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Switzerland takes second in Group C behind Hiller

by Corey Masisak

SOCHI -- The next goal Jonas Hiller allows in the 2014 Sochi Olympics will be his first.

Switzerland continued its impressive display of defense and goaltending Saturday, knocking off the Czech Republic 1-0 and wrapping up second place in Group C. Hiller, the starting goalie for the Anaheim Ducks, made 26 saves for his second shutout in as many starts.

The Swiss have played nine periods in this tournament and allowed one goal. They've only scored two, but that's been enough to earn six points.

"I think we have enough chances to score maybe one or two more goals, but now we have two wins and we're in a good spot," New Jersey Devils forward Damian Brunner said. "We play really solid defensively. We don't allow a lot of good scoring chances, and our goaltending has been outstanding.

"[The Czech Republic is] a skilled team and when people talk about that game, they're favorites, so at the end of the day the only thing that counts is a win for us."

For the first time in three contests, a game involving Switzerland had a goal before the third period. Simon Bodenmann snapped a one-timer from Denis Hollenstein past Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec at 14:10 of the opening period. Kevin Romy was pinned against the boards behind the Czech net, but was able to wriggle free enough to get the puck to Hollenstein.

It was only the second goal of the tournament for Switzerland, and the first that didn't take a weird bounce off an opponent to beat the goaltender.

Switzerland's ability to prevent goals continued to be a developing theme in this tournament. The Swiss shut out Latvia in their first game, then yielded one third-period goal Friday night in a 1-0 loss to Sweden.

"It was a tough loss [to Sweden]," Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Mark Streit said. "After the game we were disappointed, but 24 hours later we played a really good game against the Czechs. … It is a change of mindset. A few years ago, you lose 3-2 or 2-1 or 1-0, and you walk out like, 'That wasn't that bad.' It is different in these times.

"The guys want to win every game. It doesn't matter if we play the Swedes or the Canadians or the Americans. There's no happy losses for us anymore. It was a tough one [Friday] night, but we came back strong today. It wasn't always pretty, but we pulled it off and it's a great feeling."

It hasn't mattered who is in net. Both Hiller and Calgary Flames netminder Reto Berra have played well, and the team's defensive structure has helped frustrate opponents. The only goal allowed in the first two games was actually a bad one to yield, and the Swiss were a soft rebound from Berra away from potentially forcing overtime and earning at least a point against the Swedes.

Meanwhile, this tournament has not gone as planned for the Czech Republic. A slow start crippled the Czechs' chances against Sweden in a 4-2 loss in the opener, and Latvia kept the game closer than expected in a 4-2 victory. With this loss, the Czechs are likely going to be seeded seventh or eighth for the classification round, which takes place Tuesday.

"Both teams had their chances, but I think we had a little bit more," Pavelec said. "Their goalie played really well and we hit the post twice. If you don't score a goal, you can't win. I think they have a good defensive system and it is tough to play against them when they score a goal [early]."

One of the team's key players, New Jersey Devils forward Patrik Elias, did not play because of illness, but the Czechs still possessed plenty of dynamic offensive talent. They just couldn't solve Hiller.

For the Swiss, finishing second in this group is another major accomplishment for the burgeoning hockey nation. Sweden forward Daniel Sedin said after his team's 1-0 win that he thinks other teams "need to watch out" for the Swiss and expects them to be a factor in the later portion of this tournament.

Switzerland is unlikely to be seeded higher than sixth, unless Russia or the United States are upset by Slovakia or Slovenia, respectively, on Sunday. The Swiss have showcased their defensive credentials, and they are the textbook definition of a "tough out" as the elimination rounds beckon.

"The expectations, they continue to grow in Switzerland," Brunner said. "We have young players and new goals. We go into games and don't want to hide. We want to go and play right with those top teams."


CZE 0 0 0 - 0
SUI 1 0 0 - 1

First Period
1. SUI, Bodenmann (Hollenstein, Romy) 14:10
Penalties – Gudas CZE (interference) 7:18, Diaz SUI (tripping) 19:55

Second Period
Penalties - Blindenbacher SUI (holding) 5:53, Niederreiter SUI (roughing) 12:24, Smid CZE (roughing) 12:24

Third Period
Penalties - Streit SUI (cross-checking) 5:26, Wick SUI (tripping) 8:18, Gudas CZE (holding) 13:27

CZE 8 10 8 - 26
SUI 12 6 8 - 26

Goaltenders (saves-shots against) - CZE: Pavelec (L, 25-26); SUI: Hiller (W, 26-26)

Power plays (goals-chances) - CZE: 0-5; SUI: 0-2
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