Swiss go for gold
by Andy POTTS|25 MAY 2024
Swiss goalie Leonardo Genoni makes a save to deny Canada's Dylan Cozens as Switzerland defeats Canada in a shoot-out in the 2024 World Championship semi-final.
Switzerland remains on course for a first ever IIHF World Championship gold medal after a nerve-jangling victory over Canada in Saturday's World Championship semi-final in Prague.

Sven Andrighetto's shoot-out decider, coupled with Leonardo Genoni's save to deny Dylan Cozens, edged the win. It was a repeat of the 2018 semi-final, with the teams tying 2-2 in regulation. Canada rallied from 0-2 to tie the game on a late John Tavares goal and take its championship defence into the extras. But the Swiss held on and clinched the shoot-out to advance.

Genoni was the Swiss star, stopping 42 shots through 70 minutes. Although his team dominated the first period, he found himself under increasing pressure as Canada battled back.

And gamewinner Andrighetto paid tribute to the man between the pipes: “He’s been outstanding all tournament. He steps up in big game moments, keeps us in the game, gives us the saves we need.”

For Canada, the fightback fell just short. Captain John Tavares, whose late goal tied it up in regulation, said: “That’s as close as it gets. It’s still hard to believe really.  A lot of credit to the guys for sticking with it, battling back. 

“It comes down to that circumstance and unfortunately we didn’t come out on top.”

Switzerland took the game to Canada from the start. The group stage meeting suggested that there was little for Patrick Fischer’s team to fear if it could stay out of the box. Moreover, everyone knew that the Swiss power play had the potential to cause trouble.

And that was exactly how it played out. After dominating much of the play, Switzerland grabbed two power play goals in two minutes late in the frame to open a 2-0 lead. Oddly, the PP was not entirely convincing, with Canada’s Brandon Tanev forcing a big save from Leonardo Genoni.

But when play went down the ice, Kevin Fiala exchanged passes with Romain Loeffel before slamming a one-timer over Joel Binnington’s shoulder. That made it seven goals in seven games for Fiala.

Fiala turned provider on the next power play, teeing up Roman Josi for a thunderous point shot that Nino Niederreiter tipped past Binnington to double the lead. Switzerland moved to 12 power play goals for the tournament, matching Canada’s PP tally in its imperious 2015 campaign here in Czechia. It also represents a 50% increase on last year’s tournament leading eight power play tallies from the Czechs.

“Our power play was good in the first,” Josi added “I thought we played well in the second but they scored one and after that we sat back a bit. But it’s Team Canada, they’ve got some great weapons. A great offence. 

“We just defended really hard and Leo made some really great saves. We wanted to play more offence when we had the lead but it’s not easy against guys like that.”

A successful kill gave Canada a boost early in the second, and soon the roles were reversed when Jonas Siegenthaler sat for cross-checking. In the group game, all three Canadian goals came on the power play and penalty killing has not been a Swiss strength this year. The extra man could not generate a goal but did start to move play to the other end of the ice.

That pressure eventually paid off. There was another unsuccessful PP, but shortly after returning to equal strength Tanev got Canada on the board. After six games without allowing a goal in five-on-five play, Switzerland was undone by Olen Zellweger’s point shot. It skittered through a crowd of tumbling bodies in front of Genoni’s net, presenting Tanev with a tap-in after 34 minutes. Suddenly the game was right back in the balance.

Canadian forward Michael Bunting felt his team did enough to take the verdict after a slow start. “I think five-on-five we dominated play,” he said. “It sucks that it comes down to a skills competition at the end but give credit to the Swiss. They played a great game. 

“They're a high-offence kind of team and I feel like we were able to shut them down five-on-five, but they're really reliable in the defensive zone.”

Canada’s momentum carried into the start of the third period, with a huge chance in the opening seconds. Tavares saw a shot saved, then Genoni produced heroics to stop Hagel’s wraparound attempt before Tavares fired wastefully over the top with goalie lying prone.

And the tributes to Genoni continued. Captain Roman Josi said: “Every Worlds I play with him, he’s amazing. I’ve been saying for a long time, I don’t how he’s not in the NHL. Every World Championship, he’s one of the best goalies. He’s clutch, he’s an amazing goalie. I don’t want to make him feel bad, but he should definitely have been in the NHL.”

Defender Jonas Siegenthaler added: “He’s so calm, nothing brings him out of his zone. He’s been a great goalie for the last 15 years and if he’s there, you feel safe. Tonight he showed it again. He’s a little older, but he’s still got it.” 

After killing another penalty, Switzerland finally got its own attack into the game again. Fiala had a couple of good looks, and the second of them required a brilliant stick block from Colton Parayko to deny a certain goal. Then came a Swiss power play as Canada’s control began to fade slightly.

But with more than 10 to play, the Canadians had time to resume the surge. Kaiden Guhle had a couple of attempts charged down as the Swiss were pushed into deep defence. Frequent icings took their toll, and when Ambuhl fired the puck over the glass in the closing moments, it was time for the big guns to fire.

And they did. Owen Power (#1 draft pick 2021) got the puck to Connor Bedard (#1 draft pick 2023). The youngster, quiet in the first two periods, danced his way in from the point and set up Tavares (#1 draft pick 2009) for a lethal shot from the circle to force the game into overtime.

That OT began with Canada enjoying a four-on-three power play after a too many men call against the Swiss late in the third. Andre Tourigny sent out four forwards for that PP, but they could not fashion the chance they needed for a quick win. Then Switzerland had its own power play chance but was also unable to settle the outcome before the shoot-out.

“We had our chances, even at the end of regulation, and we started the overtime with a power play,” reflected Andrew Mangiapane. “It would have been nice to score, but give them credit. We dug ourselves into a hole early on and couldn't get ourselves out.”