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Surprising Switzerland closes preliminary round against Italy

NHL.com @NHL

The only thing at stake when Switzerland and host Italy play Tuesday is the seeding for the surprising Swiss in the quarterfinal round of medal play.

By virtue of upset victories over both the Czech Republic and Canada, Switzerland already has secured a spot in the medal round. Italy was eliminated from quarterfinal contention with a loss to the Czechs on Sunday.

Switzerland (2-1-1) is in second place in Group A, one point ahead of its two upset victims, both of which are 2-2-0. The Czech Republic and Canada play each other Tuesday, so only one of them could vault over the Swiss if Italy was to pull off the upset Tuesday.

Switzerland had a chance to take a two-point edge over both teams, but could only manage a 2-2 tie with winless Germany on Sunday. The tie followed Switzerland's surprising 2-0 win over gold medal favorite Canada on Saturday.

It was the Swiss' turn to be surprised Sunday, as Germany's Tino Boos scored the tying goal with 7:51 remaining in the third period to end Switzerland's chances of being the No. 1 seed from Group A.

"Unfortunately, we didn't play as good as we did the previous two games, but we were able to get the point that allows us to go into the quarterfinals," said goalie David Aebischer, who made 26 saves.

Goaltending has been a strength for the Swiss. Aebischer faced the Germans the day after Martin Gerber stopped 49 shots in the upset win over Canada. Aebischer made 40 saves in Switzerland's 3-2 victory over the Czech Republic on Thursday.

The two goaltenders and defenseman Mark Streit, a rookie with the Montreal Canadiens, are the only current NHL players on the Swiss roster.

"Our goal at this tournament was to qualify for the quarterfinals and we have done that, but we still have to build through our next games," said forward Paul DiPietro, a former NHL player who leads the Swiss with three goals and three points.

DiPietro scored both goals against Canada and gave Switzerland a 2-1 lead over Germany in the second period.

The Swiss held off the powerful Czechs and Canadians in third-period action, but couldn't completely shut down the Germans to stay close to Finland for the top seed in Group A.

Switzerland's tie with Germany may provide inspiration to Italy (0-3-1) in its last chance for a hockey victory in the 2006 Games. Italy's only point in the preliminary round came in a 3-3 tie with the Germans on Saturday.

Chants of "I-tal-ia" greeted the Italian team when it took the ice against Germany as fans recognized the game was their best chance to claim a win.

Italy scored three goals, as many as the team has scored in its other three games, and was on the brink of a victory when Christian Borgatello scored a short-handed goal with 1:32 remaining. But Germany's Marcel Goc closed out the scoring 15 seconds later to secure the tie.

Sunday's game was not nearly as close for the Italians, losing 4-1 to the Czech Republic. They managed just 16 shots against Nashville Predators goaltender Tomas Vokoun and didn't get on the scoreboard until John Parco beat Vokoun with 2:07 remaining.

Tempers flared during a second-period scuffle that resulted in three penalties against each team. Another flurry of penalties were called when the two sides mixed it up near the end of the game.

"We kind of feel like the red-headed stepson," Italy forward Jason Cirone said of the winless team's frustration.

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