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Warm-up defeat for Krueger’s men

Flavien Conne scored Switzerland's only goal Keystone Archive

Switzerland's Olympic ice hockey team have been beaten 4-1 by Slovakia in a warm-up match for the Salt Lake City Games.

Ralph Krueger’s side managed to take the lead against the highly-respected Slovakian team, with Lugano forward Flavien Conne firing the Swiss ahead in the 16th minute.

Following a Slovakian equaliser early in the second period, Switzerland found themselves struggling. A strong performance by stand-in goalie Lars Weibel helped keep the eastern Europeans at bay but three Slovakian goals in the last ten minutes consigned the Swiss to a generally deserved defeat.

“There were far too many mistakes,” Switzerland coach Ralph Krueger admitted afterwards, although he cited the long flight to America and the six-hour coach ride to the Boise ice rink as mitigation.

“The mistakes owed a lot to the tiredness of the team,” Krueger insisted. “We expected the players to be lacking in energy.”

The Canadian-born coach added that he was looking forward to seeing how the team react when the two sides meet again in a final warm-up match on Tuesday.

Slovakia have been widely tipped as favourites to win their preliminary round group in Salt Lake City. Switzerland are seen as likely favourites in the other preliminary group, where they are pitted against France, Ukraine and Belarus.

Success in the preliminary round would then see Switzerland going through to the final round where they would meet three of the “Big Six” (Canada, the United States, Russia, Finland, Sweden and the Czech Republic).

For Monday’s warm-up Switzerland were without Bern defender Martin Steinegger, who is suffering from a cold, and foreign-based players Marcel Jenni, Martin Gerber and number one goaltender David Aebischer.

Aebischer is the only member of the Swiss team currently playing in the North American NHL league. The Fribourg-born goalie is set to be released by his Colorado club on the day of Switzerland’s opening match against France.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR