“Beating Canada you need a hot goalie and bounces and we got it. In the first 10 minutes we were a little bit shy and didn’t put enough pressure on them. After that we had a couple of good hits and played harder and got a goal. Our power play started scoring after they tied. Those goals were huge and the 2-1 goal was for sure the turning point.
“I’m so proud of my players. They battled every shift. We were at the winner’s side. I’m happy to go against Sweden in the final again.”
There are some similarities to five years ago apart from Fischer in the coaching staff and six returning players: 2013 Worlds MVP Roman Josi, fellow defenceman Raphael Diaz, forwards Nino Niederreiter, Simon Moser and Reto Berra, who is the backup goalie here. The tournament was in Scandinavia and the opponent is Sweden.
That’s also where the similarities end. While Switzerland entered the gold medal game five years ago undefeated with a 9-0 record, they had a rather “normal” preliminary round where they beat the opponents ranked behind them but didn’t get past Sweden, Russia and the Czech Republic due to tight losses against the group favourites. They made up for that by beating favoured Finland and Canada 3-2 in the knockout stage.
“The team is very different, just a few players were on that team. We’re younger but like at that time we have a great run, we beat Finland, we beat Canada and now we gonna give the best against Sweden,” Fischer said. “If we believe in ourselves everything is possible against Sweden.”
“We have our experiences against them. We have to skate, skate, skate. We have to be disciplined, last time we didn’t have problems with them 5-on-5 but they scored when we started with a stupid penalty. We have a lot of energy, we feel ready to take anything. If somebody doesn’t have energy, he’s at the wrong place.”
Switzerland has never been world champion. They would join Russia (27 including Soviet era), Canada (26), the Czech Republic (12 including Czechoslovak era), Sweden (10), Finland (2), the United States (2), Great Britain (1) and Slovakia (1) who have been world champion before (including Olympics, which counted as World Championships between 1920-68).
If not now, when then? That’s what many fans and hockey people ask themselves in Switzerland. Like in 2013 the team plays with confidence and has most of their best players here including Josi, until now the top-rated Swiss NHLer, and with Kevin Fiala, Timo Meier and Nino Niederreiter three of its four best scorers in the NHL (top rookie Nino Hischier on the other hand is missing with a wrist injury).
It’s a young team with a young coach. Fischer is just 42 and played World Championship and Olympic hockey until 2006. He started and ended his career in 2009 with his hometown team EV Zug. While spending most of his career in Switzerland, his journey also included stints with the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes where he played 27 NHL games (10 points) under Wayne Gretzky, and with SKA St. Petersburg in Russia.
Since taking over the job as head coach in 2015/2016 when the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation decided to go with the Swiss-made label behind the bench, Fischer has received mixed critics. The first season was a flop with an 11th-place finish at the Worlds and conceding 26 goals in seven games in Moscow. To improve the defensive play, the former forward got a new assistant coach in former Swedish NHLer Tommy Albelin. The Swiss reached the quarter-finals of the 2017 Worlds but then failed to do so at the Olympic Winter Games.
When asked by a North American journalist about the improvement of the ice hockey level in Switzerland, also visible with the record amount of 15 NHL players from the country this season, Fischer doesn’t hide his disappointment with the negative press he got back home especially after the Olympics.
“Outside of the country they see [the work we do], in the country they don’t see it that we do a good job. It’s a reward for all the guys who work for Swiss hockey and I’m proud of being part of it,” Fischer said. “The Swiss character is honest. We try to improve and to push ourselves. I hope it’s not the last time we make the final in the next couple of years.
“We had terrible Olympics, we started bad and we never recovered. There was criticism. We’re used to that. We bounced back, I tried to get better, so did we as a team. It wasn’t good enough at the Olympics and I’m happy the way it worked out here. We love it, we have a great time here, Copenhagen is a wonderful city.”
However, the job is not done yet. The Swiss are one step away from writing history but for that will have to beat Sweden, which hasn’t happened recently. The last time Switzerland beat Sweden was in the preliminary round of the 2013 Worlds. By losing to the same opponent in the gold medal game in that tournament, a streak of six losses at the Worlds and Olympics started, most of them with a margin of just one or two goals.
“It was one of the more painful days the last time in the final against Sweden, we lost 5-1 despite lot of hope. Now we have our second chance and can be proud and will do everything to win. We have to play our game, we have to believe. Sweden is incredibly strong as we saw [in the semi-finals] but we have a run. We have to be ready and capitalize on our chances,” Fischer said.