IIHF: Czech-Swiss

The game is still young, but I have to say – the Swiss are good. They are speedy and it’s almost magic how their passes find the waiting sticks of their teammates. They’re winning 1-0 right now when a drop gave the following attacker all kinds of space and he put one on goal hard. The rebound went right to the guy who did the original drop pass. The swiss seem to have perfect instincts about when to pass and when to throw it at the goal.

Jagr just elbowed someone in the face. I think the refs forgot their whistles tonight. Vokoun, the goalie for the czechs, has pulled off two miracle saves already, to keep the game interesting.

I’m not sure how the swiss can possibly keep up this intensity, especially on defense. They are glue! Sticky spiders! No Czech player has any space at all.

The swiss just scored again, and in this case it’s a pity that the scorekeepers can only award two assists. it started with a great check, knocking the Czech off the puck, then a pass, then another pass as Vokoun went sprawling, and then the goal. Wham, bing, bang, bam.

There’s a guy named Kevin on the Swiss team. Huh.

End of first period: Switzerland 2, Czech Republic 0.

Meanwhile, the US team is taking on Kazakhstan in the “your fans paid to come all this way so we’ll give them a couple more games even though you suck” bracket. I got a bit of a soft spot for the Kazakhs a few years ago when they pulled out a couple of improbable wins even though the goalie was wearing antiquated equipment. They are a slam-dunk for a corporation to pony up some funding in the hope of creating a feel-good story with their name on it.

Second period:

Czechs are controlling the puck now. Either the Swiss have slowed or the Czechs have finally figured out that they’re going to have to work for this one. And they score! You can’t fault the goaltender, number 15 had enough space to aim the shot off his own rebound. You can’t leave someone that alone in front of your net.

And five minutes into the second period, we have our first penalty, against the Czechs. The Swiss are not getting shots. It’s pretty clear now the Czechs have decided to get out in the faces of the Swiss. Good call. Before that penalty was up, another penalty came, also against the Czechs. Almost a short-handed goal! The ice is definitely starting to tip the Czech’s way. The Swiss suddenly look disorganized, with three players clustered and cutting off their own passing lanes on a power play.

Not sure what just happened, but the Swiss got another goal. Who taught these guys to be so fast? Now they’re all pumped up again and it’s like the first period – wherever the puck is, there’s a swiss stick nearby. These guys are fueled by emotion. You beat them by taking that away – knock them on their butts, score short-handed.

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a game with so much gear on the ice – sticks, gloves, helmets.

Goal Czech Republic! Depending on your leaning, a lucky-ass bounce shot that found the top corner from almost the blue line, or a brilliantly accurate shot that exploited the goalie’s aggressive play. Either way, the Czechs have stolen the Swiss mojo once more, and the play is almost exclusively in the Swiss end.

If someone teaches the Swiss to conterpunch, to just turn it up another notch when the other guys score, watch out.

Czechs with a two-man advantage. Not doing much with it. Now the Swiss are pumped up again.

Just before the period expired the Czechs had a great chance. Down the ice fast with the last pass making it a clean shot, only the goalie to beat. The goalie stopped the shot, but left a tantalizing rebound. Last time, the Czechs put that one away. Not this time.

End of second period: Switzerland 3, Czech Republic 2

Meanwhile, Germany (Germany!) is giving Russia a game. Exceeding expectations is sweet. Doing it when your country is the host of the tournament is awesome. Some of those kids will never play international hockey again, but they will have so great memories of the home crowd going nuts.

Third period:

Sorry – was distracted. So it goes. No one scored, however. The Swiss carry the day. I’m looking forward to Switzerland/Canada or Switzerland/Russia. It seems like Switzerland is a problem that is solved by good coaching. Get in their faces, knock them back, never let them feel like they have momentum. It means making sure your guys are ready to skate hard and fast when the first puck drops. In the first period, those kids were insane. It was like there was eight of them on the ice. (I say kids, but there’s one guy, Seger, who’s been on the team since the ice age. I have no idea how old the others are.)

The game is over, life goes on. The Czech team is somewhat less disappointing than the US team, and there’s still hope for them. Somehow the Swiss manage to exceed expectations year after year. Perhaps it is the expectations that are the problem, but in the past it’s been defense that defines the Swiss team. This time, they have some moves at the other end of the ice as well, and in defiance of stereotypes, they are a team of emotion. Opponents take note.


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