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Ice Hockey: Swiss impress in opening draw over USA

Switzerland's ice-hockey team have shared a hard-fought draw with the United States in the opening game of their World Championship campaign in St Petersburg.

Switzerland's ice-hockey team have shared a hard-fought draw with the United States in the opening game of their World Championship campaign in St Petersburg. The draw, against a squad containing 13 players from America's elite National Hockey League, puts the Swiss in a strong position to qualify from the group stage.

As the game got underway, though, such a result looked far from likely. Switzerland made the worst possible start to the match, conceding a goal in the very first minute. But the decision by the Swiss coach, Ralph Krueger, to play with a heavier squad than in previous championships soon paid dividends.

After holding the Americans at bay with some solid defending, Switzerland scored a deserved equaliser, through Gian-Marco Crameri, eight minutes before the end of the first period.

The second period saw the USA retake the lead during a power play, Plainte's long-range shot beating Martin Gerber in the Swiss goal. But again Switzerland rallied, with captain Reto van Arx responding just two minutes later with a long-distance effort of his own.

Alain Demuth's goal two minutes after the start of the third period saw the Swiss take the lead for the first time. Six minutes later it should have been 4-1 when a Swiss attack managed to beat the American goaltender only for the puck to bounce back off the top of the goal-frame.

That miss was to deny Switzerland an historic win. Halfway through the third period, Konowalchuk put the USA back on level terms. A disallowed American goal, scored after play had been stopped, was the final chance for either side before the match ended in what the Swiss will see as a satisfactory draw.

The point shared with America means Switzerland can make certain of their place in the next round with a win over France on Monday. The French side are widely regarded as being the weakest of the four teams in Group D.

by Mark Ledsom

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