Christmas comes early as Swiss stun Finland
Team Switzerland used strong physical play and a smothering defense to upset Finland 6-2 Sunday night in Truro. Leading the way both offensively and physically for the Swiss was centerman Andres Ambuehl, on his way to a five point night. Ambuehl seemed to monopolize the puck and the ice surface every shift he played, both offensively and defensively.
Team Switzerland seemed to catch the Finns off guard with their physical play, an onslaught of big hits and tenacity along the boards. It paid off at 5:13 of the firstt when Gregory Christen notched the feed from Ambuehl to put the Swiss up 1-0. Team Finland seemed thrown off their game and tried to counter with speed utilizing the long breakaway pass, but more often than not, the passes just didn’t connect.
The Finn’s game came back to them when they stepped up their own physical play. They tied the game at 6:15 of the first on a beautiful goal mouth tip by Matti Aho.
Then hard work along the boards paid off when midway through the first period, Juho Lehtisalo broke clear, cut in front and tucked it under Tobias Stefan.
The Swiss came out strong in the second period and pounced on every mistake, including a giveaway by Finn defenseman Jussi Timonen that led to a breakway for Patrik Baertschi. He faked left and then stretched goalie Lehtonen to his right, finding the goal just past the outstretched Finn.
Kari Lehtonen, who received the largest ovation during pre game introductions and is well known as the second overall pick in the 2002 NHL draft, looked very unsure of himself at times early in the game. After a very strong Sunday morning practice, team Finland’s star attraction allowed long rebounds and bobbled two seemingly very routine shots. Stefan, his counterpart in the Swiss net, played a very strong game, making point blank saves and at times becoming his team’s best penalty killer.
Team Finland’s mishaps continued when at 13:58 an attempted clear ricocheted perfectly to Stefan Schnyder in front, who tucked it in creating a Swiss lead of 3-2. The Swiss scored their third goal in under seven minutes when Gregory Christen converted a perfect feed from Ambuehl at 17:06 of the second.
The third period was a rougher affair with Team Finland getting it’s opportunity to get back in the game with a high sticking call against Baertschi only 49 seconds into the period. Tobias Stephan again came to his team’s rescue making two stellar saves during the Finn powerplay.
Hope of a Team Finland comeback faded when at 6:30 of the third and with Ruutu serving a boarding penalty, Baertschi lifted hi own rebound past Lehtonen with assists going to Ambuehl and Phillipe Furrer.
The Andres Ambuehl show continued when Tuomas Mikkanen went to the box to serve a double minor for high sticking, and ended with a tic tac toe passing play in which Ambuehl gave up a sure goal to set up Gregory Christen for his hat trick goal at 15:45 of the third.
From that point on the Swiss seemed to have a defenseman parked firmly at center, not allowing the Finns to get behind Team Switzerland’s steady forechecking, and the game ended with the Swiss upending Team Finland 6-2.
One of the few highlights for Team Finland was the two way play of defenseman Joni Pitkanen, selected fourth overall by Philadelphia in the 2002 NHL draft. His defensive zone play was flawless and his offensive rushes often provided Finland with their only real opportunities. And just in case opponents are counting out Finn Goaltender Lehtonen, he seemed to come around as the game went on, and in the closing minutes robbed Ambuehl with a spectacular glove save that brought a roar from the packed house.
Switzerland open their 2003 IIHF World U20 Championship drive against Belarus, December 26th in Sydney. Team Finland face Germany in Halifax.
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André Brin Director, Communications | Directeur, communications