QUEBEC CITY, Que. – The Czech Republic put an end to Switzerland’s undefeated streak at the IIHF World Hockey Championship with a 5-0 win Thursday night at Le Pepsi Colisee.
The Swiss, employing the same strong forecheck and neutral-zone trap that had kept them undefeated through the preliminary round, had no answers for a talented group of Czech forwards that skated and pressed all night.
Martin Erat, Tomas Kaberle, Patrik Elias, Tomas Fleischmann and Jiri Novotny scored for the Czech Republic while Erat, Kaberle, Elias each added an assist.
It was the Nashville Predators’ Erat that put the Czech Republic up 1-0 on a beautiful breakaway goal at 19:06 of the first period, capitalizing on a neutral zone turnover by Swiss defenceman Goran Bezina.
Erat was sent in all alone by Tomas Rolinek and went upstairs on Swiss goaltender Martin Gerber in what would prove to be the game-winning goal.
The Swiss had the Czech Republic playing the game at their pace through much of the first, employing a smart, tight-checking approach that slowed down the pace and prevented the more skilled Czech forwards from opening up the game.
But the tactic that had been so successful in wins over Sweden, Belarus and France didn’t work as the Swiss didn’t ever have an all important lead to work with.
And in the second period, the stronger Czech offence began to take control and pepper Gerber with chances while outshooting the Swiss 10-2.
The Czech’s persistent attack also created some Swiss penalties and while on the power play, Kaberle scored his first goal of the championship, wiring a slapshot from the top of the circle on a feed from Elias down low.
Kaberle, the Toronto Maple Leafs defender and Czech captain, has arguably been the best defenceman so far in Quebec City.
While on the power play again, the New Jersey Devils’ Elias would then walk in on Gerber from the right face-off circle and go blocker side with a wrist shot on the Ottawa Senators’ goaltender to put the Czech’s up by three goals at 15:50 of the second period.
And in a sign that things just weren’t going to well for the Swiss on this night, Tomas Fleischmann rushed in on Gerber wrapped up by a Swiss player and flipped the puck innocently towards the net with 27 seconds left in the period.
Swiss defenceman Julian Vauclair caught the puck and gloved it into his goal by mistake to put the Swiss down and out.
Jiri Novotny added a goal late in the third period.
Gerber was back in goal for the Swiss after a strong performance from Jonas Hiller on Wednesday’s win over Sweden.
Gerber, who came into the game having surrendered only two goals in his two previous tournament starts, made 28 saves.
Czech netminder Milan Hnilicka was largely untested and stopped all 12 shots he faced, with just five in the final two frames.
Notes: An already strong Czech defence corps added Michal Rozsival of the New York Rangers for Thursday’s game. Centre Tomas Plekanec played in his first game since joining the Czech team on Wednesday. . . . Gerber and Hiller are the only NHLers on the roster with Montreal Canadiens’ defenceman Mark Streit unavailable due to a back injury.