Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Swiss outshoots Belarus to setup quarter against USA

It wasn't pretty but the Swiss still pulled through. They needed a 10-minute four-on-four and a shootout before sneaking past pesky Belarus 3-2 in the first qualifier at Hockey Canada Place this afternoon. Thomas Deruns and Romano Lemm helped Switzerland set up a quarter versus Team USA tomorrow at 3 on NBC.

Favorite to advance, the Swiss got scored on in the opening minute when Aleksei Kalyuzhny snuck a trickler off defenders past a surprised Jonas Hiller. But Julien Sprunger responded with a power play goal, knotting the contest. For the day, the higher seed notched both their goals via the man-advantage. It would be a Hnat Dominichelli rebound past a sprawled Andrei Mezin which steered the Swiss ahead during a second they largely controlled. Islander defenseman Mark Streit got an assist on the tally. However, Belarus earned a power play and quickly tied it in the late stages of the second thanks to Konstantin Zakharov backhanding home a loose puck into a vacant net with Hiller off to the right.

Sensing an upset, many in the crowd began to root for the underdog who eight years earlier strung a much bigger one over Sweden, Belarus played more confidently, using their skating to generate chances. But most were misdirections which sailed wide. Hiller sharpened up in a seesaw third making a pair of tough stops to keep it tied. One instance saw Konstantin Koltsov with a great chance to shoot from the slot 15 feet away but instead, his pass down low missed connection. Each goalie was strong during sudden death pushing it to the skill competition.

In it, both Deruns and Lemm deked before picking high glove on Mezin sandwiched around a Hiller stop for a commanding 2-zip lead. But Dmitri Meleshenko extended it with a nice forehand deke finish off the bar and in with the Anaheim goalie on all fours. The Belarussian bench was given even more hope when Mezin stopped Swiss' third shooter giving Hab Sergei Kostitsyn a chance to force extras. However, the third-year NHLer made one too many moves allowing a sliding Hiller to get a pad on his forehand deke in tight, sealing it for the Swiss.

Switzerland must play better tomorrow against USA, whose size, speed and strength will test the feisty European nation. However, the Americans can't take it lightly as they only beat them 3-1 in prelims and know just how much of a trap game this is. Keep an eye on Roman Wick and Hiller along with Streit, who all must have strong games for a chance at the upset.

There are three more qualifiers taking place tonight. Canada and Germany are underway with a whole nation holding its collective breath. Also on tap later are Czech and Latvia (10 PM) and Slovakia-Norway at midnight. All three can be seen on CNBC.

5 comments:

Hasan said...

I'm glad I got to see the latter part of this game and the shootout, even when you don't know more than half of each team, a lot of these Olympic games can be entertaining. Switzerland-Norway was similar from what I saw of that one.

Didn't really expect any of the other three games to be competitive...so far looks like I'm right on two of them as Canada predictably laid waste to Norway (if they'd played without any goalie they still would have gotten to OT at least lol) and the Czechs are up 3-0 on Latvia.

Hasan said...

Well 2-0 about halfway through, read the score wrong.

Derek Felix said...

I saw the 2 goals and it looked like it would be a rout. Went upstairs then watched women's figure skating. Asked my Dad to flip back on and when it was still 2-0 I was shocked. When they scored and no Jagr, I was thinking maybe this gets tied. I'm just surprised Latvia didn't pull it off. Krejci was one of their best and saved them.

Hasan said...

Yeah I went to bed at 2-0 and was surprised to hear they even got it into overtime although I did know Jagr was hurt. Didn't know it was supposedly an after-effect of the Ovechkin hit though lol.

Was just about as surprised that Slovakia had problems with Norway. At least the Norwegians did better in their last two games than the Canada game and the last few minutes of the US game.

Derek Felix said...

Norge had some good players. Vikingstad and another short dude I can't pronounce. The end was nuts. They nearly tied it. Great games with the exception of Canada predictably destroying Deutscheland

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