The United States has been one of the biggest powerhouses of women’s hockey in recent memory. The U.S. National Women’s Team has been absolutely dominant over the past two decades, taking home gold at the last five World Championships. The United States has nine championship wins in the 19 times the tournament’s been hosted since 1990. Canada has won the remaining 10, however, they have not won gold at the tournament since 2012, and have two gold medals in the last 10 tournaments, with the remaining eight being claimed by the Americans.
USA Hockey kicked off the start of this year’s event in Calgary with a 3-0 victory over their Swiss opposition. While the U.S. may have won the first contest, the loss for Team Switzerlandwas not without its positive takeaways.
Unlike their opening night opponents, Switzerland is not the owner of multiple World Championship gold medals. In fact, the Swiss have just one medal to their name at the tournament after taking home bronze in 2011-12 in a victory against Russia.
The Americans and Swiss have a long history on the international stage and its one that doesn’t look too favourable for Switzerland. The U.S. has never lost to Switzerland on the world stage, as they hold eight wins to their name. It’s not just the fact that they won which makes the American’s victories over the Swiss so impressive. It’s that the U.S. has severely outplayed Switzerland in every battle and has outscored their overseas counterparts by a staggering 75-5 goal differential.
In the 3-0 loss to the U.S., Switzerland’s offence may not have been the best aspect of their game, but their defence, and more importantly their goaltending, were surely exciting.
The Swiss offence couldn’t do much to break through the American’s defensive wall, much less goaltender Alex Cavallini. The U.S. had their fair share of trouble doing the same. The Americans outshot the Swiss 58-10, but were continuously stifled by the presence of 24-year- old backstop Andrea Brandli, who had an exceptional night. Despite her team’s losing effort, Brandi backstopped her country to a historic performance, as it marked the closest contest between the two parties.
Switzerland’s offence may not have been able to get the puck past Cavallini, however, their young goaltender’s phenomenal performance and defensive play showed signs of progression on the world stage.
Brandli is no stranger to stopping North American shooters, having spent the past three seasons playing her collegiate hockey with the Ohio State Buckeyes.
The mentality of the Swiss players following the loss signifies the importance of the game’s closeness and the success they had against the defending world champions. “Coming out here on the big stage and facing against some of the best players in the world, it was amazing,” said Swiss captain Lara Stalder. “Every shift I enjoyed, I think I had the biggest smile on my face, and my teammates as well, I think we enjoyed every second.”
In a loss that almost felt like a win, team captain Lara Stalder knew that her young goaltender deserved all the credit. “She (Brandli) was phenomenal. 58 shots and only 3-0, I mean, like thanks to her, obviously we tried to help her and we fought, but I mean, on the paper, we know how good the Americans are, and with such a goalie, you can have such a good result like today.”
Despite allowing 58 shots, Brandli credits her teammates for making her job much easier than it could have been.
“I think the whole team played a really really good game and they really helped me out,” Brandli said with a chuckle. “I think I would have been even more tired if they didn’t help me that much.”
Like his players, bench boss Colin Muller had nothing but positive remarks following the game. Stating that he believed that his players outplayed the Americans in the third despite getting outshot, Muller thought the team took some time to find their legs and get accustomed to the game’s pace. Once they did in the final frame, they really found their game. “I can’t say anything against the way our ladies fought tonight,” he said. “We asked them to play 60 plus minutes and they did the job.”
The sentiment that the team played all 60 minutes of the game was one that was shared by Andrea Brandli, who was named as Switzerland’s best player of the game. “I think one big thing that we can take out of that is that we fought for 60 minutes,” she said. “Like, we never gave up even though it was like 3-0 towards the end. We kept fighting and had some good chances.”
Team Switzerland were not the only ones to notice their goaltender’s performance. Brandli’s play stuck out to the American skaters who were impressed with the young netminder’s performance. “She had a phenomenal game” said team USA rookie Grace Zumwinkle. “I tip my hat off to her,” adding that she is quite familiar with the Swiss goaltender who she played against in the NCAA.
The Americans, who admitted that the Swiss gave up many shots, were not an easy team to play against. “They cleared pucks out right away, limiting our second chances and rebounds, or anything,” Zumwinkle said. “They stay true to their system and you can tell in the way they play throughout the game,” she added.
“I give a lot of credit to them,” said Brianna Decker, who scored a goal and added an assist in the win. “I respected them a lot. It’s incredible how much they have improved over the last few years.”
At the end of the day, the game is just the first of the tournament for Switzerland, but it signifies more for the country. The improvement of the team against a rival that has dominated them in the past and their positive attitude signify a possible new mentality for the Swiss team.
“It’s a great result, but in the end, it’s still a loss, but I feel like we are getting closer,” concluded captain Lara Stalder.