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Even in defeat, Swiss have made strides

by Shawn P. Roarke / NHL.com
VANCOUVER -- As Thursday afternoon turned into evening at Canada Hockey Place, the underdog Swiss were in the throes of issuing a second-straight torturous Olympic upset of the favored Canadians. Suddenly, the heavy favorites in this tournament, played on home soil, looked anything but invincible.

And so the Swiss went for the kill with the freshness of recent history in their mind.

Four years ago, goalie Martin Gerber played a perfect game in Turin, stopping everything the Canadians threw at him to fashion a 2-0 victory, starting a Canadian death spiral that ended with an unacceptable seventh-place finish.
 
This time, the Swiss had already battled back improbably from a two-goal deficit to tie the Group A game at 2-2 and temporarily silence the pro-Canadian crowd.

But after battling valiantly for 60 minutes of regulation and another five minutes of overtime, it came down to the cruelty of a penalty-shot tiebreaker. There, the Swiss ran out of miracles.

Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller, who made 42 saves in game action, also had the answers for Canada's own Murderer's Row -- Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Ryan Getzlaf, his Anaheim teammate -- of shootout artists. But when Crosby got a second chance at the shootout to start the sudden-death portion of the tie-breaker, as allowed by Olympic rules, the Swiss dream died.
 
Crosby's snap shot beat Hiller just under the blocker and when Martin Pluss couldn't answer against Canadian legend Martin Brodeur, the Canadians were left to celebrate an unsatisfying victory. The Swiss, meanwhile, skated off, wondering what could have been.
 
"Right now, obviously we are disappointed," Swiss forward Hnat Domenichelli told NHL.com. "To get all the way to a shootout. … If somebody told us before the game we could get to a shootout, we would think we could win.
 
"So we're a little bit disappointed, for sure."
 
The disappointment, though, is a badge of honor for this Swiss team, which opened the tournament with a gritty 3-1 loss to Team USA. These Swiss now believe they can play with anyone, which is an amazing journey for a hockey program that was a minnow less than two decades ago.
 
Four years ago, it was all about the goalie, Gerber, in the monumental upset in Turin.

This time, it was about Ivo Ruthemann, who scored the first goal for the Swiss to start the comeback. It was about Roman Wick, who tied the game with less than a minute left in the second period. It was about defenseman Mark Streit, who played a team-high 23:55 against Canada's relentless attack, and it was about Domenichelli, an Albertan-born boy who fought tooth and nail for his new country
 
"I thought the team showed a lot of courage and real character in getting back into this game," Swiss coach Ralph Krueger said. "It was an excellent effort from every guy in our dressing room."
 
Olympic Gear In fact, Krueger said Thursday's loss was more satisfying than the win four years ago because the team was responsible for the tie, not just the heroics of the goalie. Switzerland fought the Canadians for everything in all, as epitomized with the willingness of forward Andres Ambuhl to take on monstrous Chris Pronger in the attacking zone just before Wick scored the tying goal.
 
But there was no denying that Hiller was the difference-maker for the Swiss.
 
"I think it was one of the best games I have ever seen from the Swiss national team," Hiller told NHL.com.
 
Someday, the Swiss players that took part in Thursday's game will understand all that they accomplished, but Thursday was not that day. They believed they could have won. And, they believe they can win going forward as they enter the qualification round and, perhaps, the quarterfinals.
 
"As far as the 2-2 all the way to the end, that is for you guys to evaluate how they played and we played," Domenichelli told NHL.com. "We came here to fight. We know we are underdogs and just trying to give ourselves a chance."
 
Switzerland finishes Group A play against Team Norway on Saturday in a battle for third place in Group A. Norway has already lost, in regulation, to both the Canadians and the Americans.

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