Sweden’s victory versus France on Monday afternoon guaranteed us a spot in the playoffs. Shortly afterwards we took the ice against a desperate Team Switzerland. The Swiss needed all three points from our game in order to advance to the playoffs. Even an overtime win (2 points) by them would not cut it. Motivated by a capacity crowd all waving Swiss flags, they jumped out to a 1-0 first period lead. We found our game in the second period, battling to a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes. The Swiss, refusing to go away in the third period, pulled their goalie to make it a 6-on-5 but were unable to get that necessary fourth goal in time. That fourth goal did however come their way 13 seconds into overtime, as they say, “too little too late”. Final score Switzerland 4 – USA 3 in overtime. Ron Hainsy scored twice and Chris Higgins also scored for the U.S.
Wednesday afternoon Russia advanced (4-3) in a close game against Belarus. Our game followed that evening at 8:15 p.m. The heavily-favored Finland team dominated the first period, partially due to a few too many U.S. penalties. Robert Esche, however, was unflappable in net, stopping all 20 Finnish shots in the first period. An early second period U.S. penalty put the Fins on the board first with a power-play goal. Dustin Brown equalized on the power-play 10 minutes later. Odd man rush goals by T.J. Oshie and Ryan Suter two minutes apart put us up 3-1. The Fins did answer late in the period, putting them within one. Esche continued to make big saves in the third when necessary, but a relentless U.S. forecheck limited Finnish chances. The stunned, predominately Finnish, crowd watched the final seconds of the game tick off the clock but the score remained the same. USA 3 – Finland 2.
On Thursday the playoffs continued with Canada beating Latvia (Stamkos had a goal and an assist) and Sweden beating the Czech Republic. We prepared for our semi-final game versus Russia. The First Secretary from the U.S. Embassy here in Berne sent over a flag which had flown over the embassy that day to be presented to Ryan Suter for his game winner against Finland. There was an enclosed letter that “diplomatically” encouraged us to beat the Russians, also dangling another previously flown flag for the scorer of the game-winner as encouragement. They will be watching the game Friday and following it up with a Cinco de Mayo party (and I thought we were ahead of Eastern time!). The team was invited, but we probably will not get out of here in time to attend.
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