Switzerland dares to dream
by Andy Potts|18 MAY 2018
Swiss players celebrate a win at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship and dream of more after beating Finland in the quarter-finals.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
For Switzerland, it’s a shot at repeating the Cinderella run of 2013. For Canada, it’s another potential banana-skin of a semi-final. Saturday’s match-up in Copenhagen has plenty riding on it.

Right now Swiss hockey is in dreamland. Since 2013’s silver-medal run in Stockholm, the country has not had much to cheer on the ice. This year’s Olympic display, stopped by a German goal in overtime in the qualification round, did little to inspire confidence: Switzerland only managed to beat Korea and struggled in its other games, including a 1-5 loss against Canada. But there were changes afoot. Patrick Fischer came to Denmark with a young roster – average age just 24 – and has seen the team grow-up before his very eyes. A 3-2 quarter-final success over a hotly-tipped Finland team has the Swiss hopping towards a first medal chance in five years.

Not everyone is surprised.
“We had faith in ourselves from day one. We’re a good team and we’ve come together as the tournament has progressed. We had some tough games against the big boys, where the puck didn’t run for us, but against Finland it worked out.”
Patrick Fischer
Swiss head coach
The Swiss certainly seemed capable of raising their game against the stronger teams. A battling shoot-out loss against the Czechs was followed by a blistering battle with Russia that ended 3-4. Then they pushed Sweden all the way before succumbing 3-5 in a frantic third period. Next comes Canada. “We still have to make up a lot of ground,” Fischer admitted.

Captain Raphael Diaz described reaching the semi-final as “beautiful” and paid tribute to the teamwork that overcame Finland.

“We got the momentum on our side and you start to feel that on the bench,” he said. “Every time a line puts in a good shift that momentum grows and it brought us a sensational team performance.

“The Finns had two strong lines of NHL players and they orchestrated the offence, but again [Leonardo] Genoni was strong in goal for us to keep us in the game.”
Top QF Goals CAN/SUI
18 MAY 2018
Canada, meanwhile, has unhappy recent memories of being cast in the role of Goliath. In PyeongChang it was the overwhelming favourite to win its Olympic semi-final against Germany, only to suffer a sensational 4-3 defeat and end up with bronze. That, though, was a completely different Canadian roster, stripped of its NHL talent. The team playing in Denmark is sprinkled with greater star quality – Connor McDavid, Ryan O’Reilly spring to mind – but has not made it this far without some problems.

The quarter-final win against Russia, 5-4 in overtime, was a thriller for the fans. It wasn’t so great for the players, though, as the Russians kept battling back in a game where Canada was never behind but could not put the opposition away in regulation.

For O’Reilly, that was an important lesson. “We have to raise our defensive game,” he said. “We can’t be giving up as much. We don’t need to go a whole lot deeper, we have to stay aggressive when we have the lead, but we have to shut the door.”
“It’s a good lesson for us, we can’t be doing that going forward. On the other end, it was good because we were scoring goals.”
Ryan O'Reilly
Canadian forward
The key Canadian weakness might be in goal. As well as allowing four goals against Russia, Canada let in five against Finland in the group phase, and lost a shoot-out after a 4-4 tie with the USA. Russia’s Artyom Anisimov noted: “The Canadian goalie gave up a lot of rebounds. We just needed to get more shots on the net.” Switzerland might be advised to heed those words and test Darcy Kuempster as much as possible.

Complacent Canadian fans might also do well to remember the teams’ last World Championship encounter in Paris 12 months ago. On that occasion, Canada roared into a 2-0 first period lead through Ryan O’Reilly and Mitch Marner, only to see the Swiss strike back. Fabrice Herzog, missing in Denmark due to injury, scored twice, including an overtime winner, to give Switzerland the verdict.