Swiss go local
Swiss go local
No Canadian coach, but results expected
The Swiss won only two of eight games last year, and that poor showing cost Glen Hanlon his job. This year, the team is a blend of age and youth looking to rebound under a new – and Swiss! – coaching staff. The team has four NHLers to complement a roster of Swiss-league players, but one is never quite sure which Swiss team will show up on any given day.
Colorado Avalanche goaltender Reto Berra is back. He played in five of eight games last year but didn’t post a single win all tournament. This is his fifth straight World Championship, though, and he will be given the lion’s share of the work in goal this year. Last year’s third goalie, Robert Mayer, is also on the team as well as newcomer Sandor Zurkirchen, whose only experience in IIHF tournaments was the 2008 U18 Worlds.
Yannick Weber of the Vancouver Canucks will anchor the defence along with several familiar faces in the form of Eric Blum, Raphael Diaz, Felicien Du Bois, Patrick Geering and Robin Grossmann. But coach Fischer has also added three new players: Christian Marti, a 23-year-old who played at the 2011 U18 Worlds and the 2012 and ’13 World Juniors and Noah Schneeberger, who has played for HC Davos the last four years..
Although the players are familiar, so is the problem – scoring. Last year the Swiss qualified for the quarter-finals thanks to wins over Austria, 4-3, and Germany, 1-0. They scored just 12 goals in seven games. The other quarter-finalists in their group scored 49, 34, and 27 goals, highlighting the disparity in offence. In the playoff game they lost to the U.S., 3-1. Damien Brunner led the team in points last year with only five, and he’s not here in Moscow due to an injury he suffered in the Swiss finals. No player scored more than two goals. This year, it’s up to the likes of Andres Ambuhl, Sven Andrighetto, among others, to put the puck in the net. Fortunately, Nino Niederreiter is back. He was instrumental in that silver-medal run in 2013, so hopefully he can work his magic again.
Patrick Fischer is the first non-Canadian to coach the Swiss since Simon Schenk in 1997. Ralph Krueger got the team back into the top division the next year, and Sean Simpson, more famously, took the team to the gold-medal game in 2013. But a disappointing 8th-place result with Glen Hanlon last year got the Swiss to thinking about their own, and who better than Fischer, a 40-year-old who had a long and successful career with the team as a player and who was an assistant to Simpson three years ago? The catch, though, is that he is on a short leash. Qualify for the quarter-finals, and his contract is automatically renewed for two years. Fail to do so, and, well, things are less certain. He will be assisted by two other former Swiss stars, Felix Hollenstein and Reto von Arx.
The Swiss can certainly be grouped with Czech Republic, Russia, and Sweden more favourably than Denmark, Kazakhstan, Latvia, and Norway. As a result, that quarter-finals placing looks pretty good. But winning that key elimination game against a top-eight opponent has generally proved difficult for the Swiss, so a middle-of-the-pack finish might be the expected result from Russia. 2016.
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