International Ice Hockey Federation

Swedes edge past Swiss

Swedes edge past Swiss

Tre Kronor book QF berth

Published 14.02.2014 19:31 GMT+4 | Author Andy Potts
Swedes edge past Swiss
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 14: Sweden's Alexander Steen #20 passes the puck through Switzerland's Damien Brunner #96 during men's preliminary round action at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
After losing Henrik Zetterberg for the tournament, Sweden gets a welcome boost with a hard-fought victory over a resolute Switzerland and top spot in Group C.

In a tournament where plucky outsiders have picked up plaudits rather than points, Switzerland continued the trend with a resolute display in defeat against highly-favoured Sweden.

The Alpine nation extended its shutout sequence beyond 100 minutes but was unable to punish Swedish sluggishness in the early exchanges. And that failure proved costly when Daniel Alfredsson reacted smartly to tuck home the loose puck after Reto Berra spilled Erik Karlsson's shot at 12:39 of the third period.

That ended a sequence of 112 minutes in which the Swiss kept their goal intact, with Berra carrying on where Jonas Hiller's shutout had left off against Latvia, and proved just enough to see Sweden take a stranglehold on Group C with a 2-0 record.

Goalie Henrik Lundqvist was one of Sweden's heroes, recording a 26-save shutout, but he admitted he was impressed with how well Switzerland had performed.

"I was a little bit surprised about how good they are and especially the last few years, how much they’ve improved," he said. "They play an intense, high-tempo, smart game.

"In the second and third period we played really strong. We controlled the play a lot more. It was a huge win for us. That goal in the end was great to see. It was a fun game."

But it was a hard-fought victory for Tre Kronor, with the Swiss taking an unexpected grip on the opening exchanges. Switzerland outshot the opposition 13-5 in the first period in the face of a strangely subdued showing from the current World Champion.

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Maybe the shock of losing talismanic captain Henrik Zetterberg was still playing on Swedish minds during the early exchanges but they found themselves on the back foot from the moment the puck was dropped.

Niklas Kronwall, now captain in Zetterberg's absence, paid tribute to the Swiss effort and called for more from his forwards.

"Give credit to the Swiss guys," he said. "They played a really good game and kept us on the outside for a lot of time tonight.

"We were fortunate at the beginning that Hank [Lundqvist] kept us in the game. From the 10-minute mark of the first period onward, I thought we did some good things. I still think we can do better offensively."

Lundqvist had already faced down a first-minute raid on his goal before he was called upon to thwart Roman Wick's attempted smash-and-grab after the Swiss took the puck off Oliver Ekman-Larsson and rushed on the net.

Not even a power play could really put the Swedes back on track - despite holding plenty of possession in the Swiss zone, a solitary shot on goal ensured Reto Berra continued to enjoy a relatively peaceful afternoon.

Lundqvist was rather busier, but as was evident in Switzerland's opener against Latvia, this is a team which struggles to put pucks in nets. Unlike the Latvia game, however, the Swiss chances tended to come from scrambles around the slot rather than clear shooting opportunities.

The goalie picked up the plaudits from his team-mates after a winning display. Gabriel Landeskog said: "Henrik's one of the best goalies in the world when he plays like this. He was tested tonight and made some big saves."

Switzerland's failure to beat Lundqvist when it was on top early on looked like it might be costly at the time. Then after a second period which saw Sweden overturn the deficit on the shot count it seemed that Switzerland's chances of avenging May's 5-1 defeat in the World Championship Final were waning.

The early lethargy exhibited by the Scandinavians wore off, and was replaced by a more energetic game. Finally pucks started getting to the Swiss net, and the Swedish power play added an extra level of aggression to its territorial control.

That wasn't quite enough to find a way past Berra, but it did see the cleanest shooting chance of the game late in the second stanza when Carl Hagelin rapped the goalie's pads from close range after the puck dropped kindly for him just outside the right-hand circle.

Berra also had an anxious moment when Niklas Hjalmarsson's pile driver from the point pinged off the post, while Switzerland's best chance of the second came early when Yannick Weber surged off the boards and almost sneaked a shot past Lundqvist's arm.

That trend continued into the final session, with Sweden showing greater willingness to test Berra from the blue line. Karlsson got a sighter for his later assist with an effort which Patrik Berglund diverted into Berra's pads.

But Switzerland also generated some lively counter attacks and Lundqvist had to react smartly after Andres Ambuhl wriggled away from Karlsson in the left-hand circle, only to meet the goalie's stick sliding out to deflect the shot over the bar.

Even after the goal Roman Josi's weaving run ended in a smart save from Lundqvist to keep Sweden's slender lead intact, but when Berra was yanked for an extra attacker, the men in red could fashion just one dangerous moment, with Wick flashing across the face of goal in the last 30 seconds.

"We just made one mistake in our D zone and that was the difference in the game," said Swiss forward Wick. "We saw two great goalies today and it was a fun game - but it would have been more fun with more goals."

Sweden faces Latvia on Saturday in its final group game knowing that top spot is assured. Switzerland, currently level with the Czech Republic, will face the Central European team to decide second place.


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