With surprisingly pesky performances the past two Olympics, the Swiss have graduated to medal contender status. And with an elite goalie between the pipes in Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller, a deep run wouldn’t be a shock.
By Dennis Gibbons
Switzerland enters the 2014 Olympics as a genuine medal contender after surprisingly claiming silver at the 2013 World Championship, where it started the tournament with a bang, upsetting world powers Sweden, Canada and the Czech Republic. Coach Sean Simpson masterminded the successful effort, getting every bit of energy he could out of a team with few stars, but plenty of grit.
A lot of Canadian fans at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver were surprised by what a physical game the Swiss play. They pushed Canada to a shootout, but lost 3-2 as Sidney Crosby scored the winner. The Swiss gave the Americans two tough games before losing 3-1 and 2-0.
Switzerland scored its two biggest victories ever in back-to-back games at the 2006 Olympics. First, it stunned Canada 2-0. Martin Gerber made 49 saves and Canadian-born Paul DiPietro scored both goals. Next was a 3-2 upset over the Czechs, with Mark Streit potting the winner. The Swiss qualified for the quarterfinal, but lost to Sweden 6-2.
Jonas Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks gives the Swiss solid goaltending and Streit of the Philadelphia Flyers, now in his eighth NHL season, leads a good defense corps that includes Vancouver’s Raphael Diaz and the Nashville Predators’ third-year man Roman Josi, who was brilliant at the 2013 worlds, being named best defenseman and tournament MVP.
Up front, expect some scoring punch from Damien Brunner of the New Jersey Devils and Nino Niederreiter of the Minnesota Wild. Most Swiss forwards are trained to become good all-around team players since their peewee days. That’s one reason why only a few of their forwards have been stars on the international stage.
Switzerland won bronze at the 1928 and 1948 worlds, both of which were held in St. Moritz, Switzerland. But that was before the Soviet Union started competing regularly.
THN PREDICTION: 7th
WHAT HAPPENED IN VANCOUVER 2010
The Swiss slipped to eighth in 2010, but earned respect in the process. In a tough group draw, they lost to the U.S. and pushed eventual champion Canada to a shootout. Switzerland beat Norway and qualified for the quarterfinal with a victory over Belarus in a shootout. Jonas Hiller stoned the Americans in a rematch for the first 42 minutes, but his memorably acrobatic, 42-save effort wasn’t enough as USA won 2-0.