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Swiss complete rally in its tournament opener vs. Belarus

It didn't come easy but Switzerland is off to a winning start in the World Junior Hockey Championship.

The Swiss scored the final two goals of the game to rally for a 3-2 preliminary-round decision over Belarus on Wednesday afternoon before a sparse crowd at spacious KeyBank Center.

Phillipp Kurashev's one-time blast off 3-on-2 rush with 8 minutes, 44 seconds left broke a 2-2 tie and enabled Switzerland to head into Thursday afternoon's Group B clash against Russia at HarborCenter on a winning note. Russia was stunned in its opening game Tuesday by the Czech Republic, 5-4.

The Swiss avoided an upset bid by staying true to the process as it peppered goaltender Andrei Grishenko with 40 shots, including 31 through 40 minutes.

"It was tough ... It was a really important game for us," said Kurashev, who is playing junior hockey with Quebec of the QMJHL and is a projected third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.

"We didn't put in some goals, it was a big problem," Switzerland's Valentin Nussbaumer said. "After (the second period), we put some hard pressure and found a solution."

Switzerland won two battles along the board that produced the goals it needed to leave KeyBank Center on a happy note.

Swiss player of the game Nussbaumer tied it with 11:48 left as he was in right spot all alone in front of the Belarus net. Sven Leuenberger forced a turnover on a pass behind the net and got the puck right to Nussbaumer, who buried the chance after faking the goalie out of position.

On the game-winner, Marco Miranda won a battle along the wall near the blue line against two Belarus players, slipping the puck to Guillaume Maillard on the left wing. Maillard's passed to an on-rushing Kurashev who fired a perfect shot in off the post.

"I just tried to get the puck on net, it went off the post and in so I'm happy," Kurashev said.

Belarus, which opened tournament play with a 6-1 loss to powerhouse Sweden, had a chance as it received fine goaltending and fired more shots on goal, finishing with 28 after mustering just nine Tuesday.

Belarus took a 2-1 lead on the power play early in the third period as Viktor Bovbel scored after a rebound of Maxin Sushki's point shot was one-touched in tight to him from Ilya Litvinov.

Belarus also had a couple chances in the final 10 seconds to force overtime with one player swiping at and missing a rebound in the slot with a partially open net in front of him.

Switzerland opened the scoring, tilting things in its favor with a pinball-type shot in the first period. Elia Riva's blast from the point hit a skate in front of the Belarus net and Nicolas Muller poked it in off the skate of a Belarusian defenseman at the 8:07 mark.

The Swiss had 12-4 and 16-6 edges in shots but Belarus fired the last five of the first period, earning the right to go into the dressing room tied 1-1. That happened when the Belarusian leadership combined for a goal with 1:26 left in the frame. Alternate captain Yegor Sharangovich forced a turnover behind the Swiss net on the forecheck and passed the puck back to the point. Sushko, the team captain and Belarus' player of the game, buried the rebound of a point shot from Vladislav Martynyuk with Vladislav Gabrus earning the other assist.

The Swiss' two best chances during the second period came off odd-man rushes in transition. Grishenko denied them both as – including a nice pad stop on a rebound during a 2-on-1 rush with fresh ice early in the period. Switzerland held a 31-18 edge in shots after 40 minutes.

Belarus (0-2) is off Thursday but returns to action Friday against Russia.

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