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Dream ends for Swiss ice hockey team

Swiss player Marcel Jenni can't hide his disappointment as the game starts to go Sweden's way Keystone

Switzerland have crashed out of the men's ice hockey quarter-finals at the Winter Olympics in Turin, losing 6-2 to Sweden on Wednesday.

This content was published on February 22, 2006 - 22:16

The defeat brings to an end Switzerland's dreams of advancing further in the competition, spurred on by their surprise wins over ice hockey giants Canada and the Czech Republic.

Sweden will now go on to Friday's semi-final where they will face the Czech Republic, while Finland will take on Russia.

"Against the top teams we have to play so hard, and you lose a lot of energy when you have to play teams that you are not as good as and that are very skilled," Swiss forward Martin Plüss said after the game.

"We tried very hard, it was just not there."

Sweden's coach Bengt Ake Gustafsson earlier caused some controversy when he suggested that it might be better for his team to lose its final preliminary round contest against Slovakia, which it did, to draw a more favourable quarter-final opponent.

Underdogs

However, observers said he was merely being honest, as Switzerland is ranked eighth in the world and has just three National Hockey League (NHL) players on its books.

NHL players make up the bulk of the Czech, Swedish and Canadian teams.

The Swiss team came into the men's Olympic hockey tournament with the goal of qualifying for the quarterfinals.

However, they caused an upset when they stunned the Czechs, the current world champions, early on in the competition with a 3-2 victory.

This was followed by a 2-0 win three days later over defending Olympic champions Canada.

The Swiss then went on to tie with non-qualifiers Germany and host country Italy in their final two Group A games.

NHL boost

Ralph Krueger, the Canadian-born Swiss coach, who has been heading the team since 1997, said in an earlier interview that the NHL dispute of last season, which saw the NHL championship shut over a labour dispute, had been behind the team's success.

"When those NHL players came to play in Switzerland, we saw how talented they are. But we also saw what it is like to play with them on a regular basis," said Krueger. "We lost the fear factor of playing against NHLers."

The Swiss have been powered by their NHL goaltending team of Martin Gerber and David Aebischer. They have also had Canadian-born Paul di Pietro, who helped the Montreal Canadiens win the Stanley Cup in 1993.

But their talents were not enough to lift the team on Wednesday.

"The end of a tournament always hurts," said Krueger. "And this time I really would have wished a better end for the team."

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Quarter-finals:
Sweden - Switzerland 6-2

Preliminary round:
Switzerland - Italy 2-2
Germany - Switzerland 2-2
Switzerland - Canada 2-0
Switzerland - Czech Republic 3-2
Finland - Switzerland 5-0

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In brief

The Swiss hockey team qualified for the Turin Games by winning a pre-Olympic tournament in Kloten last February.

To get to Italy, Switzerland had to beat Japan, Norway and Denmark along the way.

At the Winter Games, the team caused an upset when they beat ice hockey greats Canada and the Czech Republic on the way to the quarter-finals.

But a 6-2 defeat by Sweden on Wednesday put paid to any dreams of a medal at Turin.

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