Switzerland's young ice hockey team are heading out of the world championships after narrowly failing to upset the Olympic champions of Canada.This content was published on May 3, 2002 - 23:40
Needing at least a draw on the day to maintain any realistic chance of a place in the tournament's quarter-finals, the Swiss were somewhat unfortunate to lose Friday's match 3-2 having made an amazing start to the crunch encounter.
After holding their illustrious opponents to a goal-less first period, Ralph Krueger's men took a shock lead in the second with veteran Lugano forward Jean-Jacques Aeschlimann firing the puck into the Canadian goal.
With the rest of the period producing no further goals, the scoreline had a surreal appearance going into the deciding 20 minutes.
While Switzerland had only managed to score in one of their previous four matches (against the minnows of Japan), the Canadians came into Friday's encounter off the back of four straight victories.
In the final period though, the North Americans resumed normal service. With 17 minutes to go, Dany Heatley showed lightning reactions to turn in a deflection off the Swiss goalframe.
Six minutes later the Canadians made the most of a one-man advantage with Edmonton Oilers defender Eric Brewer slamming in a fierce long-range goal.
Trailing 2-1 the Swiss searched valiantly but in vain for an equaliser and with eight minutes remaining Andy McDonald seemed to have put the team out of their world championship misery with a third Canadian strike.
To their credit Krueger’s men continued to press forward and were rewarded in the last two minutes when Bern’s Ivo Rüthemann poked in a close range effort to bring the Swiss back to a one-goal deficit.
The team could not muster what would have been an incredible equaliser, however, and although Friday’s performance was easily the most impressive yet by the new-look Swiss team it came too late to help realise the dream of a place in the quarter-finals.
"I'm proud of my players," said Krueger after the match. "The team has shown over the last two days it was headed in the right direction."
"We played a very good game against a team of NHL players. We are just lacking a bit of technique and we have to improve our play in front of the goal."
Sunday's last match against Latvia will have no effect on the final outcome. Germany defeated the Latvians in the day's last match, taking the last qualifying place for the quarter-finals.
by Mark Ledsom
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