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ZURICH – This wasn’t the way the Chicago Blackhawks wanted to leave Switzerland. They were supposed to build on a great game against Davos, pick up a trophy and continue their European adventure towards Helsinki, Finland.
The ZSC Lions came to play, played with a lot of heart, and made sure the Victoria Cup stays in Europe, for now.
“It’s tough to lose after the way we played last night. It’s tough to swallow but we have to learn from this and move on from here. They played really well, we’ll give them all credit, and I don’t think we underestimated them, we just didn’t finish off our chances,” Patrick Kane said.
His teammate, Swedish defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson thought he saw different signs in his team.
“They wanted to win more than we did, simple as that. I think we may have underestimated them, and I think Monday’s game, and easy win against Davos, fooled us a little,” he said.
And once the game got off to a rocky start, or more difficult than anticipated, the Hawks couldn’t turn it around.
“It’s hard to turn it around once you start off badly,” Hjalmarsson said.
Playing with a lot of heart, and never giving up is usually something the North American teams take pride in. On Tuesday, the heart that was beating the most, and fastest, was the ZSC Lions’.
“They were well coached, they played with a purpose, they checked well. After the early lead we thought we could be doing it like last night but that wasn’t the case,” the Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said.
“They played our type of a game, there was more pressure around the puck and in front of the net. They worked hard too, they were going all out. Last night we were certainly much better than we were tonight but we have to give them credit how they played tonight,” he added.
Of course, on Tuesday, the Lions also had an almost sold-out home crowd to support them, making sure nobody felt tired or even thought about giving up.
“It was fun, the building was alive. It had the atmosphere of a real game like in the playoffs, like we were playing for a Cup. It was a fun place to be a part of it,” Quenneville said.
The fans chanting and singing wasn’t all bad.
“They had the fans support, and they were loud. I liked it. Being a Swede, I love hearing the cheering and chanting, in a bit of a soccer style, but that said, when United Center has 23,000 people, it’s even better,” Hjalmarsson said.
It just wasn’t the Hawks’ day.
“When they got the second goal, we maybe started to press a little more, thinking that we were down against a team we thought we should have been beating them, so it was tough,” Kane said.
“It’s tough to find anything positive, we definitely wanted to win this, we were still playing for a cup, and pride, and we also wanted to prove to the Swiss people that the NHL is for real,” he added.
Coach Quenneville also praised the Swiss team, and Swiss hockey in general.
“It’s good hockey, they have good speed, good skill, they worked hard, and they had a purpose. That’s why they won,” he said.