second goal of the night.
Switzerland's latest defeat ensures that the side will begin the second round three points behind the Czechs and the Germans. Krueger's men must finish in the top four of the six-team group if they are to reach the quarter-finals. But of their next three matches against Russia, Canada and surprise qualifiers Italy, only the latter is expected to present few difficulties.
by Mark Ledsom, Nuremburg
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