Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Zach Parise beats out Hiller, Sends U.S.A. to Semifinals

At times today, it seemed like Jonas Hiller was standing on his head keeping it scoreless through 2 periods despite the U.S.A. out shooting Switzerland 32-8 through 2 periods. But Zach Parise who after Ryan Miller, maybe has been the best player for Team U.S.A. during the Olympic Tournament to send them to Semifinals who will play the lowest reaming seed during Friday's Semifinals at Canada Hockey Place.

You have got to give Switzerland and Jonas Hiller in particular a lot of props from getting to 3 OT games including forcing Canada to a SO.

Also giving the U.S.A. two stellar games where they proved they have been one of the fasting improving teams in the world. It's only a matter of time before Switzerland I think will finally break through and win an International Medal. After a strong performance in the WJC as they got to the Semifinals, and a strong showing in the Olympics for the 2nd straight time.

Despite not getting the massive upsets like they did in 2006, they have succeeded in letting the world know that 2006 was no joke. If Switzerland can start getting more players in the NHL, watch out for the Swiss to contend for an Olympic Medal in the near future. One player to watch out for in the near future could be Nino Niederreiter who had a strong showing for the Swiss for the Junior Team at the WJC and has had a great season with the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League.

The Swiss have two more shots at hockey glory this season at the U18 World Championships which will be in Belarus in April. Then in May is the Ice Hockey World Championships which will be in the German Cities of Mannheim, Colonge, and Gelsenkirchen where a world Record Attempt will be look to be set during Germany's Opening game of the IHWC. Expect the Swiss to be strong at both events in the spring.

For the Americans, this game was big that they can play against a desperate team that was looking to pull off a big upset. The Young American Players, especially guys like Ryan Miller, Zach Parise and Brian Rafalski who are playing in their First Olympics are showing that they can get it done against the best in the world.

Next up will be either the Czech Republic or Finland who finished with the Silver and Bronze Medals in 2006, the Americans have shown that playing teams in the Prelims and Quarterfinals that these guys are that good. Now they await they toughest test yet as they look to take down teams that are looking to win Gold after coming so close 4 years ago in Turin, Italy.

Next up for the U.S.A. will be the lowest remaining seeded team in the Semifinals coming up on Friday afternoon. With the win today by Team U.S.A., they will be guaranteed a chance at a medal this year. The Bronze Medal Game is on Saturday Night at 7:00 PM PST, then on Sunday afternoon is the Gold Medal Game as it's the final major event of these Winter Olympic Closing Ceremonies on Sunday Night.

From John Sanful of the International Ice Hockey Federation Website:

From Vancouver: The Americans dodged a bullet on Wednesday afternoon. Switzerland threatened to beat the U.S.A. since the 1948 Winter Olympic Games, but Zach Parise's power play goal in the third period gave the U.S.A. a 2-0 win, moving into the Semifinals against the Winner of the Czech Republic VS. Finland Game later tonight.

This was not the ideal scenario for Team U.S.A. After coming off a big win over Canada to finish atop Prelim Group A, Team U.S.A. entered this game meeting an opponent they've already beaten on the opening day of the Men's Tournament.

Prior to this game these teams have played each other 6 times in Olympic play with the U.S.A. winning all 6 prior games. But the Swiss would have none of it, Switzerland has grown accustomed to playing closely contested games. Their last 3 games have gone into OT and two shootouts. They played like a team that had nothing to lose, taking the play to the Americans.

"It was good to go into the intermission with a 0-0 game," said Yannick Weber. "I think it would have been different if it was 1-0." I think it gave us some confidence. We went out in the third period to get the win." It was close, but it just wasn't our day."

Team U.S.A. started tentatively, turning over the puck their first pass out of their zone. In addition there were several individual efforts that were unsuccessful. Rather then dump the puck and go after it, a few skaters tried to stickhandle through Swiss players, which was hardly effective.

The Swiss was rentless in pursuit of the puck. They enjoyed several odd-man rushes. Despite only four shots in the 1st period, the Swiss would also threaten, including one shift where Raffaele Sannitz had exceptional chances to score and delivered a big hit.

It was the Jonas Hiller Show today. Ryan Miller had to be extra sharp today as he faced odd man rushes and high percentage shots from the Swiss, whe were playing with incredible confidence. Miller was poised in goal. Jonas Hiller also stood strong for his team in goal, making 18 saves in the first period alone and keeping the Americans off the scoreboard.

In the 2nd period, Phil Kessel had the best chance for the Americans for the Americans when he sent a shot that rang off the post and crossbar. With time running out in the 2nd period, the Americans through that Dustin Brown had scored near the end of the 2nd. Hiller made a save then as the puck was in the air tried to bat it upwards, which he did but it went over his shoulder and on the goal line with no time left on the clock.

The play was reviewed and the officials concluded no goal.

"I was upset about the disallowed goal more then anything," said Ryan Kesler. "I though it was in. I didn't hear the horn until afterwards."

After two periods of play the Americans and Swiss remained tied. It appeared the inexperience and nerves of Team U.S.A. may have gotten the best of them. Only a big 3rd period would change things.

"It was good to go into the intermission with a 0-0 game," said Yannick Weber. "I think it would have been different if it was a 1-0. I think it game us some confidence. We went out in the 3rd period to get the win. It was close, but just wasn't our day."

The American Power Play was out of sync until the third period when Zach Parise put his team on the board when Philippe Furrer was called for Tripping.

Parise tapped his stick on the ice in front of Hiller, expecting a good low shot could be redirected. Brian Rafalski's shot was deflected by Parise over Hiller's glove and slowly dribbled into the net.

Swiss Assistant Captain, Sandy Jeannin appeared to have tied the game a few minutes later. Instant Replay showed that his shot hit the post and roll across the goal line, but didn't cross over the goal line. Parise had another chance but hit the post. Team U.S.A. picked up things significantly in the 3rd period. They were skating much more effectively and creating quality scoring chances.

"It'd be a lot less nerve wracking [to win big]," said Rafalski. "But it's good for our guys. It's a sign of maturity that we didn't panic. We didn't sit back, we continued to create chances."

The Swiss would not let up. With less then two minutes remaining they called a timeout to pull Jonas Hiller, but Parise scored his 2nd on an empty net. Now the Americans can take a breath and watch tonight's game at the UBC Thunderbird Arena to find out who they will play in Friday's Semifinal.

"Right now, we sit back and watch the Finns and Czechs play," said Rafalski. "We've run into Finland a lot over the years in recent international events, the Czechs, not so much. The Finns have good, deep goaltending, and both teams have good forwards. "It'll be a tough night either way".

Look for the Canada VS. Russia Game Report Later Tonight, then the Czech Republic VS. Finland and Sweden VS. Slovakia Game Reports tomorrow.

Offical Game Report:

Game Photos:

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