MANNHEIM – Italian goalie Daniel Bellissimo gave a bravura performance in his first World Championship start, but couldn't hold off the Swiss attack forever in a 3-0 loss on Monday. Thibaut Monnet scored the winner early in the second period.
Swiss netminder Martin Gerber earned his second straight win and fifth career shutout at the Worlds. Switzerland outshot Italy 52-15.
"Our biggest goal coming in was not to underestimate them, and we did a good job of that," said Gerber. "We went right after them and didn’t give them very much in the first period, except maybe the power play they had."
Bellissimo, a 25-year-old Toronto native, saw his first tournament duty in relief of Adam Russo during the third period of the 5-1 loss to Canada on May 8. He's the top goalie for Serie A's HC Asiago.
"I had a lot of shots and it was pretty hot in the rink, so I tried to keep my focus and keep my team in the game," Bellissimo said.
Switzerland completes its Preliminary Round slate versus Canada on May 12 in what's expected to be a showdown for top spot in Group B. The winless Italians will take on Latvia that day.
"We know we’re the underdog in our group," Bellissimo admitted. "I’m proud of the guys. I thought we played well."
The Swiss took the play to the Italians in the early going, peppering Bellissimo with 18 shots. His best early save came at the 11:27 mark when he did the splits to foil Martin Plüss's breakaway deke.
Italy drove hard to the net and generated a couple of close-in chances during a late-period two-man advantage, but couldn't solve Gerber.
Just 1:20 into the second period, Thibaut Monnet gave Switzerland its first goal when he raced down right wing and beat Bellissimo with a perfectly placed high zinger, stick side.
In the middle frame the Swiss maintained their territorial advantage, although Gerber was forced to make a tough glove stop off a deflected Nicholas Plastino shot from the blueline. It seemed like just a matter of time until the Italians would crack, as the Swiss tested Bellissimo with solo rushes, point drives and wrap-around attempts.
And it was.
At 6:39 of the third, with Switzerland working on the power play, national team rookie Damien Brunner waltzed into the slot, faked a shot, and then unleashed an Ovechkin-like wrister over Bellissimo's glove. Brunner was the highest-scoring Swiss-trained player in the National League A this season with 57 points, fourth overall, and has injected some excitement into the Swiss lineup so far in Mannheim.
"We were in charge of the game most of the night which is what we wanted," Gerber said. "Their goalie kept the game tight, and some of our guys were just itching to get that goal to give us a bit of room."
The Swiss kept coming offensively, as Roman Josi's long shot through traffic deflected high off the crossbar. Yet tight Swiss checking, reminiscent of the 12-year reign of coach Ralph Krueger, came to the forefront as the clock ticked down, and the Italians were unable to spoil Gerber's shutout bid.
Martin Plüss added an empty-netter with 16 seconds left.
The Best Player of the Game for Switzerland was Monnet, and Bellissimo was honoured for Italy.
Many of the 5,971 in attendance at SAP Arena sported colourful costumes, including Italians in Tricolore top hats and Swiss dressed as cows complete with udders.
The last time Italy defeated Switzerland at the IIHF World Championship was on April 27, 1995 in Gävle, Sweden, with a final score of 3-2.