By the margin of Dario Simion being 6-foot-2 instead 5-foot-10 like the stereotypical Swiss forward of yore, Switzerland is in the world junior championship medal round.
Normally, if someone says international hockey looks like a soccer game, it's derogatory. That was not the case on Monday, Simion's header sent the Switzerland-Czech Republic to overtime. It came with 2:01 left in the third period — or the 58th minute, to use the soccer stylebook — and gave the Swiss one point in the standings for the regulation tie, enough to edge Finland for the final playoff berth in Group A of the world junior hockey championship. Simion was trying to screen the goaltender when defenceman Samuel Guerra stepped into a slapshot. Since the deflection was unintended, it counted.
Talk about Simion being in the right place at the right time. Also, it was fortunate for Switzerland that it had a taller player screening Czech goalie Patrik Bartosak. Switzerland used to always be associated with being scrappy and undersized — five of their forwards are less than six feet tall, including 5-6, 143-pound wing Lino Martschini, the tournament's tiniest player. But one of its go-to scorers has been the 6-foot-5 Mike Kunzle delivering some key goals.
Three years ago, a then-17-year-old Nino Niederreiter led Switzerland to a quarter-final upset over Russia in the world junior. This Swiss team that will again face Russia in the quarters doesn't have a scorer with such catalytic star power, boasting only two NHL draft picks in Tampa Bay Lightning third-rounder Tanner Richard and Minnesota Wild sixth-rounder Christoph Berschy. Random strokes of good fortune have fallen its way, though, reminding us not take anything for granted.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org (video: IIHF).
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