It took over 40 minutes of hockey for this game to have any points on the board, but an excellent effort by both clubs kept all viewers entertained and on the edge of their seats. Zach Parise may have been the lone scorer in the game, but it was a team effort that earned Team USA their fourth win of the tournament and now a guaranteed medal game. Defense, offense, and goaltending were all strong this afternoon for the Americans, which has not always been the case in the past.
The U.S. certainly had their chances in the first and second periods. However, there was a man in net for the Swiss by the name of Jonas Hiller. If you remember, I mentioned his name a few times in the pregame; I’m assuming you now know why. Hiller was incredible in the game, making saves on 42 of the 44 shots the United States threw his way. The Americans thought they had the early lead several times in the first period, but each time were stoned by Hiller.
In the second period, Team USA’s Ryan Kesler came extremely close to burying that first goal, when his shot deflected up of Hiller’s skate, onto his shoulder, and eventually batted in by his swinging stick. Luckily for the Swiss, after reviewing the goal, it was determined that the puck crossed the goal line after the buzzer had sounded to signify the conclusion of the period. Instead of looking at this in an angry matter, I think the U.S. used it to their advantage and motivated the rest of the group heading into the final stanza.
Zach Parise finally found the back of the net for the first time in the tournament to open the third, burying a rebound right around the crease. The United States would score again, this time Ryan Suter, but the goal was waived off as Kesler was called for interference against a Swiss defenseman in front of Hiller. On the same sequence, USA goaltender Ryan Miller was beat for the first and only time all night, but the post was there to preserve the shutout.
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Parise would end up depositing the empty-netter in the final minute of regulation and well deserved at that. Parise has been criticized by many that have followed the team, including myself, regarding his dormant offense. There is no question that head coach Ron Wilson and his squad needed more out of Parise, and boy did he deliver against Switzerland. Right from the opening faceoff, Zach was physical, he crashed the net, and created numerous opportunities for himself.
Miller’s shutout was one of the easier ones he will capture in his career, as the Sabres starter only faced a total of 18 shots in the game. I also though Miller had a lot of help from his defense, which began in Sunday’s match-up with the Canadians.
Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan both played great once again today. They are constantly being put onto the ice in key defensive positions and each and every time they execute to perfection. Both players, as we know, are not afraid to sacrifice the body, as could be seen when Drury took a Mark Streit slapshot to the chest while on the penalty-kill.
With this victory, Team USA ispretty much guaranteed to go home with a medal, but what color will shine on that medal is still to be determined. The winner of Czech Republic versus Finland later tonight will move on to be USA’s opponent in the semi-finals. Russia/Canada, followed by Sweden/Slovakia will also be played later tonight.