These two teams have punched their quarterfinal tickets and this is simply for positioning. Switzerland would need a blowout win to have a chance to avoid Canada in the quarterfinal, but the Czech Republic could finish in second or third in the group. Both of these teams had trouble against Belarus, and the Czech’s tournament-opening win against Russia is the difference between the two teams. The game will be on TSN 1/3 and RDS2 in Canada. NHL Network in the US will also show the game.
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12 PM ET: Czech Republic vs Switzerland
Last season after the World Junior Hockey Championship, the Czech Republic Ice Hockey Association went out and signed Liberec coach Filip Pesan as the coach for their U20 team, and it may be the best decision Czech ice hockey has made in a while.
Coach Pesan is young, has been involved in New York Rangers development camps, and he usually tries to get a chance to talk hockey with any coach he can when on the road in the Champions Hockey League, or out traveling in general.
Having met Coach Pesan briefly this summer, I have him pegged as the next European coach to get a chance in the NHL. I know for a fact that KHL teams are already looking at him, but the project in Liberec might still have some time to go.
Mr. Pesan can be described as a very progressive coach, and having coached Liberec to their first title in history and followed that up with a loss in the finals the last season, he brings success wherever he goes. He prefers to play a physically demanding, attacking brand of hockey with a lot of forechecking, and also employs a modern approach that includes a video coach and statistical analysis in order to get the best out of his players and develop them the best way possible.
He also relies on his staff with other responsibilities in order to make the team progress even further. It may be a year or two too early for the Czechs to find success among the world’s elite, but Coach Pesan is a rising star and will be very interesting to follow. He may even be able to break the hidden rules in Czech hockey and start bringing the U20 team out of the doldrums it has been in since 2006 when they last reached the semi-final.
After three years spent barely hanging on to their place in the Top Division among the world’s elite, Switzerland was finally able to make the playoff round in the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championship. They fared well in their quarter-final matchup, outshooting Team USA, but ultimately fell to the eventual champions by a 3-2 scoreline.
They won’t have last year’s team-leading scorer, Nico Hischier, on the roster this time around as he has found a home in the NHL after being selected first overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft by the New Jersey Devils. It was his play in the tournament versus his peers that really boosted his stock among scouts, and helped make him the most enticing prospect of the draft class.
The national team will also be without Jonas Siegenthaler, their most productive blue-liner last year, as well as goaltender Joren van Pottelberghe, who played all five games for Switzerland in 2017.
The team does have its two backup netminders from last year on the preliminary roster, as Matteo Ritz and Philip Wüthrich are still with the team in Buffalo. But their experience at the World Juniors has been limited to practice sessions and spectating the games from the bench.