QUEBEC CITY – Sweden and Switzerland are two countries that often get confused with each other. Today, the Swiss added to the confusion by playing a mature and error-free game, much like the Swedes usually do, as they went on to win 4-2, claiming the top spot in Group A. In the process of doing that, they also showed the Swedes that it is the fast that eat the slow.
Swedish coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson let Stefan Liv tend the Swedish goal again, after his shutout against France, while forward Per Ledin dressed for the first time in the tournament. Ralph Krueger, the Swiss coach, had given Martin Gerber the day off, handing over the goalkeeping duties to Jonas Hiller.
Today, it was the Swedes who wore the retro sweaters. Theirs were from 1957 when the team won World Championship gold. Unfortunately, the whole Swedish play seemed to be from about the same era today. Maybe the arrival of Douglas Murray, grandson of Lasse Bjorn, one of the members of the 1957 team will wake the Swedes up.
Switzerland controlled the game from the first shift on. After just 48 seconds, Thierry Paterlini shook off Alexander Edler, grabbed Paul DiPietro’s rebound, went around Stefan Liv and tipped the puck into an empty net to give the Swiss the lead.
Ten minutes later, Fredrik Warg sent a wrist shot from the left circle to the net, surprising Hiller, and tying the game.
After that, the game went according to coach Krueger’s plans. The Swiss were quick to return to the neutral zone, and Sweden stepped right into trap, one shift, one attack, one player at a time. And whatever shots the Swedes fired, Hiller was there to stop them.
"Things went the way we wanted. I think we were better in front of the nets, just as we wanted to be. Today is a big day for Swiss hockey," Krueger said after the game.
And when the Swiss stopped the Swedes, they were quick to go on the attack. With a little over four minutes remaining, Anders Ambuhl got the puck on the red line. He picked up speed, skated around Daniel Fernholm who missed a step turning, and lifted the puck over Liv’s shoulder into the net.
"I had good speed, and I saw that the defenseman was turning and was off balance so I drove to the net. I saw a little opening, and tried to get the puck in there," he said.
After a goalless second period, many believed the Swedes would wake up again, like in its previous games, against Belarus and France. But not this time. Instead, Thibaut Monnet put an end to the Swedish struggle when he broke in from the left, and sent a backhander to the top shelf on Liv’s glove side.
Any hope that the Swedes had left, were wiped away by Niclas Wallin's penalty for checking from behind, for five minutes and an automatic game misconduct. And if there still was somebody, somewhere thinking the Swedes might come back, a minute later Alexander Edler was sent off, too, for checking from behind.
Patric Hornqvist got the 3-2 goal with 58 seconds remaining when Sweden was playing shorthanded. Beat Forster got an empty-netter with seven seconds remaining, to make it 4-2.
"They outworked us in every aspect of the game, there was no question about who the better team was," said Swedish coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson.
"We can't match the big nations player by player but we can match them as a team. We've had a longer camp than the rest which has helped us build the team. Now the fun begins for us," said Krueger.
It had been 15 years since Switzerland beat Sweden in the World Championships. The last time that happened was in the Munich tournament in 1993. The score was 6-4 then.
If it's any consolation to the Swedish fans, that year, Sweden finished second in the tournament and Switzerland was relegated from the top division.
But this is 2008 and Switerland is still undefeated in the tournament.
"I think this tells everybody in our room that we have to wake up right now and start to play hockey," said a disappointed Nicklas Backstrom after the game.