Canada falls to Switzerland, loses Stamkos

 

Switzerland 4, Canada 1

 
 
 
 
Switzerland's Andreas Ambuhl is challenged by Canada's Brooks Laich and Evander Kane during their IIHF World Championship match on May 12, 2010 in Mannheim, Germany.
 

Switzerland's Andreas Ambuhl is challenged by Canada's Brooks Laich and Evander Kane during their IIHF World Championship match on May 12, 2010 in Mannheim, Germany.

Photograph by: Alex Grimm, Getty Images

MANNHEIM, Germany — A confident Team Switzerland, which almost beat the superstar-laced Canadian Olympic team in February, dominated a younger, weaker and increasingly unhealthy version of Team Canada at the world hockey championship Wednesday.

“There’s no reason to be afraid of the Canadians,” said forward Martin Pluss, who along with linemates Thomas Deruns and Ivo Ruthemann accounted for three of the four goals in a 4-1 Swiss victory.

“At the Olympics we were the big underdogs. But here, not so much. We can play eye-to-eye with the Canadians.”

Team Canada, which has lost captain Ryan Smyth for the tournament, is nervously monitoring the health of its only marquee scorer — Steve Stamkos — who went down with an upper body injury.

“It’s too early to tell” the seriousness of the injury, said general manager Mark Messier, who denied he’s under increasing pressure to boost his forward corps from players made available at the end the second round of the NHL playoffs.

Stamkos hobbled off the ice in the first period after taking an elbow from a Swiss defenceman, returned later in the period, but after feeling increased discomfort didn’t return in the third period with Canada down 3-1.

“We’ll reassess him in the morning and see how he gets through the night,” Messier said.

Canadian coach Craig MacTavish downplayed suggestions by the Swiss media that his team had underestimated their opponents.

He noted that the Swiss beat Canada 2-0 at the 2006 Olympics and took the eventual gold-medal winner in Vancouver to a shootout before losing 3-2.

“It would be highly naive of us to take the Swiss lightly.”

Switzerland successfully shut down Canada’s power play in five opportunities following the strategy of coach Sean Simpson, a Canadian who coached Team Canada at the 2007 Spengler Cup.

“We really practised the penalty kill” after watching Canada’s performance, Simpson said, with the focus on blocking shooting lanes normally exploited by Canadian snipers like Stamkos.

The Swiss also exploited Canada’s manpower shortage, which prevented Canada from being able to put up four rolling lines. MacTavish occasionally had to use defenceman Brent Burns at forward.

The Swiss, taking advantage of the extra forwards, played an aggressive, hard-hitting game all night, surprising Canada with its tempo.

“I felt in the third period their strides were a little bit better than ours,” said veteran Ray Whitney, who was named captain before the game.

Canada made some ugly giveaways in falling behind 2-0 midway through the first on goals by Pluss and Ruthemann, but John Tavares quickly made it 2-1 after taking a feed from Matt Duchene, named Canada’s player of the game.

Canada went down 3-1 less than two minutes into the second, though, when Andreas Ambuhl, standing at the boards to goalie Chris Mason’s right from behind the net, banked a shot off the back of the napping goaltender for a goal.

“That’s definitely a goal I have to (prevent)," Mason said.

“It’s tough, we’re 2-1 and that goes in and that’s kind of deflating for the team.”

Canada outshot Switzerland 32-18 and played hard in the third even after Deruns scored to make it 4-1, but couldn’t get anything past Tobias Stephan, named Swiss player of the game.

The Canadians weren’t rattled by the loss, chalking it up as a learning experience in a long tournament.

“It’s a little adversity,” said Corey Perry, one of the players who will have to shoulder a greater burden if Stamkos misses any more time.

“It’s just going to help us throughout this tournament.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Switzerland's Andreas Ambuhl is challenged by Canada's Brooks Laich and Evander Kane during their IIHF World Championship match on May 12, 2010 in Mannheim, Germany.
 

Switzerland's Andreas Ambuhl is challenged by Canada's Brooks Laich and Evander Kane during their IIHF World Championship match on May 12, 2010 in Mannheim, Germany.

Photograph by: Alex Grimm, Getty Images

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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