IIHF Official Release – by John Sanful
Swiss to Final Four
Josi’s goal, Gerber’s saves set up semi-final vs. USA
STOCKHOLM – Switzerland has done the improbable. Paced by exceptional defence and timely scoring, Switzerland defeated Czech Republic 2-1 in the first quarter-final game of the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Stockholm, Sweden.
Switzerland now faces Team USA in the semi-finals on Saturday.
Head coach Sean Simpson has taken this team from 11th place in 2012 to its first semi-final appearance since 1998 on the momentum of eight straight wins in this tournament.
“It’s nice to be back in the quarter-finals,” said Simpson. “This time we had a different game for the result and the team really showed that it wanted to go further in the tournament. Switzerland has often been stuck in the quarter-finals and couldn’t make the hump to the semi-finals. I’m proud that this team has done it.”
Switzerland’s last quarter-final appearance was in 2010, losing 1-0 to Germany.
Last year the Czech Republic made the quarter-finals where they beat Sweden here in Stockholm on their way to a bronze medal.
The game started slow as both teams were cautious and feeling out the other. As teams employ their system driven game plans, the quarter-finals reveal those teams most successful in adhering to and improving upon their system.
Switzerland made it 1-0 when Denis Hollenstein scored.
Severin Blindenbacher’s thread the needle pass to Hollenstein out the Swiss out in front. Hollenstein continued his consistent offensive contributions to his team. For Hollenstein, who was tied for the team lead in scoring coming into the game, it was his fourth goal of the World Championship.
Shots were low in the period but both sides had chances down low. The next best chance of the period went to Switzerland.
Swiss forward Reto Suri left the penalty box and found himself on a breakaway. Suri went forehand backhand but could not control the final move before getting a shot off. He lost the puck before he had the chance for a shot on Ondrej Pavelec. If he were to score, the game might have had a very different complexion and the Czechs in a deeper hole to come back from.
Switzerland was forced to employ their shorthanded special teams units in the first. Three minor penalties were killed off between the first and second period. Their power play that’s been the catalyst for their run in the tournament was important in the middle period and help to establish a two-goal lead.
Roman Josi, also having his finest individual performance at this tournament, made it 2-0 on the power play at 13:08. Up with a two goal lead, Switzerland would further close the door on the Czechs.
Ryan Gardner and Raphael Diaz got the assists. This was Diaz’ second game for his team after the Montreal Canadiens were eliminated from the playoffs.
“It is a real team,” Simpson said of his side. “Whatever happens on the ice, they react to it. It’s not easy to play against the Czech Republic. They’ve been World Champions many times.”
The Czech Republic cut the lead in the third with Zdenek Kutlak’s power play goal at 5:29. With the assist, Tomas Plekanec has four helpers in his only two games of the tournament.
Czech Republic continued to press in the period and the Swiss looked off their game. When Blindenbacher was called for a penalty, the Czech power play went to work again, gaining some additional opportunities to work their offence.
With just under four minutes left in the game, Radim Vrbata forced a turnover and took the puck in for a golden chance but lost control of the puck just before he was able to shoot.
At this point in the game with the Czechs trying to force a tie, the Swiss were trying all they could not to make a big mistake and keep the puck out of their zone.
With a minute left in the game, Pavelec went to the bench for an extra skater. Though they tried to equalize the game, the Czech Republic would fall short.
“We knew we were just 20 minutes from winning, but they got a goal on the power play,” said Nino Niederreiter. “We tried to protect the lead, and it worked out well.”
When the final buzzer sounded, Swiss fans in attendance were jubilant.
For Martin Gerber it was sweet vindication. He started Switzerland’s last quarter-final game that his team lost in 2010. Getting the win for his team and moving to the semi-finals against Team USA brought satisfaction.
“Our team stood together under big pressure and we also had big goaltending,” said Simpson. “The team did something very special for the country today.”
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IIHF Official Release – by Risto Pakarinen
USA books trip to Stockholm
HELSINKI – It’s been nine years since Team USA returned from a World Championship tournament in Europe with a medal, and they’ve only made it to the top four just three times in the last fifteen years. But they’re in top-four now, and after an impressive 8-3 win over Russia, they are also a gold medal contender.
Last year, Team USA lost their quarter-final game to Finland, the hosts of the final four games of the tournament, so this year, the team came into the tournament determined to get past that hurdle.
“I think we wanted to get to Sweden. To me, the quarter-final game was always the most important. To forget about the way we played against Slovakia [in a 4-1 loss] and play like we did today was great for our team,” team captain Paul Stastny said.
Not only did the U.S. beat Russia, they also delivered last year’s world champions the worst loss of their World Championship history. Never before had Russia – or the mighty Soviet Union team – let in eight goals in a World Championship game, and only once had they lost a Worlds game by five goals.
“If you’d told us that this morning, we’d have started laughing. We’ve lost by eight goals sometimes, and sometimes it’s nice to be on the team that scores eight goals. What comes around goes around sometimes,” Stastny said.
“It’s great, but we were very fortunate to score that many. They’re a great team. I think we caught them off-guard a bit,” added T.J. Oshie.
Off-guard or not, scoring eight goal against Russia is impressive. The game was 4-2 early in the second period, with Alexander Ovechkin & Co. pushing hard to get within a goal, and get a chance to tie the game before the end of the third period. But the young Americans kept their cool, and instead, scored 5-2 while shorthanded.
“I think we easily could have pressed the panic button there when they scored right away in the third period. But to get the next one and make it 5-2, I think, settled the fellows a little bit. It changed things in our favour again,” said Ryan Carter, who scored that important goal.
“We expected to win this game. It’s another feather in our cap. But we want to roll forward. We’re a confident group. We think we can win a medal, and we want to win the gold medal. This is just a stepping stone,” he added.
Of course, when you score eight goals in a game, you’ll win a lot of games, but the U.S. also had something else the Russians didn’t have tonight. They had solid goaltending, provided by the 19-year-old John Gibson, who’s spent most of the season in the Ontario Hockey League, and had played just one AHL game – none in the NHL – before Thursday’s start against Russia.
His save percentage after his two starts in the tournament was 98.4, and while he did let in three goals in the quarter-final, his save percentage in the game was a respectable 91.2.
“He’s been unbelievable. He’s calm. He plays a steady game. I don’t think he cares who he’s playing. He’s always going to play a steady game. That’s why we have the utmost confidence in playing a 19-year-old in, so far, the biggest game of the tourney for us,” said Stastny.
The unflappable young goalie was low-key even after the win.
“I just took it like every other game: just go out there, have fun, play your game. You’ve just got to be ready for the next shot. I mean, it seemed we responded well. That obviously helps with the confidence,” he said.
“I was excited. Obviously, you want to play every game possible. It’s obviously a lot better [compared to World Juniors]. You’re playing against some of the best players in the world,” he added.
Paul Stastny scored two and added two assists in the quarter-final and is now tied with Ilya Kovalchuk for lead in tournament scoring, with 13 points in eight games. His linemate Craig Smith picked up five assists, but Team USA also got goals from five players who hadn’t yet scored in the tournament: Oshie, Carter, Alex Galchenyuk, Jacob Trouba, and Nate Thompson.
“We have some gamers on our team, if you want to call it that. Guys step up in big games. Obviously, five guys had their first goals, and that’s huge. To have scoring all the way through the lineup is huge,” said Justin Faulk.
Team USA will play their semi-final against Switzerland. The Americans know they haven’t won anything yet, and their focus is just in the here and now.
“I think we’ll know how to handle ourselves going over to Sweden. I can tell you one thing: we’re pretty excited to get over there. I don’t know what the days are here. I don’t know if it’s Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or whatever. Then I found out it was Thursday. We’re excited and I think we’ll be ready to go,” said Justin Faulk.