-- While most everyone agrees that Team Canada has faced the most Olympic pressure as the favorite in a hockey-mad host country, there is a formidable argument to be that Team USA might now have the most emotional weight on its shoulders.
At least that is Switzerland coach Ralph Krueger's story and he's sticking to it. His team faces the Americans Wednesday in the first quarterfinal game [3 p.m. ET, NBC, V, SNET]
"All the pressure goes to Team USA," Krueger said Tuesday after his Swiss squad edged Belarus, 3-2, in a shootout. "USA has become the favorite for the whole tournament, not just our game."
"The pressure is off for us," said Swiss captain and New York Islanders
all-star Mark Streit
. "We want to be the underdog."
Even American coach Ron Wilson conceded the point.
"We know what the Swiss do," said Wilson. "We obviously know their goaltender [Jonas Hiller
of the Anaheim Ducks
]. There won't be any surprises there. They're the team that has the least to lose. This tournament is a success for them. … So they're playing with house money. Now, we can't afford mistakes but we can't be tight either. We've got to play our game, simple as that."
Not that the underdog thing will be easy for Switzerland, which has played three overtime games in this tournament and will need to be back on the Canada Hockey Place ice less than 24 hours after Tuesday's win to face Team USA.
"I guess that is not so good for us," said Swiss forward Julien Sprunger
, who has two goals so far. "We will have to be ready in the first 10 to 15 minutes. They will come after us."
"We're going to have to play perfect hockey," said Hnat Domenichelli
, who also scored Tuesday.
When asked what impressed him about Team USA, Domenichelli ticked off a list: "Young, hungry, lots of speed up front, great goalie, all of the above."
Krueger said the Swiss played "too timid" in the first half of the 3-1 loss to Team USA.
"We have to get in their faces," said Krueger, who will likely look to forward Roman Wick
for physical leadership. "Team USA is the most physical team of the tournament and, watching from the outside, they most play like a team."
Bottom line, Krueger said he is "a realist."
"Team USA is prepared, rested and they respect us from the first game," he said. "All of the surprise factor has been removed."
But the pressure of the No. 1 seed remains.