Anson Carter scored in the second period and Shawn Horcoff added another goal in the third to lead Canada to a 2-0 win over Switzerland tonight at the Elysee Arena in Turku. Roberto Luongo picked up the shutout as Sean Burke was given the night off for the Canadians.
The game did not start out quite as the Canadians had hoped. They didn’t come out hitting and skating, though they did carry the play and had most of the scoring chances as the Swiss played a conservative, defensive game. Kris Draper, Patrick Marleau, and Anson Carter all missed great scoring chances, though goalie Marco Buhrer has to be given some of the credit for keeping the puck out of the net. Shots in the first were 14-6 for Canada, but the game was scoreless after 20 minutes.
"We struggled to make decisions in the first period because the Canadians play so quickly and so hard," Swiss coach Ralph Krueger acknowledged. "We had to focus on one shift at a time, one period at a time."
In the second, the Swiss continued to frustrate the Canadians to no end, playing disciplined defence that also relied on hooking, holding, and interference to prevent the Canadians from penetrating and maintaining puck possession inside the Swiss end. "There was a lot of clutching and grabbing out there," Dany Heatley confirmed, but we still have to go out there and play our game."
Luongo made a great save on Luca Cereda on an early breakaway created by the long pass, his first tough test of the night. The only goal of the period came when Ryan Smyth made a beautiful cross-ice pass to Anson Crater who one-timed a slapshot perfectly at 12:16 on the power play. For the rest of the period, though, the Swiss had as many scoring chances, and teams headed to the dressing room with that 1-0 score. "There were times when we tried to do too much," Heatley said, "but we wanted the win and control of our destiny heading into the quarter-finals."
The third was a fairly dull 20 minutes, though Canada scored an insurance goal when Eric Brewer's floating point shot dropped in Buhrer's crease. Before he could freeze play, Horcoff jammed the loose puck into the net, and Canada had all the offense it needed. Most of the rest of the period was dull, checking dominating over skating and passing, though Canada had the better of the play and chances. Canada outshot the Swiss 34-23, most Swiss shots from long range as the bigger and stronger Canadian defencemen did a superb job in front of Luongo.
"I thought we were strong physically tonight," Canadian coach Andy Murray agreed. "We showed a lot of discipline playing their system and we were solid in our own end. Switzerland had a lot of respect from us before the game, but it's even more now. In previous championships, they would get down on themselves after falling behind, but they had their best shift of the game right after we scored to make it 2-0."
The win gives Canada seven points and first place in the Group F standings heading into tomorrow night's game against Russia. The result is crucial for the Russians if they hope to guarantee a spot in the quarter-finals. Ditto for Switzerland the next night when it plays Sweden. A loss for either team means that they will have to rely on other teams to qualify.