It’s the most wonderful time of the year… And no I’m not talking about Christmas. It’s the IIHF Women’s Worlds.
Women’s Worlds showcases the greatest female hockey talent across the globe. But all national teams are not created equal. We hear about our homegrown Canadian girls and our neighbors to the South, the US National team, often enough as they are both Worlds power houses but some of the new kids on the block don’t get the same attention. Not that it’s Team Switzerland’s first rodeo, as they have been competing since the first IIHF Worlds in 1990, but they still don’t get the same recognition as Canada and the US. In 2015 Switzerland finished sixth overall in Worlds and took home Bronze at the 2014 Olympics. By no means peanuts but where will they fall this go around?
Group A vs Group B
Team Switzerland is part of Group B alongside Sweden, Japan, and Czech Republic. Group A consists of the top four teams Canada, USA, Finland, and Russia. The Swiss National team will first face off against the Japanese national team on Monday. Team Switzerland is lucky enough to have Daniela Diaz recently appointed as the new bench boss. Diaz has some pretty impressive credentials backing her including a brief stint as an Olympic player herself in the 2006 Olympics, as well as head coaching the ZSC Lions.
In 2015 the Swiss National team competed in the Five Nations Tournament in Hodonin Czech Republic. They did not get the results they were hoping for. They finished in a very disappointing fourth place. Out of four games played they only emerged victorious in one, also losing badly to the Czech’s (also in Group B for Worlds). If this is any indication of what we can expect from the current Swiss team we might want to keep our expectations low. Side note: It was Gian-Marco Crameri at the helm for this tournament rather than new coach Daniela Diaz.
Past Team Switzerland Success
In the 2014 Sochi Olympics the Swiss National Team went head to head with Swedes for bronze. The 2014 Swiss team played a very European game by which I mean they played east to west. They were a finesse team. Team Switzerland 2014 employed lots of side to side, lots of stick handling, and lots of pulling up. The North American teams play very north to south. North to south teams play long ways down the ice. They keep it simple and put it past other teams and hunt it down aka dump and chase which might be part of the reason that teams like Switzerland often struggle when playing the North American teams.
European Play versus North American Play
One of the greatest differences in terms of playing style is the length of time that Swiss players hold onto the puck for. North American players generally move the puck quickly whereas European players (specifically the Swiss) keep possession individually for longer. Instead of passing focused break outs Team Switzerland usually carries it out. This could potentially serve them well as it is a really effective way of pushing teams out of their defensive end. Also unlike break outs centered around passing carrying the puck out doesn’t run the risk of getting picked off or intercepted. The Swiss National team play a game that is very much from the defense out meaning that the blue liners start and quarterback the plays and usually they do so by carrying the puck out and opening up the ice.
The Swiss National Team also regularly pull up on the boards when entering the offensive zone to create time and space. Again this sets them apart from there North American counterparts who generally take it deeper to avoid dangerous turnovers. However If executed properly this maneuver can open up prime scoring lanes. This could again potentially serve them well against the North American teams provided they can match the North American teams’ grit and aggression. As, historically at least, Switzerland has been a finesse team rather than a grinder team.
Under the new leadership of Diaz and assuming they continue to play their game, but perhaps introduce a few key changes when playing North American teams, the Swiss stand to come out successful. And they need to as Worlds serves as the initial qualifier for the 2018 Olympics.