Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Swiss Guard

It’s not the end of the tournament, but some of the reaction would make you think that it is. The name on both side of an ocean is Paul DiPietro, a Swiss soldier in this war of the ice. DiPietro is a fellow who hails from Sault Saint.Marie, Ontario, his Swiss citizenship a product of his marriage to a Swiss lass, his hero status the product of two goals that took down a Hockey Giant.

DiPietro had one of those games of a lifetime, as he accounted for all the Swiss scoring and a place in their book of memories in the 2-0 win. As for Canada, they spent too much of the early part of the game floating around the rink, giving a Swiss team confidence, something that only grew as DiPIetro put those two goals behind Martin Brodeur. In fact it was the Swiss who seemed to play Canadian hockey, not the fellows with the Maple Leaf on the jersey.

Canada out shot the Swiss by a ridiculous margin of 49-18, but could not put a goal past Martin Gerber, who tends goal for the Carolina Hurricane when he’s not stoning the Canadian Olympic team. Gerber had a rather remarkable day of his own. Canada had two goals called back for contentious, if legitimate reasons. One, a foot in the crease call on Todd Bertuzzi, a rule which the Canadians had best get used to before too much longer. The second was a goal that appeared to cross the line, but was hauled out in rapid fashion by Gerber. Replay after replay showed inconclusive evidence of a goal, though one angle did seem to suggest a goal had been scored, but in the end and after a lengthy delay it was declared a non goal and play went on. Regardless, Canada had more than enough opportunity to put the puck in the net, it just didn’t seem to want to bounce that way, and when it did, Gerber and his defence were there to send it somewhere else.

The game in the scheme of things is a meaningless result, like an early loss to Sweden a few years ago, or a close call to Germany it’s more indicative of a wake up call, than a call for the panic button.

To be successful the Canadians need to get back onto their game plan, taking the play to the offensive zone and controlling the play. They got away from that at times against the Swiss and as Mr. DiPietro has shown, given a chance any team can win on any given day.

The Finns appear next on the Team Canada dance card; a loss in that one will fuel more fire and start the nervous ones to really begin to worry aloud. One suspects that Canada will be more focused, more intense and in the end more successful by the end of play on Sunday.

As for the Swiss, they’ve come a long way from 1924 and the most lopsided loss in Olympic history. Today, having had the two biggest games in their national history back to back one wonders what they might have planned for an encore. The team that many felt was just happy to be in the tournament is now perched to become a medal contender. Pretty good progress in forty eight hours.

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