ANAHEIM, CA -- Hugo Belanger's second goal of the game on a wraparound shot at 2:20 of the fourth period snapped a 4-4 tie and lifted Team Canada to a 5-4 victory over Switzerland on Wednesday and a berth in the semifinals at the 1998 IIHF World Inline Hockey Championship.
Canada, the twice-defending silver medalist in this event, will meet Finland in one semifinal, while two-time defending gold medalist Team USA will play the pesky Swiss in the other. The winners of the two semifinals will play in the Gold Medal game on Saturday at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, while the losers will play there in the Bronze-Medal game.
Switzerland grabbed a 1-0 lead in Wednesday night's game before Victor Gervais of Prince George, BC, scored his sixth and seventh goals of the tournament to give Canada a 2-1 lead. Belanger, of St-Hubert, QC, made it 3-1 when he scored on a set-up from Gervais at 1:20 of the second quarter.
But Switzerland, playing with just 11 skaters, narrowed the score to 3-2 at halftime on a goal by Rolp Schrepfer, then moved into a 4-3 lead early in the third quarter on goals by Andy Rufener and Peter Schlagenhauf's second of the game.
"We came in here thinking, 'How many goals are we going to beat these guys by,'" said Team Canada head coach Doug McCarthy, a native of Edmonton. "The Swiss played that well, too, commenting to us during the day on the same thing.
"The fact is, our work ethic simply wasn't there. But I think this is a great game for us to have at this point of the tournament, because now we've had our backs against the wall in a key game. "That's something all of our players have to know how to react to if we're going to win this tournament."
The reaction of Doug Ast, of Chilliwack, BC, was to take advantage of a bad line change by the Swiss at 9:10 of the third quarter, when he took a lead pass from Calgary's Gary Gulash, streaked up the right wing and buried a wrist shot above Swiss goaltender Matthias Muller's shoulder to tie the game, setting the stage for Belanger's early fourth-quarter heroics.
That didn't end things, though. Canada still had to defend against two potentially costly fourth quarter penalties, and goaltender David Goverde, of Toronto, had to be at his sharpest in the final period, as well.
"I told our guys they all owed Goverde a little tap on the pads to thank him for saving the victory," said McCarthy. "He had to make to great stops on clear breakaways in the fourth quarter. "He just played outstanding."
Both goalies were brilliant, although Muller was busiest, facing 45 shots to 27 for Goverde.
In other games on Wednesday, Germany beat Austria 14-5 and Finland 10 Italy 4. Team USA was playing an evening game against Russia.