Since placing fifth in the inaugural World Women’s Championship in 1990, the Swiss have never bettered that result in IIHF competition. And there’s no reason to believe this will be the year they challenge the elite teams. The Swiss are in tough, sharing their Preliminary Group B with the powerhouse Canadians and their traditional rivals from Germany (currently fifth in the World Rankings). Switzerland consistently assembles a youthful team: in fact, it has iced six of the ten youngest players to ever play at the Women’s Worlds. No Swiss misses barely out of their tweens will join that list this year, but several players that have already been on the list are back. For instance, goalie Florence Schelling and identical twins Julia and Stefanie Marty all debuted as 15-year-olds on Switzerland’s 2004 World Championship entry.
Coaching: After years of experimentation, the Swiss finally have a stable leader in the form of Head Coach Rene Kammerer. Switzerland had previously sent a different coach to every major IIHF tournament dating back to 1990, but Kammerer will return behind the bench after he guided the team to a seventh-place finish at the 2006 Turin Olympics.
Goal: Team Switzerland will have to make do without the services of long-time national team goaltender Patricia Sautter. Sautter, a tournament all-star from 1997, had played for the national team since 1994. In her place will be a pair of 18-year-olds, Florence Schelling and Dominique Slongo. Schelling played with the team in the 2006 Olympics, posting a 2.40 GAA. Slongo will be making her first appearance for the national team.
Defence: The defensive core will have only three holdovers from last year’s Olympic team. Monika Leuenberger and Ruth Kunzlewill be the veteran stalwarts on the blueline, having played for the Swiss Team since 19 respectively. Look for Julia Marty to jump up into the play, as she has recorded a total of four goals for the Swiss at the ’04 Worlds and the ’06 Olympics.
Forward: Joining her twin sister, Stefanie Marty will have to provide an offensive punch if Switzerland wishes to advance to Group 2. Kathrin Lehmann, who tallied five points in Turin, and Laura Ruhnke, a former McGill University player, will need to produce, especially in the key game against Germany on April 4.
Projected Results: Switzerland will most likely finish third in Group B, but this young team will look to gain valuable experience. Maintaining some continuity in the national program could pay dividends. In fact, Switzerland, as a nation, has the resources to develop a team that could someday move up into the second tier of women’s hockey powers along with Finland and Sweden. But that may seem like a distant prospect after what is almost certain to be a lopsided opening-night loss to Canada in Winnipeg.