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2022 Olympics Preview: Team Switzerland

The Swiss have elite players but do they have enough to hang with Group A’s superpowers?

Finland v Switzerland: Bronze Medal Game - 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

Team Switzerland is one of the most fascinating teams at the 2022 Olympics. Its brightest stars may be forwards but the Swiss will only go as far as its goaltending can carry them. At the 2021 Worlds, Switzerland struggled to get a foothold against Group A competition but showed great resolve in the playoffs. In Beijing, they’ll be looking to prove they can hang with the best teams in the world and take another step closer to being a team with real medal aspirations.

Last Time

2018 Olympics

The Swiss dominated Group B but were lit up 6-2 in the quarterfinals by the Olympic Athletes from Russia. But that’s not what everyone remembers. Alina Müller piling up 10 points and tieing a record by scoring four goals in a single game is what everyone remembers.

Beyond Müller’s breakout tournament, the 2018 Olympics were significant for Swiss hockey because it was the last time legend and future Hockey Hall of Famer Florence Schelling stood between the goal pipes. Schelling finished the tournament with a .942 Sv% and two shutouts in five starts. It was a spectacular final performance for the greatest Swiss player ever, so it was only fitting that a new superstar emerged in the same tournament.

2021 Worlds

The Swiss finished the 2021 Worlds with a 1-6-0 with a fifth-place finish after struggling in the group stage to the tune of scoring one goal in four games. All eyes were on Lara Stalder after Müller was knocked out with a lower-body injury but it was the goaltenders, particularly Andrea Brändli, who stole the show.

Brändli was outrageously good in the group stage and proved she has the ability to keep superpowers like Team USA, Canada, and Finland frustrated with her play.

The Swiss rallied without Müller and defeated the Russians in the quarterfinals in overtime, 3-2. Yes, the same Russian squad that crushed them 6-2 at the 2018 Olympics. Sure, it’s anecdotal evidence, but it does demonstrate how far this program has come in a few years. At the 2021 Worlds, the Swiss proved are so much more than Stalder and Müller and they proved that at the 2021 Worlds.

Roster

Goalkeepers: Andrea Brändli, Saskia Maurer, Caroline Spies
Defenders: Nicole Bullo, Lara Christen, Sarah Forster, Sinja Leemann, Alina Marti, Shannon Sigrist, Nicole Vallario, Stefanie Wetli
Forwards: Rahel Enzler, Lena-Marie Lutz, Keely Moy, Alina Müller, Kaleigh Quennec, Evelina Raselli, Lisa Rüedi, Dominique Rüegg, Noemi Ryhner, Phoebe Staenz, Lara Stalder, Laura Zimmermann

3 Key Players

  • Laura Zimmermann (F) | In the grand scheme of things, there should be a lot more hype surrounding Zimmermann than there currently is, especially after she scored the OT goal that knocked Russia out of the 2021 Worlds. The teenager has been tearing it up the SWHL with EV Bomo Thun this season. She’s currently fourth in the league in scoring and leads her team with 32 points in 21 games. If she was at a school in North America, a lot more people would be buzzing about Zimmermann and she means to the future of Swiss hockey.
  • Lara Stalder (F) | There was a ton of pressure on Stalder at the 2021 Worlds, and it showed. It seemed like she had two or three players surrounding her every time she had the puck but she still accounted for over 19 percent of Switzerland’s shots on goal. Hopefully, things will be different this time around for the captain. Stalder, in my opinion, is easily a top-10 player in the world (that’s right, EA Sports, I said it). She finished the 2021 Worlds with two points in seven games. The Swiss need her to be nearly a point-per-game player if they want a chance at bronze. She’s that important to this team.
  • Lara Christen (D) | At the age of 18, Christen led all Swiss skaters in TOI/GP (22:45) at the 2021 Worlds, which speaks volumes about what the coaching staff and program see in her. A right-handed defender who plays for ZSC Lions Frauen, Christen will be expected to do more than eat up a lot of minutes in Beijing after gaining some valuable experience as a top-pair defender playing against the best teams in the world. This is a big tournament for her. The Swiss need a true star to emerge on the blue line and Christen is starting to shine.

Story to Watch

Schelling’s Heir

In truth, both Brändli and Maurer were great for Switzerland at the 2021 Worlds but it’s Brändli who feels marked for greatness. This has to be the most buzz we’ve had around a Swiss goalie since Schelling. That, my friends, is a big deal.

In her 2021-22 season with Ohio State University, Brändli had a .924 Sv% and has allowed just 19 goals through 619:32 of hockey — so, she’s definitely on her game. Now 24, the Swiss goalkeeper starts the Olympics with a reputation for being one of the best at her position in the world. The spotlight — and all of its heat — is definitely on her. To give you an idea of what she’s going up against, her average workload at the 2021 Worlds was 57.21 SA60. That’s almost unbelievable, but that is what it means to play in Group A with USA, Canada, and Finland.

Can she tap into the magic she found in Calgary? If Brändli can, the Swiss could shock someone in the playoffs or, perhaps, before them. Much depends on the Buckeye in the blue crease.

Schedule

  • Feb 3 vs CANADA at 11:10 p.m. ET
  • Feb 4 vs ROC at 11:10 p.m. ET
  • Feb 6 vs USA at 8:10 a.m. ET
  • Feb 7 vs FINLAND at 8:10 a.m. ET

What Success Looks Like

For Team Switzerland, a successful tournament would be holding their own against the superpowers in Group A and coming away from the group stage with a few points. No one is expecting the Swiss to defeat the United States or Canada, but a win against ROC feels like it should be within their grasp.

A medal of any color would be a landscape-changing triumph for the Swiss, but it doesn’t feel like we’re there yet. A more likely result is another fifth-place finish and a victory in the quarterfinals but that will depend heavily on how healthy the Swiss are and how many bruises they bring with them into the playoffs. This is a good team and this program has much to be proud of and excited about, but they just aren’t in the same tier as the North American powers and Finland.

All data courtesy of TheirHockeyCounts.com, USCHO.com, and EliteProspects.com. Disclosure: the author of this story co-owns and operates THC.