It is never easy to defeat the same team twice at any tournament, let alone in the pressure-packed enviroment that is the Winter Olympics…
The UNITED STATES, the top overall seed following group round-robin play at the 2010 Games, would confirm that theory still holds water as they confronted SWITZERLAND in the quarterfinals at Canada Hockey Place in Vancouver.
Goaltender JONAS HILLER of the Anaheim Ducks was not at his best and had allowed three goals on 24 shots for Switzerland in the Group A round-robin game against the United States which had opened this year’s Olympic ice hockey proceedings.
However, provided a second bite at the apple, Hiller would bring his A game for the re-match with the Americans at the quarterfinal hurdle. Which was exactly the sort of quality that Switzerland coach RALPH KRUEGER needed to receive from one of the only two National Hockey League players on his Olympic side. With Hiller in high gear, the Swiss were adequtely prepared to give the Americans a game.
To say Hiller was huge in the quarterfinals would be an understatement; the Anaheim Duck denied eighteen American shots in the first period alone. Altogether, the United States unleashed 32 shots at the Swiss goal the first two periods as compared to the eight amassed by Switzerland against American netminder RYAN MILLER of the Buffalo Sabres. And yet, as the two teams skated out for the final period of play, the score still stood where it had when the game’s first puck had originally been dropped.
While Switzerland certainly generated a few opportunities of their own on the counterattack, they were also a bit lucky, as well. United States forward PHIL KESSEL of the Toronto Maple Leafs clanked Swiss iron in the second session. And, an apparent goal at the end of the period was waved off by the referees after further review.
Hiller had made a save off a deflection from the stick of United States forward PATRICK KANE of the Chicago Black Hawks at the side of his net. With the puck in mid-air, the Swiss netminder attempted to swat the black disc to safety with his goalstick. Instead, the biscuit dropped behind Hiller and into the back of Switzerland’s net; replays clearly showed the period had expired.
“It was good to go into the (second) intermission with a 0-0 tie,” Swiss defenseman YANNICK WEBER, a farmhand in the Montreal Canadiens organization with the American Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs, offered after the match. “I think it gave us some confidence.”
But, when defenseman PHILIPPE FURRER of SC Bern was sent off for tripping 1:56 into the final frame, it proved to be a penalty too far for Switzerland.
A dozen seconds had barely been counted off the clock when, on the ensuing power play, United States forward ZACH PARISE of the New Jersey Devils deflected Detroit Red Wings defenseman BRIAN RAFALSKI’s shot up and over Hiller’s glove to give the Americans a 1-0 advantage.
The Swiss actually played their best hockey of the game in the final twenty minutes and were extremely unfortunate to not draw level shortly after the United States went to the lead. 33-year-old SANDY JEANNIN of HC Fribourg-Gotteron, appearing in his 89th career game for Switzerland at a major international tournament, created the chance. Receiving a pass in the left face-off circle, Jeannin drew Miller out of goal and beat the U.S. goaltender with a wrister, but his shot caught the far post.
The Swiss exchanged Hiller for an extra-attacker with roughly two minutes remaining, but Parise’s empty net goal twelve seconds from time provided clear passage for the United States into the semifinals at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
UNITED STATES 2 – SWITZERLAND 0
Shots-on-goal : United States 44 – Switzerland 19
USA goals : Parise 2
visuals to be continued…