Belarus’ attempt at staying in the top World Junior tournament ended with a 6-2 loss to Switzerland on Sunday.
To stay alive in the relegation round, Belarus had to be able to beat Switzerland today to force a third and final game. On Saturday, Switzerland easily had their way with Belarus after scoring five straight goals to overcome a tired Belarusian team 5-1. Sunday didn’t prove to be much better for Belarus, who struggled right out of the gate in a do-or-die game.
Pius Suter led the way for the Swiss, scoring three goals in the first period alone. Suter made Ivan Kulbakov’s afternoon a living nightmare, scoring first at the 3:41 mark on a rebound to make it 1-0. Then, just nine seconds later, Suter scored once again to end Kulbakov’s game early, tying the World Junior tournament record with the two fastest goals in a single game (Dave Gagner created the record back in 1983 against, ironically, Switzerland).
Vladislav Verbitski’s night didn’t go much better. Suter would score to make it 3-0 after 12 minutes of play, giving the Swiss a big lead with a lot of the game still to go. It was too early to count out Belarus, though, who got first period goals from Dmitri Buinitski and Dmitri Filippovich to give them a fighting chance heading into the second. Unfortunately, that’s all the team could muster, as another second half collapse by the team saw them quickly fall away and allow the Swiss to record three more goals to finish off with the 6-2 victory.
For the second time in two years, Switzerland was able to avoid relegation with a two-game sweep of their opponents. The Swiss had higher hopes this year after a poor ninth place showing last year, but the absence of Kevin Fiala really proved to hurt their offensive output. Additionally, having three players suspended in the opening game against Sweden didn’t help, as the team was always underpowered against every team they met. Switzerland’s only point of the round robin came against Canada, who they took to a shootout before eventually losing 3-2.
Switzerland did lose a key player in Noah Rod mid-game, who took a puck to what the team referred to as his “private parts”. Rod was taken to the hospital to undergo further testing.
With the loss, Belarus will head back to Division IA and will be replaced by Latvia in the elite division. Belarus made their last World Junior appearance at the top level in 2007, with their last win coming against Germany in the relegation round that year.
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