| | Ten years from now, when we look back at this years World Junior Championships, we
will be amazed how many big stars that were present. Sure, a few of the biggest
names are missing because they have not been released by their NHL-clubs, but
many of the players who will battle for the gold-medal will become big stars in NHL sometime down the road. This years tournament will be held in Skellefteå and Umeå, Sweden. The first game will be played on December 25th and the final will take place on January 4th. The ten teams are divided into two groups with Canada, USA, Slovakia, Finland and Czech Republic in Group A and Sweden, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Switzerland in Group B. A difference from last years tournament is that the group-winner will not be automatically qualified for the semi-final. This year the winner in Group A will play the fourth-placed team from Group B, the second-placed team in Group A will play the third-placed team from Group B and so on.
The U20 team has won a 4-Nations tournament in the USA. “Partly, partly”, was head coach Jakob Koelliker’s answer. “We have won it, but especially the game against Germany was really bad. We have to win against opponents like Germany.”
Switzerland had many chances to score goals. Koelliker: “We are not cool enough, we should score a lot more goals.” Indeed not only the juniors, but all of the Swiss players need to take better advantage of their goal-scoring
In a preparation game against the Rochester Mustangs, Switzerland took a 4:0 victory. The Swiss goal scorers were Bjoern Christen, Marc Reichert (2 goals) and Loic Burkhalter. Silvan Lussy and Fabian Stephan, each
added two assists. Martin Zerzuben had his first of two shut-outs. The
second followed in the tournament game against Norway.
Switzerland dominated the game and shot out the Mustangs, 22 to 9 shots.
The tournament started with a game against Germany. The game ended in a tie
at 2. Switzerland had 20 shots, while Germany was held to 14.
In the next game Norway was left scoreless. 6:0 was the final score. “Well not really an opponent for us,” coach Koelliker commented on the game. Six different players scored the goals. 35 to 3 shots – Norway is not really on the same level as Switzerland.
This team has only one aim: The 2000 U-18 WJC! Playing at home will be
great motivation for these kids.
Due to preparation they travelled to the United States for a training
camp and exhibition games against the USA.
Playing without Sven Helfenstein, who is already a member of the U-20
team, they still had enough players to play some pretty good hockey.
“We have between 28 and 35 players on the extended roster. Only 20 of
them will play the World Champs”, coach Beat Lautenschlager said. “We
are very deep up front. A little lack in defense, that’s why we have
two 83 born in there. But they are very good.”
The U17 National Team headed to Slovakia to play three games against a
top class opponent.
“We didn’t perform the best.”, headcoach Charly Oppliger said. “But the
opponent was very good. We did join in well in these games, that’s
what I wanted.”
Defense seemed to be the big problem for nearly all players.
Coach Oppliger explained: “In the Swiss leagues the good players can
shine offensively, other take over the defensive part for them. With
the games the players adjusted well.”
The main goal was to “gain experience” and that was reached in this test series against
Slovakia. The coach didn’t want to talk about the certain players. He
only mentioned: “All players are good. They wouldn’t be in the national