The U.S. Men’s National Team takes on Switzerland in its second of seven preliminary round games at the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s World Championship at Minsk Arena in Minsk, Belarus. Today's game will be televised live on NBC Sports Network with coverage beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET.
By Brian Pinelli
MINSK, Belarus - Team USA seeks to ride the momentum from Friday night’s tournament opening victory against Belarus into Saturday evening’s contest versus Switzerland, the 2013 world championship silver medalist.
The U.S. thrived on balanced offense – 11 different players tallied a point – and Tim Thomas was sharp in net, but the cohesive Swiss should pose a greater threat than the tournament hosts.
Switzerland dropped its opening match to Russia 5-0 and is surely motivated to have a strong tournament, especially considering it will be the last for national team head coach Sean Simpson.
On Friday night, Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba led the Red, White and Blue in scoring - finding the back of the net twice off rocket blasts from the top of the circle - shots-on-goal with six and ice time, logging 22:32.
Trouba was a member of last year’s U.S. team that was eliminated by the overachieving Swiss in the semifinals, 3-0, at the 2013 world championship in Stockholm.
“We watched some video on them and we know they are a good team; we figured that out last year and it should be another good test for us,” Trouba said.
Team USA assistant coach Don Granato has done much of the advance scouting on Switzerland, advising of their highly discipline and regimented style of play.
“You saw last night they were down in the game, but they don’t break or lose confidence,” Granato said, referring to the shutout loss to Russia. “They know their identity very well.”
Granato added: “You’re not going to see great highs or lows out of them and they’re very consistent up and down the rink.
“I would say as a team they want to attack with speed, their D are very active on the rush, and in transition guys like (Roman) Josi will stand out, but they have three or four guys who are engaged to join the rush.”
Despite the scouting report on their opponent, Granato advised that the primary focus is still on Team USA’s own game.
“We lay out what our opponent is and their identity, but we still have to execute our system at the end of the day,” Granato said. “For us, it’s the second game of the tournament and guys are still getting used to their linemates and the system of our team. The focus will still be on executing what our coaches have laid out for our team.”
The ever-improving Swiss enter the 2014 tournament ranked seventh in the IIHF world ranking, only one place behind the United States.
U.S. forward Peter Mueller knows a thing or two about the culture and rise to prominence of Swiss hockey, having played the past season with Kloten, near Zurich, in the Swiss League.
“They do take hockey very seriously over there; I think over the last 10 years Switzerland hockey has really been put on the map and has definitely made a place on their national stage,” Mueller said. “When they won silver (at last year’s world championship), it was a very big deal in Switzerland.”
And regarding the Swiss squad that the U.S. will face tonight?
“They’re not an overly physical team, but they make up for it with the shifty play and quickness that they have,” said the 25-year-old, Bloomington, Minn. native. “They have a few NHL players that boost their morale and they also have guys from the Swiss league that can play.
“We’re going to be expecting a very fast paced game tonight,” Mueller said. “They’re coming off a loss against Russia and they’re probably going to be biting at the bit to get going against us.
“It’s going to be a good battle.”
Team USA is 14-0-1-7-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L-T) against the Swiss in the IIHF Men’s World Championship. Last year, Switzerland defeated the U.S., 3-0, in the semifinals.