Switzerland has not won a medal at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship since 1953, but with a 3-0 win over the United States in Stockholm on Saturday, that is certain to change. The win puts Switzerland in the gold-medal game against host Sweden on Sunday, meaning the Swiss can finish with no worse than silver.
Team USA will play Finland for bronze Sunday after an unexpected run to the semis with a stunning 8-3 win over Russia in the quarterfinals.
New York Islanders prospect Nino Niederreiter opened the scoring in Saturday's semifinal off a 2-on-1 break, putting a wrist shot past Team USA's 19-year-old netminder, John Gibson, in the second period.
The Swiss played disciplined, frustrating defense -- led by Nashville Predators blueliner Roman Josi -- and was able to manage an insurance goal off the stick of Julian Walker in the third period that put the game out of reach. Reto Suri scored an empty-netter to make it 3-0.
Reto Berra, now a prospect of the Calgary Flames after he was acquired in the trade that sent Jay Bouwmeester to the St. Louis Blues this year, made 29 saves to shut out the Americans. He has primarily backed up Switzerland's more experienced goalie, Martin Gerber, who made 33 saves in a 2-1 win to get the Swiss there. It was a bold decision by Canadian-born head coach Sean Simpson to start Berra, but it paid off.
Saturday's result is monumental for Switzerland. Even though the World Championship is not a best-on-best tournament, it is a difficult event to win. The Swiss, primarily European club players with a few current and former NHLers sprinkled in, have not lost a game in the tournament, posting wins over Canada, Sweden, USA and the Czech Republic twice. That's not an easy road.
Win or lose Sunday, this tournament will go down as one of the most important events in Switzerland's long hockey history. The Swiss have never done better than silver at the event, and that medal came in 1935.
It's a tough pill to swallow for the Americans, even though this team has far exceeded expectations in the tournament to date. Team USA has a shot at its first medal since 2004, also bronze, when it meets Finland. It will be the second matchup between the two clubs at this year's worlds. The U.S. downed the Finns 4-1 in front of a sold-out crowd in Helsinki, behind a 31-save effort from Gibson.
Team USA's young netminder, who was selected by the Anaheim Ducks 39th overall in 2011, has turned a lot of heads despite being one of the youngest players in the tournament. Posting wins over Finland and Russia, along with a .952 save percentage and 1.51 goals-against average in four starts likely will grab the attention of the Ducks brass. Gibson, a Pittsburgh native, played for the Kitchener Rangers in the Ontario Hockey League this year.
The bronze-medal game between Team USA and Finland gets going at 10 a.m. ET Sunday, while Switzerland and Sweden will square off for gold at 2:30 p.m. ET in Stockholm.