Switzerland's Baltisberger stretchered off ice in loss
Gauthier Descloux checks in on Phil Baltisberger of Team Switzerland after a head hit against Team Russia during the group stage of the 2015 World Junior Hockey Championships at the Air Canada Centre on December 28, 2014. (Dave Abel/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency)
Swiss coach John Fust called it a head shot.
Valeri Bragin, the Russian bench boss, said no.
But the Russians will be minus suspended forward Anatoli Golyshev when they face old foe Sweden for control of the Toronto group at the world junior championships Monday at the Air Canada Centre.
The 19-year-old KHL pro earned a five-minute second-period match penalty for interference, which comes with an automatic one-game ban, for decking Swiss defenceman Phil Baltisberger in an incident that marred Russia's 7-0 win before 15,125 Sunday evening.
The Guelph Storm rearguard remained motionless and face down on the ice for several minutes before being removed by stretcher with his neck immobilized and taken to hospital. Fust said Baltisberger was moving his arms and legs, and team captain Yannick Rathgeb managed to check on him before he left the ice.
“He was awake and feeling good,” the Plymouth Whaler said. “He was actually smiling a little bit. He can feel everything. He just didn't have any power to get up and his neck really hurt.”
Baltisberger’s brother Chris tweeted, “My brother is OK. The hit wasn't dirty enough to take him out.”
But the Swiss, obviously, were rattled seeing their teammate on the ice for so long. Fust said it was difficult to keep his bench focused after losing such a popular player.
“We're all human and we were all worried about him,” he said, “and we didn't get a diagnosis right away.”
Fust said, originally, the referees weren't going to call a penalty, but changed their mind. The Russians believe they decided on a major because of the injury.
“It was just a shoulder check,” Bragin said through an interpreter. “It's a very strange situation and it's unclear exactly what happened. He (Baltisberger) got hit in the side. Our player is shorter (5-foot-9) and the Swiss player is taller (6-foot-1).
“If there was no head check, it's just a hockey play. If there was, then of course he should be suspended.”
Golyshev's future in the tournament rests in the hands of the International Ice Hockey Federation's discipline committee. It includes former NHL ref Dan Marouelli, who watched the hit and result from his perch above the arena.
Only nine players have taken part in four world juniors. Baltisberger, 19, is one of them.
Earlier in the day, he talked about what it meant to him.
“It's something I can tell my kids one day,” said the Zurich native, “but I don't just want to say I've been four times. I want to say we got a medal or something.
“It's my last year so it's the last chance.”
Hopefully, he simply returns to the ice soon.
Swedish forward Adrian Kempe didn't practise Sunday while recovering from a stomach ailment that kept him out of Saturday's victory over Denmark.
There is optimism the Kings first-rounder will be ready for Russia.
“He's getting better, but we'll see,” assistant coach Tomas Monten said. “He's an important player for us – he got into a good spot with two power-play goals for us against Czech – but we have a couple of options (if he can't go).”
This is a rather large Monday for the Czechs.
They need to beat Denmark to avoid their first 0-3 world junior start since they started playing under their own flag in 1994.
They haven't won a medal since 2005, either. But right now, they're just trying to avoid the relegation round.
“We've had a bad start, but things can turn around quickly,” said Capitals first-rounder Jakub Vrana, in his third world junior tourney. “Every game you win, it gives so much energy to the team. When you lose the first couple, it's hard mentally. We need to hold a lead and control the game.”
It wouldn't hurt if Sarnia Sting forward Pavel Zacha chipped in.
The 17-year-old, a potential top 10 NHL pick this summer, got in some special teams work during the most recent practice.
“Hopefully, I'll get the chance to get on the power play and score some goals,” the 6-foot-3, 214-pounder said. “We have Jakub (Vrana) and (Bruin) David Pastrnak, who the coach wants to score, so they play first and second line, and power plays. I'm on the third line now and (the burden of scoring) is not too much.”
The Danes are turning back to goalie Georg Sorensen, so good against Russia but yanked after three goals in one period against Sweden a day later. Thomas Lillie stopped 33 shots in relief.
“When we saw Georg was not at his absolute best, we took him out to recover for the game against Czech,” Danish coach Olaf Eller said. “We've had discussions about how many games he could play. He's a backup in the Danish Senior League (to 33-year-old Slovak Lubos Pisar with the Herning Blue Foxes). He's not playing much.”
Sorensen has only played two league games, but he did suit up for the senior national team, shutting out France in his debut.
In baseball, left-handed pitchers are at a premium. In hockey these days, it's right-shooting defencemen.
Three teams in the Toronto group have just one on their roster – Sweden (Julius Bergman), Czech Republic (Jan Kostalek) and Russia (17-year-old Ivan Provorov). The Danes and Swiss have two righties each.
“Last year, it felt like we had an abundance of right-hand shots, so this year, it's weird,” Swedish coach Rikard Gronborg said. “We don't have as many kids as U.S. and Canada, so we have to pick the guys we think will win the games – no matter which way they shoot.”