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Three players on the podium

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL -- Once again this year, the members of the Canadiens organization who participated in the IIHF World Hockey Championship played a pivotal role in the competition for their respective countries. Six Habs players and prospects took part in the tournament. Tomas Plekanec (CZE), Raphael Diaz (SUI), P.K. Subban (CAN), Tim Bozon (FRA), and Americans Alex Galchenyuk and Danny Kristo, all crossed the Atlantic with one thought in mind – to earn a podium finish. In the end, three managed to reach their goal sporting their nation’s colors.

Galchenyuk certainly made his presence felt during the tournament. During the bronze-medal game, the 19-year-old scored two goals in the shootout to lift the Americans to a 3-2 win over Finland.

The United States turned in a nearly flawless performance at the event, losing only to Slovakia and Russia during the preliminary round of competition. The Americans had a chance to redeem themselves against the Russians in the quarterfinals, and they did just that, besting them 8-3. Head coach Joe Sacco’s squad advanced to the semifinals where they would meet the surprising Swiss contingent. The United States dropped a 3-0 decision to Switzerland on Saturday before going on to beat the Finns on Sunday to clinch the final spot on the podium.

Galchenyuk scores twice in shootout

Over the years, the United States has reached the medal podium 17 times. Despite their success, however, Team USA has collected just two gold medals to go along with nine silver and six bronze. The Americans last captured a World Hockey Championship title in 1960, when the competition was a part of the Olympic Games. That year, the tournament was held in Squaw Valley in California. Team USA last medaled at the World Hockey Championship in 2004, earning a bronze medal with a 1-0 shutout victory over Slovakia.

Having participated in the entire tournament, Kristo, who captured gold at the World Junior Hockey Championship in 2010, collected a goal and two assists, while also logging an average of 10:22 of ice time per game. For his part, Galchenyuk played in only four games for the United States, logging an average of 15:30 of ice time per game, while also finishing the tournament with two goals in regulation time.

For Diaz and Switzerland, the defeat in the championship game marked the end to a magnificent run. After going through the preliminary round of the tournament undefeated with seven consecutive victories, including a shootout win over Canada, Switzerland bested the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals and the United States in the semifinals to advance to the gold-medal game against Sweden. The Swiss, however, would have to settle for silver as the Swedes posted a 5-1 victory in the championship match.

Since the World Hockey Championship was first staged in 1920, Switzerland has earned a podium finish on ten occasions, taking home eight bronze medals. The Swiss, who last registered a podium finish in 1953 when the tournament was held on home soil in Zurich and Basel, captured their second-ever silver medal at the event. Switzerland last claimed silver in 1935.

Diaz had an immediate impact for the Swiss upon arrival. He quickly adapted to the dimensions of the larger ice surfaces in Europe and played just under 15 minutes per game. In his second appearance for Switzerland in the quarterfinals, Diaz was the second-most used player in the lineup and he also contributed offensively with an assist on the game-winning goal. He was also the most utilized player once again on Saturday against the United States. Diaz, however, was held pointless during the gold-medal game while logging 20:45 of ice time.

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