BERNE – The great blue-and-yellow tradition continues. Sweden made the top eight at the IIHF World Championship with a 4-1 victory over Switzerland on Sunday, a feat it's accomplished every year since 1938.
While the Swedes now await the identity of their quarterfinal opponent, the Swiss must earn a three-point win over the USA in their last Qualification Round game on Monday in order to have the possibility of cracking the elimination games. It's a tough predicament for the host nation, which made the quarterfinals in five out of the last six years, and had high hopes heading into this tournament.
(Latvia and Team USA both need one more point to secure a quarterfinal berth. If Switzerland beats the USA in regulation time on Monday, they will make the quarterfinals and the tournament will be over either for the Latvians (if they don’t gain at least a point versus Russia) or the USA (otherwise). There is only one exception: if all four teams are tied with seven points, Switzerland would need to beat Team USA by at least three goals to make the quarterfinals in place of the Americans.)
"The good thing is that we have another chance," said Switzerland's Ryan Gardner. "Now we try to get a good night's sleep, come back tomorrow, bring some more energy and play our best game possible. We need to be professional about it. Our chance is still there since some teams have won some games for us."
Johnny Oduya, Johan Harju, Linus Omark, and Johan Andersson scored for Sweden, which completes its Qualification Round on Monday versus France.
"We played a really good hockey game, really tight, and didn't make many mistakes today," said Swedish head coach Bengt-Åke Gustafsson. "We got a very important first goal and the pressure was on them after that. I'm very pleased with what the team did today, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the tournament."
Romano Lemm replied for Switzerland.
Sweden's “Monster” Johan Gustavsson won the goaltending duel with Martin Gerber, as shots on goal favoured the Swedes 29-25.
On balance, this wasn't the most exciting game ever played at the IIHF World Championship. As one unidentified reporter in the press box waggishly observed: “Sweden and Switzerland are taking neutrality to a new level.”
Initially, the pro-Swiss crowd of 11,327 was electric, whistling with fury when the game's first penalty went against the host team, oohing when Sandy Jeannin rang a slapper off the outside of Gustavsson's left post while penalty-killing, and cheering wildly when Gerber made a tough glove save.
Sweden drew first blood at 5:47 when Oduya, playing in his very first World Championship game, wristed the puck home through traffic from the blueline.
The Swiss pressed for the equalizer, though outshot 11-7 in the period, but came no closer than a puck that landed on top of Gustavsson's net during a late power play.
Tre Kronor took a 2-0 lead five minutes into the second period when Harju deftly tipped Omark's power play blast past Gerber.
Now no amount of Swiss checking could turn the tide, and the emotion seemed to drain out of the host team as Sweden controlled the play. Midway through the game, the fans whistled with displeasure when the big video screen showed someone holding up a sign that read, “Ralph – simply the best”, a reference to Swiss head coach Ralph Krueger, who has led the national team since 1998.
The Swedes sealed their triumph at 6:41 of the third. Omark raced down right wing into the Swiss zone, fed a cross-ice pass to Martin Thörnberg, and got the puck right back, wristing it into a wide-open net with Gerber fully committed.
"Of course it's great to play against the hosts when the arena is full," said Omark. "The atmosphere is great even if they're not cheering for us."
It was pure demoralization for the Swiss, who got roundly jeered when they iced the puck during their own power play. Seconds after a 2-on-1 rush with Lemm and Roman Wick failed, Sweden rounded out its scoring on a Johan Andersson tally that required video review with 4:54 left.
Lemm spoiled Gustavsson's shutout bid, potting a rebound on the power play at 16:44 and giving the crowd a momentary reason to cheer.
"We couldn't find our way into the game after giving up a quick 1-0 goal again, and we aren't pleased with the way we tried to get back into it," said Krueger. "We had trouble getting things going with the puck today, and Sweden definitely deserved these three points."
Mark Streit was chosen as Switzerland's Player of the Game, and for Sweden, it was Dick Tärnström.
The last time Switzerland beat Sweden was 4-2 in the Preliminary Round in Quebec City in 2008.