International Ice Hockey Federation

Calm in a crisis

Calm in a crisis

No matter the situation, Schelling stays cool

Published 17.02.2014 08:59 GMT+4 | Author Andy Potts
Calm in a crisis
A happy Swiss goalie Florence Schelling after her shutout in the quarter-finals against Russia. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Switzerland's goalie explains how she realized that Russia wouldn't score in Saturday's quarter-final and why it was the biggest win of her career to date.

Less than two minutes to play, in front of a fervent crowd roaring the opposition forward. Your team is defending a one-goal lead with a shot at an Olympic medal at stake. Your opponent pulls the goalie and prepares to storm your goal with an extra attacker.

It’s the kind of situation that would quicken the pulse of any goaltender, especially one who had been on the receiving end of a pummelling from a rampant Russian attack which ultimately put 41 shots on the net. But for Switzerland’s Florence Schelling, it was no time to panic.

“I was still very calm because that’s what my team needed from me,” she said after repulsing the Russian raiders. “I know my team relies on me heavily, so if they can see I’m completely calm it helps them, and that’s good for me as well.”

The calm was contagious – Switzerland added an empty net goal through Lara Stalder to win 2-0, breaking home hearts and booking a semi-final date with Canada.

But Stalder’s goal was not the moment when Schelling could relax. Instead she was confident of victory in the opening minutes, when the score was still 0-0.

“I definitely believed in it after they hit the post in the first five minutes,” she added. “That was a turning point, it told me the luck would be on our side. They had two more off the posts and I just got this great feeling that Russia wouldn’t score that day.” Not even taking a heavy hit from Russia’s Katya Smolentseva in the second period jolted her certainty. “It was a hard impact, but I was OK. Just a bit dizzy at first,” she said.

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Now Schelling is hoping to add to the World Championship bronze she has taken with the Swiss two years ago, and hopes that she can build on a victory that she rates as the best of her career to date.

“We beat Russia in a quarter-final in 2012 [at the Worlds], but this was definitely one of the biggest wins we’ve ever had,” she said. “Because it’s the Olympics it’s undoubtedly the biggest game of my career. Even winning a bronze with this team before wasn’t as special as this.”

Swiss coach Rene Kammerer is also delighted to have a goalie a good as Schelling to call upon. “Some years ago I was at a coaching symposium where Dave King talked for 90 minutes about offensive play of a team, and the very last sentence he said was ‘you can forget all this if you don’t have a good goalie’,” he recalled. “For us it’s the same. We need a good goalkeeper. Our team needs to feel confidence [in the goal] and we get this from Florence. She played extremely well against Russia and exuded confidence. She always give us the feeling that we can win the game.”

The coach also paid tribute to her leadership qualities: “Florence knows what it takes to win big games. That’s something she brings in when it’s needed and the team is listening to her.”

Schelling’s team-mates share that high opinion of their goalie. Stefanie Marty, scorer of the opening goal, said: “It’s great to play with her and to know you have such an outstanding goalie that you can always rely on. It’s an amazing boost to know that she’s always there and against Russia she had absolutely everything.”

Schelling herself prefers to share the credit for the Swiss team spirit, praising the locker room for giving everyone a lift during the tough moments of the clash with Russia.

“We knew they would come out very strong with all the people in the stands cheering them on. We were getting ready for that – that’s what we were talking about whenever we were back in the locker room,” she said. “During the second intermission we knew we had to be ready for those first couple of minutes. They wanted that one goal to tie the game but the atmosphere among us in the locker room and on the ice was amazing.”

Next up it’s Canada, a team which put 69 shots on Schelling’s goal in a 5-0 victory at the start of the tournament. And, in a refreshing change from the usual ‘take each game as it comes’ talk, Schelling admitted that the current Olympic format – with Switzerland in a ‘group of death’ – meant that the QF stage was the crucial moment.

“We were preparing for that quarter-final for a while,” she said. “We knew we might lose all our games in the group and end up in a quarter. We prepared for that, and this was the game for us. Last year [at the World Championship] we were in this position and lost to Russia so it’s good to show what we can do at an Olympics.”

If that suggests that Switzerland is not brimming with optimism before facing Canada, coach Kammerer is already plotting a Plan B to match the Ottawa 2012 medal-winning achievement. “We will enjoy the semi-final game but we have to be ready and to fight to play against such a team. Our Plan A is to win this game, our Plan B to win a medal is the bronze medal game.”

In both plans, though, another big game from Schelling will be a vital component.


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