TURIN, Italy - The greatest Olympic upset in Swiss hockey history stood for all of two days. This was bigger, better, more impossible still.
Beat Canada? How could they? Some of Switzerland’s players felt it couldn’t happen and, after it did, they were at a loss to explain.
But, proving a team concept sometimes can overcome even a vast disadvantage in talent, Switzerland stunned defending Olympic champion Canada on Saturday with a 2-0 victory that shook up the men’s hockey tournament at the Turin Games.
Canadian-born Paul DiPietro scored twice and goalie Martin Gerber turned aside 49 shots in an upset that came only two days after the smallish Swiss — No. 8 in the world, but normally far behind the other seven — beat the world champion Czech Republic 3-2.
Asked if he thought beforehand this was possible, Swiss forward Flavien Conne said, “Are you crazy, man? With the players they have, it would be impossible.”
Mike Blake / Reuters
Canada's Shane Doan crashes into the net of Swiss goalie Martin Gerber in the first period of their men's ice hockey game in Torino.
It wasn’t. Coached by a Canadian, Winnipeg’s Ralph Krueger, and getting both goals from the Sault Ste. Marie-born DiPietro — who hasn’t played in the NHL in 10 years — the Swiss beat the near equivalent of an NHL all-star team with only two NHL players in their lineup.
“It took a lot of courage to do this by some players who were asking for autographs from those players a few years ago,” Krueger said.
Call it inconceivable. Call it incredible. All the adjectives fit.
Cheered on by hundreds of arena-rocking fans who chanted “Hop, Suisse! Hop, Suisse!” — the equivalent of Go Swiss! — the Swiss put themselves in position to win their six-team group. That would have been seen as an absurdity days ago, considering the quality of opponents and their 5-0 loss to Finland on Wednesday.
“We had another unbelievable game, actually a perfect game, and we needed that to beat the Canadian team,” said Montreal Canadiens defenseman Mark Streit, the Swiss’ only NHL skater.
Canada needed only to win Saturday to be assured of reaching the quarterfinals, but now faces tough games against Finland on Sunday and the Czechs on Tuesday. The lower they finish in Group A, the tougher their quarterfinal round opponent from Group B is likely to be.
Elsa / Getty Images
Paul di Pietro of Switzerland celebrates scoring a goal over Canada in the men's ice hockey Group A match in Turin. Switzerland is trying to prevent Canada from inproving their record to 3-0 in the tournament.
“We have talent, but it’s only one part of the whole thing. We tried to rely on talent and it wasn’t good enough,” coach Pat Quinn said. “And if we don’t learn from that, we will be going home early.”
The first goal came at an unlikely time, after the Canadians went 0-for-5 while on the power play most of the first 15 minutes. Patric Della Rossa gathered the puck behind the net and fed it in front to DiPietro, who powered it past goalie Martin Brodeur — a sequence that began with Canada’s Joe Thornton turning the puck over at the blue line while being double teamed.
Canada, disrupted by a team-first opponent that has an average of 100 national team games played per player, later went two men down when defensemen Adam Foote and Chris Pronger drew penalties 42 seconds apart in the second.
DiPietro, added to the Swiss team only two months ago, took advantage to score his second goal 10 seconds after Pronger went off.
DiPietro, who played on the Montreal Canadians’ 1993 Stanley Cup team, grabbed the rebound of Goran Bezina’s shot from the right point and steered it in from the lower left circle — nearly hopping off his skates to celebrate afterward.
Hop, Suisse, indeed.
“It was a great day for Paul DiPietro,” Krueger said. “All of Canada’s watching, he’s 35 years old — what a great story.”