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Underdog U.S. team through to semis

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers


Team USA continued its run at the 2010 Olympics on Wednesday afternoon by defeating Switzerland 2-0 in the quarterfinals, despite a remarkable 42 saves by Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks.

With its victory, the underdog but unbeaten U.S. team advanced to Friday's semifinals and ensured that it will play at least two more games in the tournament. The Americans will look to reach Sunday's gold medal game when they face Finland, which beat the Czech Republic 2-0 in anotehr quarterfinal on Wednesday. Even if Team USA falls to the Finns, it would still return to the ice for a shot at bronze on Saturday.

Rangers captain Chris Drury was a defensive standout for Team USA in its victory over the Swiss on Wednesday, blocking several hard shots before they could get through to goaltender Ryan Miller.
Rangers captain Chris Drury and alternate captain Ryan Callahan once again played a big role in the U.S. victory, particularly with their defensive contributions and penalty-killing expertise. Blueshirts head coach John Tortorella was part of the win, too, as he is working as an assistant coach on Ron Wilson's staff.

The Rangers players will see a familiar face across the ice from them on Friday, since Blueshirts forward Olli Jokinen is part of the Finnish squad that beat the Czechs on Wednesday night.

Friday's other semifinal will be a clash between a resurgent Team Canada and darkhorse Slovakia, which upset Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist's defending gold-medal Sweden team 4-3 in Wednesday's late quarterfinal game.

In the other quarterfinal game, Canada crushed the Russians 7-3  to eliminate them from the tournament.

Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils scored both goals for Team USA on Wednesday, including an empty-netter with 11.2 seconds left. The Swiss put up a valiant fight but could not rebound from the eventual game-winner, scored by Parise on a power play at 2:08 of the third period.

Parise tallied his big goal with former Rangers draft pick Philippe Furrer having gone to the box for tripping Phil Kessel during Kessel's scoring chance  just 12 seconds earlier.

The winning score evolved shortly after a faceoff to start the power play in Switzerland's zone. U.S. defenseman Brian Rafalski of the Detroit Red Wings, who has been one of the team's top offensive players in Vancouver, took a cross-ice pass from Paul Stastny and fired a shot from right point that Parise expertly deflected up into the air in front of Hiller. As the Swiss goalie desperately batted at it to keep it out of the crease area, the puck snaked around his right pad and into the net for the only goal Team USA would need.

Moments after the breakthrough tally, the U.S. appeared to have taken a two-goal lead when a shot by Ryan Suter sailed past Hiller and into the net at 4:07. The referee ruled, however, that U.S. forward Ryan Kesler had interfered with a Swiss defender on the play, and the goal was waved off. This came moments after a Swiss player hit the inside of the right U.S. post on  shot from along the goal line to the right of USA goaltender Ryan Miller.

Another potential American goal, right at the end of the second period, was also waved off when video review showed that Kesler's desperation shot from the left corner had crossed the goal line after time expired. Hiller's juggling of the puck in the second before it fell across the goal line in allowed the final seconds to elapse, and the teams remained scoreless through 40 minutes.

Hiller's performance was truly inspiring, as he almost single-handedly upset the favored U.S. team that is now a perfect 4-0 in Vancouver.

While U.S. goalie Miller had a much easier outing than in his 42-save gem to beat Canada on Sunday, the players in front of him played a big part in the relative lack of pressure.

Drury blocked shot after shot for the Americans, repeatedly sacrificing his body to stymie the Swiss attack. One of his best blocks came against New York Islanders defenseman Mark Streit during an early third-period power play when the Swiss were threatening to tie the game.

Callahan also had multiple blocks in the game, helping Team USA keep shots that made it through to the net at just 19 for the game, with 11 of those not coming until the third period.

Drury and Callahan were called on to step up their play -- and their ice time -- in the closing 18 minutes as the U.S. looked to protect its slim lead.

Rangers alternate captain Ryan Callahan was relied on heavily, along with linemate and Rangers captain Chris Drury, in the closing minutes of the 2-0 U.S. victory over Switzerland on Wednesday.
In fact, Drury and Callahan nearly teamed up for a goal with 2:30 remaining, when Drury found Callahan in front of the net, but a Swiss defender managed to break up the play.

The Rangers captain, who had seen a total of 6:53 in ice time over the first two periods, was on the ice for 6:12 of the third to finish with 13:05 total. Callahan, who had a total of 4:54 after 40 minutes, saw 3:24 in the final period.

In the closing minute, after Switzerland pulled its goaltender for an extra attacker, Drury and Callahan were on the ice together, and Drury nearly hit the empty net from his own zone, but the puck went just wide to the right for an icing.

Drury and Callahan rotated through the fourth line, often playing together with David Backes as the third forward. Other line combinations involving the Rangers duo saw Backes and Callahan with Bobby Ryan, Drury with Backes and Ryan, and Drury with Backes and Dustin Brown.

Drury and Callahan were also strong as a tandem in penalty killing, although Drury had to go  with Joe Pavelski as his wingman on the first Swiss power play -- a hooking call against Callahan at 6:25 of the opening period.

Drury also had one shot on goal -- a drive from the left circle with just under four minutes left in the middle period. Hiller stopped Drury's shot, and Backes couldn't put in the rebound.

While it was a memorable day for Drury, Callahan and Tortorella, Wednesday marked the end of the Olympics for Rangers prospect Andres Ambuhl, who plays for the Hartford Wolf Pack. Used primarily as a defensive forward and penalty-killer for Switzerland, Ambuhl logged 14:51 of ice time.

The U.S. outshot the Swiss 44-19 over the afternoon, which began with an 18-4 domination in shots over an opening 20 minutes in which Hiller had to be spectacular.

In the end, however, even the Ducks goaltender's huge performance was not enough to prevent Team USA from moving on to face the winner of Wednesday's game between Finland and the Czech Republic
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