CANADA EARNS NARROW VICTORY OVER SWISS
By By John Kurucz | Box Score |
Though it wasn’t by the wide margin many had expected, Team Canada defeated the Swiss 4-3 in a physical, hard-fought game in front of a packed house at Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum Wednesday night. David Bolland’s power play goal at 13:39 of the second period proved to be the winner.
Steve Downie and Dustin Boyd chipped in with a goal and an assist each, while defenceman Cam Barker had two assists.
Canadian goalie Justin Pogge recorded 14 saves on 17 shots, while Reto Berra of Switzerland countered with 28 saves on 32 shots.
“We tried to come back when we were losing 4-1, and we got to 4-3,” said Switzerland’s Julien Sprunger. “We didn’t win, but we showed we can succeed against the best team in the world.”
The Canadians looked very tentative to start off the contest, and the officiating was much tighter than in their previous game. Passes failed to connect with their intended targets, and Canada failed to capitalize on its first power play opportunity.
“We didn’t take them as seriously as we should have,” said Marc Staal.
“In the first ten minutes we were nonchalant,” said Canadian Head Coach Brent Sutter. “When you have a start you don’t want to have, you have to learn from that. As far as our game plan, it gets back to not executing the way our coaching staff would like. We’ve got to get better and we will get better.”
Coupled with Canada’s slow start was Team Switzerland’s frenetic opening play, as the Swiss came out hitting from the get-go, almost as if to show the Canadians that they wouldn’t be intimidated by the host nation.
“We wanted to give the big crowd in Vancouver an ice hockey party,” said Swiss Head Coach Jakob Kolliker. “We fought well, and I think it was a good hockey game for us. We didn’t get the point we wanted, but that’s how it is.”
“This team we played tonight played well,” conceded Sutter. “They’re a big team that can skate.”
In a penalty-filled first period, Team Canada’s Tom Pyatt and Ryan O’Marra were both sent off at 4:48 for tripping and holding respectively.
The Swiss capitalized on the 5-on-3 power play at 5:33, as Eric Blum rifled home a shot from the point that beat Canadian goalie Justin Pogge cleanly through his legs, giving the Swiss a 1-0 lead.
Team Canada answered back at 8:45, a goal that was due in large part to a poorly timed Swiss line change. Cam Barker’s quick outlet pass up the ice found Dustin Boyd virtually all alone at the Swiss blueline, with only one Swiss player back to defend. Boyd then feathered a saucer pass over to a streaking Steve Downie, who roofed the feed into the top left portion of the net, tying the game at 1-1.
Though it looked like Canada was out-hit in the first frame, the period’s biggest hit came at the 14-minute mark, as Ryan O’Marra plastered Dario Burgler to the ice.
Canada went up 2-1 at 17:45, as Dustin Boyd’s faceoff win back to Kris Letang ended up right back on his stick in front of the Swiss net. Letang’s point shot bounced out to Boyd, and the Moose Jaw Warriors product calmly deposited the puck between Berra’s legs.
The second period saw the Canadians come out with a bit more conviction in their stride, but they still looked apprehensive in their own zone.
Team Canada’s Tom Pyatt gave Canada a 3-1 lead at the halfway mark of the game, capitalizing on a rebound from a Luc Bourdon point shot.
David Bolland gave Canada what would prove to be the winning goal on the heels of an Eric Blum charging penalty at 13:39. Bolland was the beneficiary of a beautiful no-look, cross-crease pass from Benoit Pouliot, and the London Knights sniper made no mistake, burying the puck into a yawning cage.
“That was a huge goal for us,” said Barker.
But Switzerland answered right back. Yannick Weber made it 4-2 at the 14:37 mark, as his shot from just between the blue line and the hash marks flew past several bodies and into the top righthand corner of Pogge’s net.
The second period ended prematurely at the 19:03 mark when a Swiss clearing attempt shattered the glass directly beside the Team Switzerland bench.
The two teams played out the remaining 57 seconds of the second frame at the onset of the third period, before switching ends to continue the evening’s contest.
The tight officiating continued into the third period, as Marc Staal’s tripping penalty 54 seconds into the frame left the Canadians a man down. The Swiss capitalized on the power play to make the score 4-3, as Matthias Weber’s point shot was neatly deflected by Julien Sprunger at the top of the crease.
From there however, the game began to slightly tilt slightly in Team Canada’s favour before Benoit Pouliot was assessed two separate penalties, for elbowing and high sticking, at 12:23.
Though the Swiss mounted some pressure on the extended power play, their man advantage was nullified at 14:19 when Dario Burgler was called for tripping.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for diving assessed to Julian Walker with less than two minutes remaining dashed any hopes of a Swiss comeback.
Downie was Canada’s Player of the Game, and Berra earned that honour for Switzerland.
The 4-3 final was the closest outcome between the two teams since 1996, when Canada defeated Team Switzerland 2-1, though the win marks Canada’s 16th straight victory against the Swiss dating back to 1980.
With the win, Head Coach Brent Sutter set a new Team Canada coaching benchmark with his eighth consecutive victory, moving him past Don Hay.
The victory extended Team Canada’s winning streak to eight games dating back to last year’s tournament, representing the host nation’s second-longest such run.
Next up for Team Canada is a December 29 contest with the winless Norwegian squad, while the Swiss will look to rebound against Team USA December 30.
PREVIEW: CANADA - SWITZERLAND
Canada: The Canadians didn’t perform flawlessly versus Finland, but there wasn’t much you could quibble about, either. They got their trademark physical game in gear right from the opening faceoff, and even though Michael Blunden was dinged 22 seconds in for charging after he steamrolled Finnish defenceman Erkka Leppanen, this was the sort of penalty Head Coach Brent Sutter was willing to accept because it set the tone. Versus the Swiss, Canada faces the intriguing challenge of trying to elevate its game while facing a lower-caliber opponent than the Finns. Will the host team succeed in approaching Wednesday’s matchup like another “Game Seven,” which is the outlook Sutter wants? One priority will be to reduce stick fouls, which are often the result of failing to establish an effective forecheck and then not skating hard enough to catch up when the opposition turns the puck up ice. Captain Kyle Chipchura and Blake Comeau were solid at both ends of the rink against the Finns, while Dustin Boyd showed determination in finishing off his chances, and college whizkids Andrew Cogliano and Jonathan Toews looked dangerous as playmakers. Expect Canada to continue presenting a balanced attack. Among the blueliners, Luc Bourdon was probably the most visible, showing a ferocious physicality and picking up two assists as the Vancouver crowd chanted his name. But Kristopher Letang demonstrated sharp offensive instincts on the power play too. Justin Pogge will get his second start in a row in goal, and the 6-3, 220-pound Calgary Hitmen netminder will need to be poised and alert. Although the Swiss fired 46 shots against Norway, Pogge is more likely to face 15 or 20 today. Despite suffering from a touch of the flu, winger Steve Downie is expected to dress and bring a gritty presence. If Canada wins this game, Sutter will establish a new record for consecutive victories by a Canadian coach (eight), surpassing Don Hay’s mark of seven from 1995.
Switzerland: Heading into Wednesday’s action, Switzerland was the only team at the 2006 IIHF World Junior Championship that had not surrendered a single goal. But that streak is highly unlikely to endure against the high-octane Canadian offence. Still, it’s likely we’ll see Reto Berra getting another start in goal after his 2-0 shutout against Norway Tuesday, where he made 24 saves. If not, Swiss Head Coach Jakob Kolliker will go to Leonard Genoni, who attended last year’s tournament in North Dakota but didn’t play a minute in his role as backup to Michael Tobler. Defensively, the Swiss were sound against Norway, throwing big hits that recalled the style of former Swiss-born Phoenix Coyote Goran Bezina and killing off all six of the shorthanded situations they faced. But this was against one of the weakest teams in the tournament (Norway is appearing in the IIHF World Junior Championship for the first time in 15 years), so you can’t read too much into that. Up front against Norway, 19-year-old Julian Walker of EHC Basel showed some good spark, and the combination of Dario Burgler and Juraj Simek was dangerous all night, teaming up for Switzerland’s second goal. Yet facing the host squad, there won’t be many advantages for the young men from the land of chocolate and cuckoo clocks. Janick Steinmann of the Kamloops Blazers won’t even have the option of briefing his fellow Swiss forwards on where to shoot on his WHL teammate, Devan Dubnyk, since the tall Canadian goalie won’t suit up in all likelihood until the Norway game on December 29. The last three Canada-Switzerland meetings at the World Juniors have all ended up in Canada’s favour: 6-1 and 4-0 in 2002, and 7-2 in 2004. Sure, these are different teams and this is a different year. But heading in, is there good reason to believe this game will provide a different result? Not really.