DETROIT -- One day after Detroit Red Wings forward Damien Brunner said he was looking forward to "collecting some cash" from his Swedish teammates, the Swiss native was no wealthier Monday, but still beamed with pride.
His native country did not pull off a shocking upset in the final of the 2013 IIHF World Championships -- Sweden defeated Switzerland 5-1 -- but the silver medal remains an incredible accomplishment for a burgeoning hockey power.
"Switzerland had a great start. [Roman] Josi scored a really nice goal to get Switzerland up, but then it was kind of bad luck, I think," Brunner said. "We were all over them and then Sweden scored on the first three or four shots two goals. It was kind of unlucky. After that I thought Sweden controlled the goal pretty good. At the end of day, Sweden looked a little bit fresher in this final."
It was a 2-1 game into the third period before Sweden extended its lead. There always has been a "big seven" in international hockey, with countries like Switzerland, Germany and Latvia worrying more about relegation and qualification than earning medals.
That has changed for the Swiss. The number of Swiss-born players in the NHL is growing -- there were three in the first-round series between the Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks -- and the country's ability to knock off the big boys in international hockey also is becoming more frequent.
There were seven players of Swiss origin to play in the NHL this season. That's up from zero 15 years ago and two in 2003. There were five NHL players from the country five years ago, but the big difference is four of the Swiss natives in 2008 were goaltenders, with current New York Islanders captain Mark Streit the lone skater.
More Swiss-born and -trained players are being drafted, and more are sure to find their way into NHL lineups in the coming seasons.
In this year's World Championship, Switzerland defeated Canada, the United States, Sweden (in pool play) and the Czech Republic twice. The Swiss started the tournament with only one NHL player on the roster -- Josi, who looked like a potential star in a top-two role on the defense corps of the Nashville Predators this season.
Add top New York Islanders prospect Nino Niederreiter and ex-NHL goaltender Martin Gerber along with a bunch of players hoping to prove themselves on a big stage, and it ended as a magical run to the final in Stockholm.
"The Swiss guys -- I can't be more proud of this group," Brunner said. "They did everything this tournament. They went 9-for-9 to make the final. This was the first time were thousands of people waiting at the airport for the guys to come home. They achieved a great goal here, and even if they lost the final it was great for Swiss hockey to get on the map. A lot of young guys proved themselves, and maybe they can take the next step to come over and play in the NHL."
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