Alessio Bertaggia (left) and Sven Andrighetto (Getty Images)
GROUP A: SWITZERLAND
2012 finish: Eighth
2012 round-robin record: 1-0-1-2, 12 GF/16 GA
Yahoo! Canada Sports has asked North American-based players, some of whom are playing in the world junior championship, to break down their national teams.
A matchup with the Swiss unfolds like clockwork — two-plus hours of trying to break through a forcefield of small but swift defensive-minded forwards.
That devotion to their system has helped Switzerland often stymie the most talented teams at the world junior championship in recent years. Their trouble has sometimes been that they play up or down to the calibre of opponent, which is why they — but also has a knack for frustrating itself.
"We're going to be a hard-working team — we won't be the most skilled team," says centre Tanner Richard, a standout for the OHL's Guelph Storm who was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in June. "We usually have pretty good battles against the top teams. Lately, we haven't been dominating in games that we should. Last year, we lost a game against Slovakia that we should have won, but against Sweden and Russia, we had our two best games.
"I think we'll be fine against the bigger teams. We have to work more on controlling the play against the teams who are more or less in our range, at our level and a bit lower than us."
Team USA's freefall to the relegation round in 2012 led to the Americans being with Canada and Russia in a loaded Group B. Coach Sean Simpson's Team Switzerland is in a pool the Czech Republic, Finland, Latvia and defending champion Sweden. The club boasts only two NHL draft picks, Richard and Minnesota Wild sixth-rounder Christoph Bertschy. The hope is that they can patch together enough offence by committee to complement a veteran defence corps led by Samuel Guerra and the goaltending of likely starter Luca Bolthauser, who plays for Farjestad Karslbad in Sweden's top junior league.
"We don't have superstars this year but we have a pretty good team and everyone is very close in terms of skill," says 17-year-old defenceman Mirco Mueller, of the WHL's Everett Silvertips.
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