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Russia beats Switzerland, 3-1

Saskia Maurer’s brilliance wasn’t enough to keep Russia from earning their first win of the 2021 Worlds

IHOCKEY-WC-IIHF-RUS-SUI Photo credit should read HEIKKI SAUKKOMAA/AFP via Getty Images

Given the reputations of the two teams playing in tonight’s featured game, we were all expecting something fast and furious. More or less, that is exactly what we got — but we were also treated to some outstanding goaltending.

Unfortunately, the other big story from tonight’s match was a scary injury that forced Alina Müller to make an early exit. The Swiss star suffered what looked like a lower-body injury in the second period after putting her team ahead in the first. She didn’t return to action in the third. Müller finished the game with 10:17 TOI and scored the lone Swiss goal.

Russia

Russia played the kind of game they need to play to beat teams like Switzerland. They were physical in the defensive and neutral zones and were creative on the power play and on the rush.

The Russians were outshooting but perhaps not out-chancing the Swiss in the first period but were down 1-0 after the first. The problem wasn’t Russia’s offense — it was Swiss keeper Saskia Maurer. Maurer was the only reason the Russian machine wasn’t able to completely pull away after they finally broke through on the power play thanks to a gorgeous snipe by Pavlova.

Just 14 seconds after Pavlova opened the scoring for Russia, Kulishova beat Maurer by going five-hole when she took advantage of a badly played puck and went in alone on a breakaway. In less than 15 seconds the Swiss had lost their lead and were suddenly trailing. Russia never got out of the driver seat after Kulishova’s breakaway goal.

Batalova, who was looked like one of the best players on the ice from the word go, found the back of the net late in the third period to put her team up 3-1. The Swiss pulled their goalie but it was simply too little, too late. Russia cruised to victory after Batalova put the game out of reach for a rattled Swiss team.

She may have only finished with 19 saves but Valeria Merkusheva did everything she had to do and then some to get her team the win tonight. She had to stop a lot of dangerous chances generated by Switzerland’s talented forwards and simply can’t be faulted for the Müller goal. It was a promising performance for Merkusheva, who is coming off of a brilliant season in the ZhHL where she posted a .941 Sv% and earned 11 wins for SKIF.

Goals scored by Russia: Valeria Pavlova (PP), Viktoria Kulishova (EV), Maria Batalova (EV).

SUI

Things started smoothly for the Swiss, even though the Russians’ physical brand of hockey helped them control most of the play for the first period. Maurer was making big save after big save and every now and then a window would open amidst the cloud of forechecking and physicality that is Russian hockey and the Swiss would go on the attack.

This is only day two of the tournament, but Müller’s goal may end up being one of the prettiest we see at the 2021 Worlds. The chemistry and connection between Phoebe Stänz, Lara Stalder, and Müller was simply remarkable and left the Russian defense in knots and helpless to come to the aid of their goaltender. It was a glimpse of what this Swiss offense can do when it is firing on all cylinders. But will we get to see that connection again this tournament?

After the Müller injury, the Swiss definitely lost a gear in their transition game and in the offensive zone. Stalder had the puck on her stick a ton — she finished the game with 20:02 TOI. Stalder and Switzerland had their chances but it felt like they needed to answer back with a power-play goal of their own that never came. Despite all of the scrums, trips, clutching, and grabbing, the Russians stayed out of the box for the entirety of the third and both teams finished the game with 14 PIM.

The Swiss simply didn’t find a way to score enough goals against a team that succeeded in imposing their will and style of play on the game. Maurer finished the game with 31 saves — an outstanding performance for the 20-year-old keeper in her first appearance in an elite international tournament.

Goals scored by Switzerland: Alina Müller (EV)

Other Games

Germany Defeats Hungary, 3-0

Japan Defeats Denmark, 1-0

Tomorrow’s Games

  • Hungary vs the Czech Republic, 2 p.m. ET
  • Canada vs Russia, 6 p.m.
  • Finland vs USA, 9:30 p.m.