Switzerland came into this year’s tournament with a realistic chance to challenge for the bronze medal. They fell just short of that goal and finished in fourth place after losing out to Finland.
What went right
At first glance, the Swiss team’s record in the preliminary round would seem to spell disaster for the entire program. They didn’t win a single game and suffered what could have ended up being pretty demoralizing losses to both Canada and Finland. They were out-shot, out-scored and out-played by their competition in Group A.
What went right for Switzerland was how they responded to that. Their quarterfinal game against ROC was their undoubted highlight of tournament. With star player Alina Muller in the stands with an injury, the Swiss were able to come back from a two goal deficit to tie the game and send it to sudden death overtime. It was 18 year old Laura Zimmermann who scored the game winner that earned Switzerland the chance to fight for a medal. Zimmermann’s goal also led to one of the best locker room celebrations that we saw all tournament.
The Swiss team is fired up after their big comeback win. pic.twitter.com/jHhaQFX4b6— TSN (@TSN_Sports) August 28, 2021
Of the 25 players that the Swiss have on the roster, 13 were born in or after the year 2000 and of that number, seven are under the age of 20. While veteran players Phoebe Staenz and captain Lara Stalder have been driving the team for the past decade, and continue to do so, the steps taken by the younger players ensure that the future of the team is in good hands.
What went wrong
We’ll never know how the tournament would have gone for the Swiss if Alina Müller hadn’t been injured in just the second game of the tournament. Müller has a scoring touch that can change the tides of any game she’s in, without her, the Swiss struggled for offense.
Not only was Müller’s presence missed on the ice, you have to imagine that it was felt just as much on the bench. Her energy was noticeable as she sat in the stands cheering on her teammates. You have to imagine that not having Müller, who was named one of the alternate captains in this tournament, on the bench made a difference, especially to the rookies who need all the positive leadership they can get this early in their national team development.
Come for the game, stay for the Müller cameos. pic.twitter.com/bguNVbgPQ1— The Ice Garden (@TheIceGarden) August 31, 2021
What comes next
All Switzerland can do is focus on getting healthy and staying in playing shape before the Olympics in February. It’s a quick turn around, but hopefully more than enough time for Müller to recover. There’s no need to blow up the team or make any dramatic changes. Switzerland is a small country and the amount of women registered to play hockey is just a fraction of what it is in countries like Canada and the United States. Despite this, they regularly outperform expectations and have been able to stay one of the top 10 teams in the world.
They’ve made strides in the past five years and that will continue if they stay on course. They’ll have another shot at bronze in Beijing, they just have to go for it.
You could make a strong case for just about every player who scored for Switzerland being their MVP. Phoebe Staenz scored the goal that sent the Swiss to overtime in the quarterfinal and also led the team in points (1G, 2A). Laura Zimmermann scored the game winner in the same game, Sinja Leeman had the crucial assist that set her up for it. Lara Stalder stepped into the captaincy for the first time and had a big goal against the Finns in the semifinal. Alina Muller might not have played most of the games, but the gifs of her hopping down the stairs in an air cast will be immortalized in women’s hockey history.
SWITZERLAND GOAL— The Ice Garden (@TheIceGarden) August 31, 2021
The top shelf goals are apparently in fashion today in Calgary as the Swiss Captain gets her team on the board
I think it has to go to Zimmermann though. Switzerland’s win in the quarterfinal is a moment that the team can hold onto, it’s the kind of win that leaves a team hungry, confident and looking to build towards the future. For what it’s worth, it was also a very pretty goal.
Here it is. The game-winning OT goal. Laura Zimmermann, the TEENAGER, one-times the saucer pass through Merkusheva. Game over. pic.twitter.com/2yoTFvJgtz— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) August 28, 2021
Stats courtesy of TheirHockeyCounts and the IIHF