KOSICE – Today’s game between Canada and Switzerland has more storylines than a collection of Lewis Carroll novels. Take your pick: two Canadian ex-pats behind the Swiss bench coaching against Canada (head coach Sean Simpson and assistant Colin Muller), or, at the 2010 Olympics Canada needed a shootout to dispatch the Swiss, or, last year at the World Championship the Swiss punished the Canadians 4-1. Lots there to consider.
On a more micro level, there’s also the prospect of seeing how Switzerland’s top line of Martin Plüss, Ivo Rüthemann and Ryan Gardner responds to the pressure of having to deal with Canada’s big, physical defence. Heading into the game, Rüthemann leads the Swiss in scoring with one goal and three assists. Gardner got on track in the last game and has two goals and an assist while Plüss is still looking for his first point.
Rüthemann and Plüss have been paired up with their club team in the Swiss League (SC Bern) and with the national team for a few years now. Gardner has been in and out of the mix – mostly “in” since the Swiss League playoffs and here at the World Championship.
“Ivo and Plüss are like brothers,” says Simpson. “They hang around with one another, they’re good for the team. They’re real leaders. That line, with Gardner playing with them, really came together and played well for Bern in the playoffs. I liked them as a line.”
It was their play during the post season that got Simpson and the coaching staff thinking about whether the trio might work well together with the national team. Their initial thought had been to use the veteran Gardner as a role player and not necessarily a top offensive line player.
“In our minds we saw Gardner as an energy line type of guy. We had him with Kevin Lötscher in some of our national team games during the season and they looked good,” recalls Simpson. “But before the tournament, in a couple of exhibition games with Russia, we put him with Ivo and Plüss because of their experience in Bern and they just led the way. So we just left him there and its worked well.”
For the line to be effective Gardner has to use his size to get to the front of the net and Rüthemann and Plüss have to use their quickness to get him the puck.
Those skill sets all came together nicely in Switzerland’s last game (a 4-1 win over Belarus) but weren’t so apparent in the team’s opener against France (a 1-0 win in overtime).
“I’m not a fancy player, I’m not going to dance guys. I have to get to the net, especially in a tournament like this,” says Gardner. “That’s what you do – get pucks to the net and go to the net and hopefully bang them home. We know it’s going to be tough to do that against Canada. They’re not going to let you get to the net that easily.”
- The Swiss announced that Yannick Weber (Montreal, NHL), who was initially going to join Switzerland for the Qualification Round, will now not be joining the team. The decision was mutual, after Simpson and Weber spent some time discussing the situation on the phone. Simpson says the decision has no bearing whatsoever on Weber's future involvement with the national team.
- Leonardo Genoni will play his first IIHF World Championship game today against Canada after Tobias Stephan had got two starts. The 23-year-old, whose sensational performance led HC Davos to the Swiss championship, played in two World U20 Championships and as many World U18 Championships.