BERNE – Switzerland fought to the bitter end, but lost even as they won their last group stage game against the USA, 4-3, when Roman Wick beat goalie Robert Esche 13 seconds into the overtime. The World Championship home-ice curse hit Switzerland, and sent them packing before the playoff stage of the tournament.
Ron Hainsey scored two power-play goals and Esche made 24 saves for the USA, now looking forward to the quarterfinal game with Finland.
"It's a heartbreaking win. We battled to the end, had a little low in the second period, they took advantage of it we came back in the third, but it just asn't good enough to win after sixty," said Switzerland's captain Mark Streit.
"Whether we win or lose on overtime, it doesn't matter because we're out now. We had our chances, yesterday and today, we just couldn't put it together," he added.
It was the 19th game between the USA and Switzerland, and Switzerland had won only four. Tonight only a win in regulation time would keep them in the tournament. A loss would put Latvia into the quarterfinals.
After seven minutes of play, Switzerland got an odd-man rush against one American defenceman. Julien Sprunger drove to the bet but couldn’t reach the puck and fell down. David Backes checked Sprenger into the boards as he was getting up. Sprunger was carried off the ice on a stretcher, Backes received a game misconduct.
"We're very proud with the way they came to play after our disastrous game yesterday. We recovered from the injury to Julien Sprunger who has no damage in his neck, that's the most important thing tonight," Switzerland's coach Ralph Krueger said.
In the next shift, Dustin Brown got a minor for roughing, and emotions were running high.
Switzerland used its golden opportunity at 9:45 when Andres Ambühl followed a rebound and sent the puck to the back of the net.
"We found a way to survive the first period, then I think we controlled the game the rest of the way," said USA coach Ron Wilson.
The rest of the period was coloured by small scrums and players staring down each other as the Americans tried to get back into the game by intimidating the Swiss.
The USA got its chance with 1:21 remaining in the period when Félicien Du Bois got a two-minute penalty for hooking, joining Goran Bezina in the penalty box. He had just three seconds earlier received a minor penalty for interference. The USA’s opportunity evaporated with Patrick O’Sullivan’s interference penalty with 11 seconds remaining.
At 24:59, the USA got another power-play opportunity. Thierry Paterlini sat in the penalty box when Ron Hainsey took a pass from Joe Pavelski, and sent a thundering slapshot that beat Martin Gerber low on the glove side – and silenced the home crowd’s whistling.
"We had good screen in front of the net, and good traffic, and I got a couple of shots through," Hainsey said.
"We played a couple of exhibition games against Switzerland so we knew it wouldn't be easy. The five-minute penalty hurt us and after that we took stupid penalties which really hurt us. The coach told us to calm down. It was a good message just to settle down and relax," he added.
Two minutes later, Yannick Weber cleared the puck out of the Swiss zone, and sent it into the stands, resulting in an automatic penalty for delaying the game.
At 31:03, Sandy Jeannin shook off the American defenceman behind the net and sent the puck to the front of the net where Romano Lemm was waiting to send it upstairs. He beat Robert Esche high on the glove side with his onetimer to give Switzerland a 2-1 lead.
Five minutes later, the Swiss hit the cross bar behind Esche, and in the ensued American attack, Christopher Higgins beat Gerber with a wrist shot from a poor angle, the puck slipping under Gerber’s arm, to tie the game, 2-2.
Like in the first period, Team USA got its break with less than two minutes remaining in the period when Andres Ambühl and Sandy Jeannin took penalties within a minute. Ron Hainsey scored his second of the night with another powerful slapshot from the blueline, giving the Americans a 3-2 lead.
Halfway through the third period Switzerland struck.
Defenceman Félicien Du Bois carried the puck to the American zone, sent a backhand flip pass to Martin Plüss, who beat Esche with a wrist shot to tie the game, once again at 49:42.
Switzerland's coach Ralph Krueger replaced Martin Gerber with an extra skater with over a minute remaining, in an effort to get the crucial winning goal.
It just wasn't meant to be.
Just 13 seconds into the overtime, Roman Wick beat Esche with a nice shot to the topshelf on Esche's glove side, but it was 13 seconds on the wrong side of the 60 minutes.
"The Swiss never gave up, we knew what they were playing for. I thought we did a good job. Roman Wick's goal was a great individual effort in the end, to win the game for Switzerland," said Wilson.
Switzerland is out of the tournament.
"We took too many penalties and the US played an excellent power play. We threw everything we could at them but this was a very painful victory against the USA – a very strange thing to say," Krueger said.
The Americans and Latvians look forward to participating in the quarterfinals.
"To be honest, we'd feel better had we won tonight, or against Sweden, but we're in the quarterfinals now," said Hainsey.