Historic World Junior Championship results
Before the turn of the millennium, Switzerland was an “elevator team” that regularly moved up and down between the top two divisions of the World Junior Championships. However, since the expansion of the top division to 10 teams for the 1996 tournament, the Swiss have only been relegated once – that happened in 2008, and they were re-promoted the following year.
Switzerland’s only medal at the World Juniors came in 1998 in Finland, when the team built around later Colorado Avalanche netminder David Aebischer – who was later named the tournament’s Best Goalkeeper – beat the Czech Republic in the bronze medal game. Otherwise, the Swiss have finished fourth on three occasions, including 2002 in Pardubice and Hradec Kralove.
Switzerland’s latest fourth-place finish came last year. Led by forward Philipp Kurashev – who led the tournament with six goals – the team only managed to win one game in the group stage and finished fourth, but in the quarter-finals upset the favoured Swedes 2-0 on goals by Yannick Bruschweiler and Gianluca Burger and a shutout by Luca Hollenstein.
In the semi-finals, however, the Swiss had a poor start and ended up losing 6-1 to the eventual champion from Finland. In the game for third place, the Swiss stayed close for two periods, but Russia eventually pulled away and won 5-2.
Last year’s Swiss lineup included several 2000-born players, so the Swiss will have one of the more experienced teams at this year’s tournament. The player who will receive the most attention is 19-year-old defenceman Janis Jerome Moser, who recorded two points in seven games last year. Moser also played three games for Switzerland at the senior World Championship in Slovakia before leaving due to an injury.
The Swiss defence will be further strengthened by New York Rangers draft pick Nico Gross, who was an alternate captain at last year’s tournament despite his age, and is expected to be the team’s captain this year.
Forward Valentin Nussbaumer had three points in last year’s tournament, and could lead the team in scoring this year. The Arizona Coyotes draft pick currently plays for the Shawinigan Cataractes in the QMJHL, with 19 points in 25 games so far.
The Swiss should be solid between the pipes with returning goalies Luca Hollenstein and Akira Schmid. Hollenstein currently plays for EV Zug in the country’s National League, while Schmid plays for the Omaha Lancers in the USHL. The two split duties last year in Canada, with Hollenstein getting the start in all three final-round games.
Before the tournament in Ostrava and Trinec, there were many changes to the coaching staff of the Swiss national junior team. After three years at the helm, Canadian-born Christian Wohlwend has chosen to concentrate on his duties with HC Davos. His replacement is Thierry Paterlini, an experienced youth coach who worked for the U18 team for five years, reaching the quarter-finals twice. He was an assistant coach under Wohlwend at last year’s World Juniors.
Preparing for the tournament
After a summer camp in Vierumaki, Finland, the Swiss team played in a Four Nations tournament in Piestany, Slovakia in November, where it beat Norway and Slovakia and lost to Germany. The team reconvenes under Paterlini on 10 December, and seven days later will move to Kravare, Czech Republic, where they will train until the beginning of the World Junior Championship. They will also play a pre-tournament game against Canada in Brno on 19 December.
26 December 2019: Switzerland – Kazakhstan (15:00)
28 December 2019: Switzerland – Sweden (19:00)
30 December 2019: Slovakia – Switzerland (19:00)
31 December 2019: Finland – Switzerland (19:00)