SASKATOON - The expression "be careful what you wish for" came to mind as the Credit Union Centre crowd cheered Switzerland to a 3-2 upset victory over Russia on Saturday night in the quarter-finals of the world junior hockey championship.
Now Canada will face the Swiss - and not the powerful Russians -in one of Sunday's semifinals (TSN, 5 p.m. ET).
Acrobatic goaltender Benjamin Conz made 50 saves and gifted forward Nino Niederreiter scored the tying goal in the final minute of the third and the game-winner 9:47 into overtime to drive home the message that although the Canadians face a decided underdog, nothing should be taken for granted.
"This is not a bye - ask the Russians," said Canadian coach Willie Desjardins after watching the Swiss prevail. "And just because you put up a lot of shots doesn't mean you're going to win.
"Everyone's a bit surprised. The Russians carried a lot of the play, but the Swiss played a smart game and capitaized on their chances."
Canada beat Switzerland 6-0 in round robin play, but it likely won't be as easy now that the Swiss have found their legs. After losing to the U.S. and Canada, they needed three third-period goals for a 7-5 comeback win over lowly Latvia, before beating Slovakia 4-1 to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2002.
Now Switzerland is in contention for its first medal since taking bronze in 1998.
"Miracles are always possible," said Conz. "We have to get a good sleep and come back strong, forget this match and get ready for Canada.
"We know it will be tough, but now we have a chance to play. If we make too many turnovers it will hurt us. We have to contain them like we did the Russians. They're a physical team and we have to answer that and play a physical game as well. And when we get chances, we have to put them in the net."
As they did against the Russians, the Swiss will likely play blanket defence, rely heavily on their goaltender, and look for a goal or two on turnovers and counterattacks.
The same game plan worked to perfection when the Swiss national team upset Canada 2-0 at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
"Of course we want to do that again, but it will be difficult," said Swiss forward Mauro Jorg. "They have a really strong team. The last time we lost 6-0. We'll see what happens."
The crowd was decidedly behind the Swiss on Saturday, and some chanted "Go Nino Go" for Niederreiter, the Portland Winterhawks forward who is expected to be a first or second round NHL draft pick.
"It was amazing to hear that," he said. "It's our passion to play ice hockey in Canada in front of the crowd over here and to hear them cheering for Switzerland was beautiful.
"But now we play against Canada and we'll see what happens. We just have to play simple like today, but it will be so tough against Canada. They beat us 6-0. Hopefully we can beat them."
Most expected a repeat of last year's world juniors in Ottawa, when Canada and Russia faced off in a thrilling semifinal, won 6-5 in a shootout by Canada after Jordan Eberle tied the game with five seconds left in regulation.
But this year's talented but mistake-prone Russian team with shaky goaltending may have been a more predictable opponent than Switzerland.
"They played a good third period against us," Desjardins said of the Swiss. "They've got some talent and a mobile defence and good goaltending."