STOCKHOLM, Sweden – Despite weathering the storm of a first period in which they allowed 18 shots-on-goal – all of which were stopped by goaltender John Gibson – Team USA couldn’t overcome a stingy Swiss style of play that frustrated their offense for much of the contest in a 3-0 defeat.
“Our game wasn’t good enough tonight – its pretty simple,” said U.S. Head Coach Joe Sacco. “ They played better than we did overall from start to finish. For some reason, we slowed the game down a little too much and that’s not our style. We want to try to play faster; its partly what they did and part what we did.”
“They made more plays and made less mistakes and obviously it showed,” said U.S. forward Nate Thompson. “They’re a good hockey team and they play structured and disciplined and they’re undefeated for a reason.”
In what remained a tight contest on the scoreboard for much of the evening, Switzerland forward Nino Niederreiter scored the only goal of the first two periods, putting a hard shot past Gibson on a breakaway despite the puck grazing off the goalie's shoulder. The score came 9:59 into the second period.
Throughout the contest, and particularly once they attained the lead, Switzerland was effective clogging up the neutral zone, while sitting back and playing a tight, preventive style.
“The only way to beat it is to get the puck, not turn it over, dump it in and establish a hard forecheck,” said forward Craig Smith. “The times that we didn’t get it in, they do a good job of transitioning and using their speed so it’s tough to defend.”
Although the U.S. outshot the Swiss 13-7 and impressively killed off three power plays in a span of 6:37 in the first ten minutes of the third period, they couldn’t find a way to get the puck past goalie Reto Berra.
“Whenever you kill off that many penalties back-to-back you want to get some momentum and build off that,” Thompson said. “We had a couple chances there in the third, but we didn’t put the puck in.”
“We did not control enough territory tonight in the offensive zone,” Sacco said. “We did not sustain enough pressure there. You’ve got to try to get the lead in these tournaments and we didn’t get the lead tonight.”
The U.S. pulled Gibson for an extra skater with just over two minutes remaining in the game, but Reto Suri found the empty net to secure the victory 3-0.
Gibson was strong between the pipes once again, stopping 28 Finland shots. The 19-year-old netminder was named U.S Player of the Game.
“He gave us a chance to win tonight, but obviously we couldn’t back him up,” Thompson said.
“They came out more desperate than we did and from there they never looked back,” said Gibson. “They’re a good team and they haven’t lost a game yet.”
In less than a 24-hour turnaround, the U.S. will be back on the ice competing for a bronze medal against Finland.
“We’ll have to get back to work tomorrow, change some things and get ready for Finland,” Sacco said.
The U.S. will be seeking its first medal at the world championship since winning bronze in 2004 in Prague.
“Our goal was to come here to medal and we can still do that,” Thompson said. “Tomorrow against Finland is a big game for us and winning a medal would be an honor.”