KOSICE – Switzerland finally got a little offence going, scoring a team high for the tournament five goals and defeating the USA 5-3 on the final day of Qualifying Round play at the 2011 IIHF World Championship. The game was of little implication in the sense that the USA was already qualified for, and Switzerland eliminated from, quarter-final play.
Switzerland vs. USA 5-3 (2-1, 2-1, 1-1) Game Sheet Photos
The USA finishes play in Group F in fourth place with seven points (two wins, one overtime loss, two losses). They will face the Czech Republic in the quarters. Switzerland finishes the group in fifth place with six points (one win, one overtime win, one overtime loss, two losses) and ninth overall.
Full credit to Switzerland in this one – the team had nothing to play for, except to soothe a little of the sting of heading home after the Qualification Round. The sting would feel particularly nasty, considering that they finished in fifth place at last year’s tournament.
"We wanted to play a good game for our fans," said team captain Mathias Seger, "so we tried our best to get three points. If we had beaten Norway we would have been in the quarter-finals; so that was our goal. As a team, we don't score enough goals and we took too many penalties."
The USA battled in the third period to make it a tight finish. James van Riemsdyk, playing in his first game of the tournament, pulled the USA to within one, making it 4-3, with 1:43 remaining. He bolted in on the left side of the slot and quickly fired the puck past Swiss goalie Tobias Stephan.
The Americans pulled their goalie and Ryan Gardner scored into the empty net with 17 seconds left to lock up the win for Switzerland.
Ivo Rüthemann added to a one goal Swiss lead 1:06 into the second period. It was his second goal of the tournament, but he also added five assists and finishes as the team’s leading scorer with seven points.
The U.S. offence showed some signs of stirring – fighting back to pull to within one. Ryan Shannon went to the Swiss net, hard with the puck, and slipped it past Stephan before he, in turn, was taken into the net by Swiss defender Beat Gerber. The play was reviewed to whether or not the puck had crossed the line before the net was dislodged. It had, and the USA was only down by one.
Kevin Lötscher, a big 23-year-old forward who Swiss national team officials have high hopes for, scored his second goal of the game at 11:00. He pounced on a loose puck as it came off the end boards on the right wing side in the USA zone. The puck hopped by U.S. defenceman Damian Fleury, to Lötscher, who blasted a shot past Conklin into the top shelf to put Switzerland up 4-2.
Lötscher just finished his first season with the national team, and team officials hope he can eventually provide some of the offensive spark that was absent from this year’s club.
"I think I had a bit of a difficult start [to the tournament]," remarked Lötscher. "The tempo was really high and everybody plays a real strong style of hockey. The goals didn't go in for me at the beginning. They came a little too late. It's a great experience and I hope it's not the last time I play [for the national team]."
Craig Smith opened the scoring in the game at 11:01 of the first period. He shrugged off Swiss defenceman Matthias Bieber, took the pass and beat Stephan from the right edge of the crease to make it 1-0 USA.
Switzerland didn’t blink. Lötscher scored the type of goal that Swiss hockey fans hope to see more of in the future and didn’t see enough of in this tournament. It was a power forward type goal as he cut out from the left wing in the U.S. zone, through traffic, past falling American defenceman Mark Stuart and beat U.S. goalie Ty Conklin up high on the short side to tie the score at 1-1.
Raphael Diaz scored at 14:10 of the first to put Switzerland on top 2-1. The goal was awarded after a video review. Diaz, well in from his right point position, fired the puck from a sharp angle past Conklin and it just made it over the goal line before being swept away by American defenceman Mike Brown. The review clearly showed the puck crossing the line.
So, onwards (and they hope upwards) for the USA - and a summer to reflect for the Swiss.
"It was very tough playing to start after we knew that France had lost to Norway," said Lötscher. "Still, we wanted to end the tournament with a win - but we can't be satisfied with the whole situation."