Switzerland edges Smid, Czech Republic on Saturday
Switzerland picked up a 1-0 win over the Czechs in Sochi
SOCHI, RU -- The next goal Jonas Hiller gives up in the 2014 Sochi Olympics will be his first.
Switzerland continued its impressive display of defense and goaltending Saturday, knocking off the Czech Republic 1-0 and wrapping up second place in Group C. Hiller, the starting goalie for the Anaheim Ducks, made 26 saves for his second shutout in as many starts.
The Swiss have played nine periods in this tournament and allowed just one goal. They've also only scored two, but that's been enough for six points.
For the first time in three contests, a game involving Switzerland had a goal before the third period. Simon Bodenmann snapped a one-timer from Denis Hollenstein past Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec at 14:10 of the opening period. Kevin Romy was pinned against the boards behind the Czech net, but was able to wriggle free enough to get the puck to Hollenstein.
It was only the second goal of the tournament for Switzerland, and the first that didn't take a weird bounce off an opponent to beat the goaltender.
Switzerland's ability to prevent goals continued to be a developing them in this tournament. The Swiss shut out Latvia in their first game, and yielded one third-period goal Friday night in a 1-0 loss to Sweden.
It hasn't mattered who is in net. Both Hiller and Calgary Flames netminder Reto Berra have played well, and the team's defensive structure has helped frustrate opponents. The only goal allowed in the first two games was actually a bad one to yield, and the Swiss were a soft rebound from Berra away from potentially forcing overtime and earning at least a point against the Swedes.
Meanwhile, this tournament has not gone as planned for the Czech Republic. A slow start crippled their chances against Sweden in a 4-2 loss in the opener, and Latvia kept the game closer than expected in a 4-2 victory. With this loss, the Czechs are likely going to be seeded seventh or eighth for the classification round, which takes place Monday.
One of the team's key players, New Jersey Devils forward Patrik Elias, did not play because of illness, but the Czechs still possessed plenty of dynamic offensive talent. They just couldn't solve Hiller.
For the Swiss, finishing second in this group is another major accomplishment for the burgeoning hockey nation. Sweden forward Daniel Sedin said he thinks other teams "need to watch out" for the Swiss and expects them to be a factor in the later portion of this tournament.
Switzerland is unlikely to be seeded higher than sixth, unless Russia or the United States are upset by Slovakia or Slovenia, respectively, Sunday. The Swiss have showcased their defensive credentials, and they are the textbook definition of a "tough out" as the elimination rounds beckon.